by Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Aldermen granted the ad valorem tax exemptions for BorgWarner and Water Valley Poultry at a special called meeting of the city board Tuesday morning.
The board also voted to adopt the 2008-2009 city budget without a tax increase. While the vote was unanimous for the budget, Alderman Fred White voted against the tax exemptions.
Alderman Sherry Martin made the motion to grant the tax exemption requests and the second came from Alderman Charlie Harris.
After the vote, White asked, “Where is this money going to come from that we are giving away…that y’all gave away.”
“Tax raise. That’s where it’s coming from. Tax raise,” White said, answering his own question.
“Not at this time,” said Alderman Lance Clement, who is acting as interim mayor in the absence of Mayor Bill Norris.
“Eventually that’s what it is going to lead to,” White continued. “The same thing the county supervisors did. Less than a year later we’re seeing a big increase in property taxes. Big increase.”
Martin said, “Back before they did this expansion, our millage rate was 40.14 and we dropped it back to 37 which is what it is now. So, we have actually been able to lower taxes during this time. So, if next year we have to raise taxes, we’ve gotten that break from it all these years because they failed to ask for the exemption when they should have.”
Martin explained that when it was discovered that BorgWarner had not asked for the exemption on time, city officials called the state tax commission and asked if it could be granted. “At that time, you could not.”
“I’m saying taxes may go up some next year. They’re not going up this year,” Martin added.
Board members then held a discussion of the remaining length of time involved in the exemptions. The largest exemption is for BorgWarner’s expansion when the company moved equipment here from their plant in Blythville, Ark., in 2000. That exemption will go through 2010.
“I don’t see no way we are going to get by two years without raising taxes. It’s all going to fall back to this. But, that’s yawl’s will not mine,” White said.
According to figures provided by the city, Water Valley Poultry will receive a $10,691 exemption and BorgWarner a $221,781 exemption.
After completing the budget vote, the board approved paying two invoices for work done under the airport grant. Columbus Fencing is to receive $20,282.74 and Willis Engineering $2,817.
Eight minutes after beginning the special meeting, the board began the procedure to enter executive session.
Upon returning to regular session, aldermen voted to hire Billy Humphreys as a part-time building inspector/flood plain and zoning administrator.
They also voted to hire Andre Spenser, Tyrone Clark, and Reginald Turner as part-time employees for the Cemeteries and Parks Department.
Finally, board members approved advertising for employees for the Water and Sewer Department.