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New mayor proposes rate, tax hikes in Capital City

JACKSON — Mayor Chokwe Lumumba has proposed sweeping water and sewer rate hikes and a one-time tax increase that together will raise more than $36 million in new revenue.

In his remarks to the Jackson City Council yesterday, Lumumba repeatedly returned to the theme of doing what is necessary, instead of what is politically convenient.

“We have to take a budget which faces off the challenges which we have before us, not a budget which would simply be politically acceptable,” Lumumba said. “I don’t want to be known as the person who raised rates. But I promised to put the city first when I was elected.

“This can has been kicked down the road for far too long, and I just can’t see how kicking it further benefits anyone,” he said.

If approved by the council, Rick Hill, deputy administrator for the city, tells The Clarion-Ledger the average monthly sewer bill would more than double under the proposal from $15.06 to $31.33, while the average water bill would increase by about a third, from around $15 to $21.

The hikes would help fund a 43 percent increase in overall government spending in fiscal 2014, a figure that includes a 155 percent boost to capital projects. The general operating budget would increase from $276 million to $311 million, while capital project spending would increase from $75 million to $192 million. The proposed hikes are not enough to cover all of the new spending, but it was not immediately clear on Monday where the remaining funds would come from.

The city faces about $1 billion in infrastructure needs, including a $400 million Environmental Protection Agency consent decree, $300 million in water line repairs, as well as crumbling roads and a defective drainage system.

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