Amid an ongoing lawsuit stemming from concerns over Jackson's water-sewer system, the Jackson City Council voted Thursday evening to not change the overall millage rate for fiscal year 2020. The millage rate, which generates a large portion of the property tax revenue to fund public services, will remain at 63.03 mills.
In 2013, the City of Jackson entered into a $90-million contract with Siemens Inc. to install new water meters and implement changes to its water-sewer billing system. Resulting problems with the system have thrown the water-sewage system into a state of crisis, with many residents reporting inaccurate—and unusually high—water bills, often leaving them unpaid.
Unpaid bills have interrupted the City's revenue stream and forced it to finance its water-sewer services by dipping into its general fund, which is typically reserved for financing non-revenue-generating services, such as the fire department, human and cultural services, and more.
"This is not how this is supposed to work," Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester Jr. told the Jackson Free Press today. "In a city that is financially healthy, the water department bills out enough money to pay for its cost ... but because of the financial straits we are in, we have been taking from other areas to pay for this. We shouldn't be doing that and we are trying to avoid doing that."
"We could have raised (the) water-sewage rates, but nobody wants to do that because of the affordability issues and the fact that we are not collecting the money as it is because of the billing problem. So, let's figure out a way to overcome the billing problems," Priester said.
By keeping the overall millage rate the same, the City is setting a cap on what can be taken out of the general fund as its debts have increased. Priester said that the vote is, in