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Cut school taxes to provide tax relief

Cut school taxes to provide tax relief

By: Bill Crawford - May 26, 2024

  • Columnist Bill Crawford says school millage rates are often higher than city and county general support rates.

Speaker Jason White wants to study elimination of income taxes and cuts to grocery sales taxes. He ought to focus on property taxes. That’s more the interest of supervisors, mayors, and school officials along with lots of taxpayers.

“Property tax revenues are a vital component of the budgets of Mississippi’s local governments,” explains the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Its publication Understanding Mississippi Property Taxes showed entities highly dependent on those revenues:

  • 82 counties,
  • 298 municipalities, and
  • 140 school districts.

Local property taxes also often pay for bonds; streets, roads and bridges; garbage collection; fire protection; libraries; and community college support.

Property taxes represent the one type of tax that cities, counties, and schools can increase (within limits) to cover ever rising costs. A January column by Sid Salter raised the question, “can a showdown on property tax relief be too far in our future?”

“In Mississippi, as in most states, increased home values will result in higher property taxes even if no increase in the property tax rate is levied,” Salter wrote. “Higher home values equal higher taxes. Again, local governments take the lead in property taxes and are dependent on the revenue. That’s when political conflict is almost certain on this issue. Legislators will be asked for tax relief while local governments will resist any interruption of their tax revenue stream.”

Well, that great debate did not capture attention during the recent session, though the debate over funding the Mississippi Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) did. City and county leaders objected to the huge cost increases pushed by PERS saying they would have to jack up property taxes and cut services to cover them.

With those arguments still ringing in legislators’ ears, perhaps it is an opportune time for local leaders to try to push property tax cuts ahead of grocery and income tax cuts.

One property tax burden that hits both city and county taxpayers significantly is school taxes. Often school millage rates are higher than city and county general support rates.

Both the old and new school funding formulas set a minimum local property tax contribution to match state funding. With a few exceptions, the minimum in the new formula will be 28 mills. 

Mr. Speaker, a simple way to provide major tax relief would be to phase out the local match and require local governments to similarly phase down school taxes.

Additionally, proposed changes in education delivery would be easier to get done with the state paying the tab.


“For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man” – 2 Corinthians 8:21

About the Author(s)
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Bill Crawford

Canton native Bill Crawford enjoyed a unique and diverse career before his retirement in 2021 - editor and publisher of three weekly newspapers, EVP and CFO of Great Southern National Bank, VP for Community and Workforce Development at Meridian Community College, and founder and president of The Montgomery Institute. His government service included serving as one of the early Republican State Representatives, on the IHL Board (Fordice), as Deputy Director of MDA (Barbour), on the PERS Study Commission (Barbour), and on the Task Force on Contracting and Procurement for MDOC (Bryant). A graduate of Millsaps College with an MS from Mississippi State University, he has written a syndicated column since 2009. He and his wife Lynn live in Jackson.
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