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Amory School District raises taxes to ease financial burden

Reported by: Tyler Hill
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Updated: 8/14/2013 11:26 pm
AMORY, Miss. (WTVA) - The Amory School District has been facing financial problems for the past few years, so in an effort to ease the burden and help offset the costs, the district voted Aug. 12th to increase taxes in the city.

"The big thing I want people to understand is we're okay," said Superintendent Tony Cook. "We're gonna get where we need to be."

And that's the message Cook has for residents following a vote to increase taxes.

The district has faced financial woes for the past few years, and it's at the point where something must be done to keep the district funded, so they're asking for a seven percent increase in ad valorem taxes, a three millage note increase, $67,342 in new programs and a shortfall note of $179,756.

According to Cook, some positions have been vacated to help the costs.

"We were very conservative in what we requested," Cook said. "It could have been substantially higher, and we were very conservative."

The millage rate in Amory is currently 27, which is significantly lower the state's average of 42.

"We're substantially less than everybody," Cook said. "We weren't even in the same ballpark."

The new changes will increase the millage rate to approximately 34.

There is one positive to this story, however.

The Gilmore Foundation gave the district a $178,000 grant, basically covering the shortfall note.

"Finding out our school was in trouble, it causes us to stand up very quickly in defense of the school," said Danny Spreitler, Executive Director of the Gilmore Foundation.

He blames the current crisis on past administrations, claiming it's been a problem in the making.

"If this had been done over the last four years, like it should have been done, we wouldn't be here today," Spreitler said.

Certain terms and conditions accompany the grant, which Spreitler said will make the district more accountable with present and future funds.

"We're not going down this path again," Spreitler said. "We're not here to bail out the school or anything like that. What we did was avert a crisis."

He said from this point forward, the district must be responsible and accountable.

"Now it's up to the school board, and it's up to the superintendent of education Mr. Cook, who we have extreme in, to get us out of this mess and manage our finances the way it should be," Spreitler said.

So how much could taxes go up in Amory?

The City Clerk tells WTVA the school tax increase and a possible city tax increase would amount to about an extra $86 a year on someone's property taxes. 

That's assuming the person owned a nearly $101,000 home with homestead exemption.

Aldermen must decide on the proposed city tax hike before October.

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