Millage Decreases Slightly
The West Point Board of Selectmen approved a redistricting plan and the FY13 millage levy at a September 25 public hearing. Turnout for the hearings was very low, with fewer than five members of the public present. [I am not counting members of the news media or city employees. There were three members of the news media present – the Daily Times Leader, WCBI and myself – and several city employees. That big ol’ room was awfully empty. – Brian Jones]
Redistricting plan approved
Golden Triangle Planning and Development District GIS Director Toby Sanford began by explaining why the redistricting process was necessary.
“The 2010 census data gives us a snapshot of who lives in each of the five wards in West Point,” Sanford said. “In Ward 1 there’s 2,305; in Ward 2 there’s 2,300; in Ward 3 there’s 1,984; in Ward 4 there’s 2,500; and in Ward 5 there’s 2,218. That gives a total of 11,307 people in the city of West Point. In an ideal world, there would be 2,261 people living in each ward. We get that number by dividing the number of people by the number of wards you have. Then we take that number and compare it to how many people are actually living there.”
The Department of Justice requires redistricting if a city’s total statistical variance is greater than 10 percent. While there was little variance in wards 1, 2 and 5, Ward 3 had 277 too few people and Ward 4 had 239 too many. With the current district lines, West Point has a total variance of 22.82 percent.
“As you can see from those numbers, wards 3 and 4 are going to be doing most of the redistricting,” Sanford said.
Sanford presented three plans. Under the first plan, the city would end up with a total variance of 7.92 percent. Under the second plan, the variance would be 8.67 percent; under the third, the final variance would be 5.93 percent.
“Plan 3 has the least amount of change,” Sanford said. “There is only change between wards 2, 3 and 4. Ward 5 and Ward 1 do not change at all. [Ward 1 was unchanged in all three of the proposals. – Brian Jones] The Department of Justice likes to see this job done with the least amount of change possible because you are changing people’s voting habits. The less amount of change there is, the better off you are.”
“Was this plan tested to make sure it met the federal requirements of one man one vote,” asked John Bennett.
“Yes, all three plans meet that requirement,” Sanford said. “As long as we’re under 10 percent deviation we meet one man one vote.”
“That’s 10 percent of total population or voting age population?” Bennett asked.
“Total population,” Sanford said. “The census data counts everybody within each block. If people didn’t fill out their card, the census people sent someone to their door.”
“Is it counted as households or by the number of people?” Bennett asked.
“The number of people,” Sanford said. “If 25 people live in one household, they are counted as 25 people.”
Once the public comment period was over, Ward 4 Selectman Keith McBrayer made a motion to approve Plan 3 and was seconded by Ward 3 Charles Collins.
“The lower you can get that percentage, the less likely that you will have to redistrict again in 10 years,” Sanford stated. “The low number here gives you some wiggle room.”
Plan 3 was approved 4-0. Ward 2 Selectman Homer Cannon was not present.
Under Plan 3, the following changes will take effect:
In Ward 2: parts of Mayhew Street, West Jones Street, Illinois Street, Nobles Alley, and Washington Street, as well as Hawkins Trail, will move into Ward 3.
In Ward 4: parts of West Jordan Avenue, East Jordan Avenue, East Broad Street, East Westbrook Street, Robinson Street, Commerce Street and Kitty Dill Memorial Parkway will move into Ward 3.[See the attached map for more detail. – Brian Jones]
The proposed plan will now be submitted to the Department of Justice for approval.
Millage levy approved
The tax levy for FY13 declined by about a quarter of a mill from last year.
The city mills were unchanged at 36.81. The West Point School District levy was down about a quarter mill to 54.74.
“This is assuming a collection rate of 98 percent of the possible levy,” said Mayor Scott Ross. “Last year we collected 99 percent.”
The city left the millage rate unchanged in spite of the recent fall in assessed valuation.
“Most property went down between 1 and 2 percent,” Ross said. “We feel like we can still easily meet our budget.”
The levy includes a slight increase in the library levy, which was increased from 1 mill to 1.25.
Ward 5 Selectman Jasper Pittman made a motion to approve the levy, and was seconded by McBrayer. The levy was approved unanimously.
“We did a real good job balancing the budget,” Pittman said. “I don’t think we get enough credit for that.”0