County tax hike 'unavoidable'

Monday, July 14, 2008

Marshall County property taxpayers are facing a property tax rate hike this year, according to three prominent members of the County Commission.

"I don't see how we can avoid it," Commissioner Joe B. Brandon said during a Budget and Finance Committee meeting this week. "But we're working to limit it."

Brandon is the longest serving member of that committee. After nearly a decade, he stepped aside as chairman last year. He and other commissioners were asked at a meeting with School Board leaders about the prospect of a tax rate hike.

"I concur," Commission Chairwoman Mary Ann Neill said of Brandon's comment about property owners paying a higher tax bill in the years to come.

Marshall County now charges $2.84 per $100 on assessed property. The owner of a $100,000 home now faces a $710 property tax bill, based on the rate set last summer. The Budget Committee was set to meet this morning to continue its review of the financial situation in anticipation of recommending a new tax rate.

"I'm sure we'll go up," Budget Committee Chairman Richard Medley said, turning to a chart of tax rates, which is presented with this story today.

"But, historically," Medley continued, "If you look (at the chart) that rate goes up after reappraisal."

The value of taxable property is readjusted every five years to equalize the burden on taxpayers. Recent property sale prices and improvements are compared to nearby real estate for their effect on values. State law, however, provides a certified rate after reappraisal. It's calculated to generate the same revenue with a lower rate, assuming values increased.

Medley's observation is that while the tax rate declined immediately after reappraisal, county commissioners have readjusted the rate a year later as they realize government operating costs have increased, too.

"Last year we elected to lower the rate to the certified rate," Medley said, concluding, "I anticipate the trend of the last 12 years to continue."

How much the property tax rate will increase was unknown when budget committee men and women met with County Schools Director Stan Curtis and several members of the School Board to review proposed spending on education and related services.

Nevertheless, routine calcula . . . .Pick up a copy of Friday, July 11, 2008.