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Pearl River raises property taxes a bit

Published: Tuesday, July 12, 2011, 11:08 PM     Updated: Tuesday, July 12, 2011, 11:14 PM
Jeff Adelson, The Times-Picayune By Jeff Adelson, The Times-Picayune

The Pearl River Board of Aldermen bumped up the town's property tax rate slightly Tuesday night to help balance the town budget and reduce the need to cut spending.

Pearl River Mayor James Lavigne

The new rates, which the board unanimously approved, bring the town's total tax rate up to 10 mills, the maximum approved by voters, and will cost property owners about $3 a year per $100,000 of property value.

The increased property tax rates come as Pearl River wrestles with decreased revenue, particularly from sales taxes that pay for street improvements and police.

The tax increase will add only about $4,000 to city coffers, an amount that Mayor James Lavigne acknowledged after Tuesday's meeting was not a significant sum. The city collects about $130,000 in property taxes, with the rest of its $2.7 million budget coming from sales taxes, fees, sewer and water bills and other sources.

The 10 mills the town will collect actually represents two taxes, a 5.83 mill tax that goes into the city's general fund and a 4.17 mill tax that goes toward street programs. The town's previous tax rate was 9.67 mills.

Under the new tax rates, property owners will pay $100 for every $100,000 in property value.

A budget adopted by the town council in May projects that the city has just enough revenue left over from last year to plug a $325,000 gap between its revenues and expenditures. However, Lavigne said the town saw a sharp decline in sales tax revenue last month and warned that more trimming might be necessary.

If such cuts occur, several aldermen said they wanted to discuss them as soon as possible to preempt a last-minute scramble for cash.

The first of those discussions is expected to take place next month, after the city receives a semiannual review of its financial situation.

"Last year we sat back all year, and it put us in bad shape," Alderman David McQueen said.

The council plans to continue reviewing the budget situation in the coming months, though it is unclear where city officials will choose to trim expenses. During Tuesday's meeting, officials briefly discussed a proposed plan to charge town employees, who receive health insurance at no charge, $10 a week for the benefit.

But even with that proposal, which will be discussed further at a public hearing in August, Lavigne said more cuts will be necessary.

"There are going to be cutbacks people won't like," Lavigne said. "Some cutbacks I won't like, and some cutbacks (Police Chief Bennie Raynor) won't like. But we have to do it."

Jeff Adelson can be reached at or 985.645.2852.