By Rod Rose The Lebanon Reporter
---- — Opponents of an increase in a county property tax have less than a month to file a petition against the rate hike.
At least 50 people must sign the petition objecting to an increase in the county’s Cumulative Capital Development Fund rate, which was narrowly approved Tuesday by the Boone County Council.
The increase is 3.30 cents for every $100 of assessed valuation, or three-one-thousandths of one cent under the maximum allowed rate of 3.33 cents. A smaller increase is possible, when the council meets in September to adopt the county’s budget for 2015.
The council first took no action on Councilman Gene Thompson’s motion to increase the rate from the current 1.27 cents per $100 assessed valuation to 2.3 cents. The rate had been 1.41 cents in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and 1.39 cents in 2012.
“This, by my calculation, is half the rate increase; it would generate about $360,000 (per year),” Thompson said. No one seconded Thompson’s motion, though, and it died.
Wheat moved “we just do what needs to be done, and raise the rate to .0333 per $100.”
His proposal failed, three to four, with Marcia Wilhoite and Debby Shubert also voting yes.
“I just want you to know if you adopt this maximum today, you still have the 2014 budget process,” said Paige Sansone, a CPA with the financial firm H. J. Umbaugh & Associates. “When you are adopting your budget, you can change the rate.”
After Sansone’s comment about flexibility, the council reconsidered, but could not again vote on raising the rate by the maximum amount because a vote had already been taken and failed.
Instead, Wilhoite proposed allowing the rate to go to .0330 and no higher, finessing the original motion.
“I’m still a no,” Councilman David Rodgers said; he was joined by Butch Smith. Wheat, Wilhoite, Shubert and Thompson voted yes.
“It’s got four votes and it carries, so I vote nay,” Council President Steve Jacob said.
Regardless the rate the council approves for next year, the tax will drop over the next few years, County Attorney Bob Clutter said, because the county’s assessed valuation is increasing. The “trending” method used to determine a property’s tax value also affects the rate.
Because the levy falls over time, it is standard procedure in other counties to hold hearings to increase the CCD, Sansone said.
“The levy is outside the levy limits,” she said, “so it’s extra money, that can be spent on many items.”
Implementing the 3.33 cent maximum would have raised an estimated $721,000, Sansone said.
“The counties I work with primarily are ones that need funding from every source they can find,” Sansone said, so it is not unusual for counties to adjust their CCD rates every two years.
Aaron Smith, Lebanon, was the only citizen to speak during a public hearing on the proposed increase. He opposed the plan, saying it would unfairly burden lower-income families.
“There appears to be room for continued modest county spending cuts before taxes are increased,” Smith said.
“I think it’s important we try to stay away from the social discussions ... and stick more to the economics of it,” Thompson said.
“It’s incumbent on us to be more prudent in our planning,” Thompson said. “We’ve been spending down that CCD money pretty aggressively.”