BOC hearing attended by 2 citizens

Only two citizens attended the first of three public hearings on proposed county property tax increases for next year.

The 8 a.m. meeting last Wednesday was brief after Joene DePlancke and Ray Wells both expressed their opinions, mainly railing against tax increases proposed by the board of education.

The final two public hearings will be held next Monday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The board will then vote on adopting the proposed increases at a 7 p.m. meeting. The meetings will be held in the Jury Assembly Room at the courthouse.

Board of Commission Chairman Charlie Paris explained the reasons for the increases, which include retaining the current operation and maintenance rollback rate of 6.983 and an additional half-mill to the bond tax debt.

The increases would amount to $33.72 per $100,000 assessed value of properties in the county.

Had the county adopted the proposed rollback rate of 6.640, it would have saved the county $35,000 in next year’s budget.

Paris said the state mandates the rollback rates in an effort to prevent counties from receiving more funds than the year before.

Retaining the current rollback rate and the half-mill increase is expected to result in $1 million in revenue the commissioners said is needed to replace aging county equipment.

“The bond millage increase is because our county operating equipment is so old and dilapidated, at some point we had to step in and do something or we’re gonna find ourselves in a real bind and that’s going to hurt a lot worse,” Paris said.

The half-mill increase will be applied to the bond indebtedness but free up funds from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, account to be used to purchase equipment instead of paying off the bond debt.

Paris emphasized the money can only be used to upgrade equipment or facilities. It can’t be used for salary increases or maintenance of equipment, he noted.

DePlancke criticized the school board for issuing a $10 million bond she claimed they didn’t need.

“They’ve paid $340,000 in interest on that. I think that’s wrong. We could have used that money to buy new equipment,” she said.

DePlancke also said since the school board uses county roads, they should maybe buy needed paving equipment and rent it to the county for $1 a year.

“I hate to say it’s us against them, but the taxpayers are the ones paying it,” she added.

She also said she didn’t want to see the 1.5-mill rate continued in the future without a public hearing by the commissioners.

“I’d like to see it at a meeting other than the regular meetings where no one attends,” she said.

Paris offered to hold a town hall meeting in the future, if needed.

Wells echoed DePlankcke’s sentiment, stating the school board should be sharing in the counties problems.

“The school board is out of control,” he said.

Public Works Director Jim Smith pointed out the last new dump trucks purchased by the county was in 2001, 2002 and the county is still using them. 

Smith said the continued rollback of the millage rate has effectively stopped the county from buying new equipment for several years.

“There isn’t any funding mechanism other than what you gentlemen are doing to replace worn out equipment,” he said.

Times Courier

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