Commission considers position on tax levy rates
by Jazz Clark
Faced with another tight budget year and dropping property values, the Morgan County Commission discussed raising the county tax rate by one percent in order to offset a predicted drop in revenue.
During budget discussions on Friday, March 16, county officials began by considering a 3% tax rate increase. Assessed values throughout the county dropped by 3% this year.
Without a tax hike, the decrease in value could equal a decline in revenue used to fund county services.
“We need to look at cutting budget, not increasing levy rates,” said Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson. “I don’t see any reason to pay for things like corporate trips or organization dues in a time
of foreclosure and job loss.”
To keep tax rates at 2011 levels, county officials said they would have needed to cut $67,000 in funds from their $4 million budget.
Assessor Ronnie McIntire confirmed real estate values have dropped 3% this year, about the same amount that it fell the previous year, according to the Assessor’s Office.
Cuts for dues, light bill?
The commission was, however, able to cut budgets in several offices.
One source of savings was cutting the $12,000 officials annually pay for dues in professional associations. Those dues were lowered to $4,500, which is man-datory for the Prosecuting Attorney.
Each of the commissioners said they have gotten phone calls about the courthouse lights being on all night, and they agree that for the sake of lowering utility bills, a few could be darkened.
“Of course, it’s a complicated system,” said Commission President Stacy Dugan. “We don’t want to spend a bunch of money to have a lighting programmer save us 30 dollars a month on utilities.”
Officials said they would investigate utility options.
Officials also decided to trim contributions to community groups.
“We decided not to fund Potomac Headwaters because they already receive funding from the
conservation district,” said Commissioner Brad Close. “We hate to deny people, but in these hard economic times we have to make decisions.”
Hospice of the Panhandle will also not receive more funds from the commission.
With Starting Points moving to a rent-free space in the county-owned Community Services Building, officials decided not to grant the groups request for additional program funds.
The Town of Paw Paw did receive approval from county officials for $2,500 in funding for park projects.
Final budget March 22
The commissioners will take a final vote on the county budget on Thursday, March 22, and must set their levy rates on April 17.