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UPDATE: The Columbus City Council will hold a public hearing at 5 p.m. April 10 to take comments from taxpayers on a proposed $5 million bond issue for infrastructure work. The hearing will be held in the courtroom in the Municipal Complex where the City Council normally meets.


COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — Columbus could launch a major street and sidewalks improvement program by this summer.

Monday, the City Council took the first step toward issuing $5 million in bonds for work throughout the city. The 20-year bonds would require a property tax increase of up to two mills, starting this fall, according to a presentation from bond consulatants Steve Edds and Lynn Norris.

City Council members promised to have a forum later this month to outline the bond issue and the road, sidewalk and drainage work before finalizing the deal.

The city completed $3.5 million worth of improvements, including parking lots and other projects, in 2012 but Council members it didn’t address all the city’s needed.

The loss of key industries — possibly Sanderson Plumbing and KiOR — could lower the city’s tax base, despite a number of notable commercial and retail projects under way. Furthermore, the city school district may ask for a property tax increase this year, although board members preliminarily have vowed not to. Such a tax increase could make Council members less likely to pile more increases on to city property owners.

The city’s tax rate currently is 40.13 mills, not including the 65.87 mills for schools.

Barring major revenue and financial hits in those areas, most city leaders seemed to think now was the time to address a growing issue.

 “I think we’ve got to that point because the infrastructure is crumbling so badly that it’s really getting to be a problem in a lot of areas, and I think this is the most sensible way,” said Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box.

“Now seems like the best time<‘ echoed Mayor Robert Smith.

Edds said the city should strike sooner than later to avoid interest rates which have been rising since late last year and to take advantage of the city’s improved bond rating, which should shave a few percentage points off the bond issue, whether done on the open market or through the Mississippi Development Bank.

Another roadblock could be the puiblic. If 10 percent of the cuty’s registered voters or 1,500 voters — whichever is less — sign petitions calling for a referendum, the city must hold a public vote, where 60 percent of voters would have to approve before the bonds could be issued.

If that doesn’t happen, the council could approve the bonds in early June and have the money by late July.

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