Jackson City Council kills proposed tax increase by unanimous vote

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 7:15 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Jackson City Council has opted not to raise taxes to increase police pay as part of the 2021-22 fiscal year budget.

However, home and business owners in the capital city will feel a slight pinch in their wallets after members voted to raise ad valorem taxes by 0.03 mills for the Jackson Public School District at a special called meeting Thursday night.

The council had considered raising taxes by as much as three mills to fund pay raises for police, firefighters, and dispatchers. The mayor had recommended the increase.

However, supporters could not drum up enough support among members to push through even a one-mill bump, and the proposal was killed on a unanimous vote.

A one-mill increase would have represented a roughly $12 property tax hike for individuals with homes valued at $100,000 and would have generated about $1.2 million in new revenue for the city.

Instead, council members found money to fund pay raises elsewhere in the budget by rescinding interlocal agreements with three other governmental agencies.

The council voted to rescind an order to award the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department $500,000 to provide additional patrols in the city. It also rescinded interlocal agreements with Yazoo County and Holmes County to house misdemeanor offenders in their jail facilities.

The votes will free up $1 million that had been set aside in the city general fund, almost enough to fund raises for Jackson Police Department corporals, Jackson Fire Department LDOs, and most communication staffers.

All measures were approved on 6-1 votes, with Ward Three Councilman Kenneth Stokes voting in opposition.

Stokes had introduced the item to award $500,000 to the sheriff’s department, in part, to provide greater law enforcement presence in his ward.

A recent WLBT analysis showed that Ward 3 was the deadliest in the capital city in terms of homicides, with more than a quarter of the ones occurring in Jackson this year being committed there.

“Some of the neighborhoods may not experience as much crime as other neighborhoods. This particular item is dealing with people who are dying on the streets of Jackson. Even though the statistics might show one thing, it’s easy to say that 25 people have been killed in Ward 3, but how many of those (victims) lived in Ward 4 or Ward 2?” he asked. “The young lady that was killed at the service station did not live in Ward 3...

“They’re coming out of other wards and are getting killed. We need a visual presence of law enforcement, not just JPD, but the sheriff’s department.”

Stokes went on to say that he preferred to use “Biden money,” or American Rescue Plan Act dollars to fund the pay increases.

Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote agreed with Stokes that the city needed additional police presence. However, he said there were other ways to achieve that without the interlocal agreement with the sheriff.

“I think there’s a number of ways to achieve that, and some that wouldn’t cost us anything,” he said. “One of the things that terrifies citizens is carjacking... There’s been a great increase in carjacking... For whatever reason, a lot of those young people doing carjacking don’t feel there’s any downside for them.

“The good news is that carjacking is a federal offense and the U.S. Attorney’s Office has offered assistance in.. helping us catch and prosecute them,” he said.

Foote said he had spoken to Darren LaMarca, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, who said his office would be willing to provide assistance. “I encourage JPD, Chief (James) Davis, the administration, to reach out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and we can supplement the JPD force as it now stands... and change the risk-reward (factor) for the young thugs who are pulling these terrible crimes on the citizens of Jackson.”

In addition to the vote to rescind the agreement with the sheriff, the council also rescinded agreements to house misdemeanor offenders in Yazoo and Holmes counties.

The council approved both of those agreements last fall, in part, because a federal consent decree prohibits the city is unable to house most misdemeanor offenders at the Raymond Detention Center.

“This was something we looked at doing to solve the issue of detainees,” Ward Six Councilman Aaron Banks said. “People and the criminal element are still saying that if I do something in Jackson, they’re not going to take me to jail. We tried to do something to curb that, but a judge ruled we weren’t going to be able to do this.”

Banks didn’t say what judge handed down the decision or what court handed it down.

Stokes, though, said the council should leave that money in place and appeal the decision to a higher court. “We all understand the appeals process. It was not final,” he said. “We should have brought that back to the council to let us appeal that decision.

“You see too often so many misdemeanors doing so many things in the city... running red lights. You have a police car right there and they zoom on by. They’re doing this because we’re not enforcing anything,” he said. “They’re not going to do that in Rankin County. They’re going to do that in Madison County. We must hold them responsible.”

The council is expected to vote on the budget on Thursday, September 9. It will go into effect on October 1.

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