Judge proposes holding tax rate steady

By Kristen Tribe | Published Published Monday, Aug. 7, 2017
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Wise County commissioners Monday proposed keeping the tax rate the same as last year — 37.89 cents per $100 property valuation for fiscal year 2018.
It will fund the $64.1 million budget, which was also proposed in Monday’s meeting.
“It’s very similar to our current budget,” County Judge J.D. Clark said. “It didn’t change much. I guess in terms of most significant changes … I’ve got someone retiring out of the maintenance department, and we’re not going to fill that position.”
Clark said his goal was to adopt the budget at the Sept. 11 meeting. He asked commissioners in the meantime to review the numbers for discussion at the Aug. 28 meeting.
Wise County’s effective rate dropped slightly since property values increased this year. The effective rate, 37.56 cents per $100 valuation would raise the same amount of tax dollars as fiscal year 2017 with the property values for 2018.
Because the proposed tax rate is higher than this year’s effective rate, more tax dollars will be raised, and commissioners must hold a series of public hearings on the tax rate and budget.
Allocation of the tax dollars was proposed to also stay the same with 34.64 cents per $100 valuation going to general fund and 3.25 cents to road and bridge.
The road and bridge allocation was slashed last year from 6.5 cents per $100 property valuation to 3.25 cents in an effort to boost the general fund.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White expressed concern about doing this for a second year.
“My budget is going down $100,000 this year, if I accept it,” he said. “I’m doing all I can right now to keep my guys working because of the money situation.
“If I take another $100,000 off that next year, what can we do for our taxpayers?” he asked. “I know the tax rate looks good, but whenever they want us to re-do their roads, how can we explain to them we can’t? It’s hard to do year after year.”
Clark said citizens are already paying more in taxes because most property values increased, and that’s why he wants to keep the tax rate flat.
“None of us have said it’s pretty,” Clark said. “We’re just trying to …”
White interrupted him.
“And it’s getting uglier every year,” he said.
Clark said everyone needs to “think big picture.”
“We have to look at other things that are going on and that we are making a $3 million debt payment [for capital expenditures] and that’s soon going to go away and give us an opportunity to do a few things differently,” he explained. “What are we going to do for capital? What are we going to do for you guys?” Clark said these issues have been discussed this summer with plans being made for the future and how to make the road and bridge fund “whole again.”
Read more in the midweek Messenger on newsstands Wednesday.
The first public hearing on the county tax rate and budget will be 8:30 a.m. Aug. 28, just prior to the regular commissioners meeting. The second public hearing is 7 p.m. Sept. 7. Both will be held at the Wise County Courthouse.

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