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Mayor vetoes budget again

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Oct. 10, 2002
Mayor John Robert Smith on Wednesday vetoed Meridian's budget for the second time within three weeks leaving the city without a spending plan 10 days into the start of the fiscal year.
This time, Smith cited a state attorney general's opinion that said the council wrongly reduced the tax rate when it approved a revised budget Sept. 30. The city must keep the higher rate passed earlier that month.
The mayor did not return phone calls on Wednesday and a woman who answered his phone at home said he had left town. Smith said in a memo to the city council that he had no choice but to veto the budget.
Budget work
The veto now sends the council back to work on the city budget.
Councilmen approved their first version of the budget on Sept. 20, rejecting the mayor's proposal for a 10 percent water rate increase he said was needed to protect the city's credit rating and keep the water fund in balance.
The mayor was out of town when the council acted; when he returned, he vetoed the budget.
Councilmen then approved the second version of the budget on Sept. 30, approving an 8 percent water rate increase and reducing the property tax rate from 50.08 mills to 48.08 mills.
One mill is one-tenth of 1 cent. For each mill, a taxpayer pays $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value.
Smith's latest veto means that the council must approve the budget again this time with the higher property rate of 50.08 mills. Examples of what that will mean for taxpayers were unavailable today.
The opinion
Heather P. Wagner, an assistant state attorney general who signed the official opinion, said the city council could not change the tax rate Sept. 30 after members already set one on Sept. 20.
Some councilmen said they were surprised by the veto but thought it was the right thing to do.
Councilmen are expected to approve a new spending plan Tuesday at their regular meeting.