Property Owners Will See A Modest Increase
After an unusually long hearing, the Mercer County Fiscal Court approved new tax rates. The fiscal court voted unanimously to increase the rate on real estate to 12.2 cents per $100 in assessed value and the rate on tangible personal property to 17.53 cents. Last year the rates were 11.8 and 16.26, respectively. Magistrates had been considered raising the rate to 12.6 and 18.1 per $100 in assessed value, which would have generated four-percent more revenue for the county over the next fiscal year.
Instead, they selected the compensating rate, which is calculated by the state finance officer to produce the same revenue as the previous year’s tax rate. In essence, local tax payers are paying more to get the same services as last year. While some opponents of the tax increase had hoped that increasing property appraisals would generate more revenue for the county, property appraisals actually went down last year, said Mercer County Property Valuation Administrator David Best, who said the county lost $7 million last year after Essity contested their property assessment.
Best has been under heat recently to lower property assessments across the county as a way of giving property owners a tax break. Best’s office over the past years has averaged 97.85 accuracy. Some anti-tax advocates have suggested Best’s office intentionally depress property evaluations, saying other counties do it as a way of providing incentives to business.
Best called those claims “rumors, conjecture and hot air” and said he was bound by state law to make sure his office came as close to 100-percent as possible.
“If a county had an extremely low ratio, there would be serious ramifications from the Department of Revenue,” Best said in a prepared statement.
At Tuesday’s hearing, he listed what some of those ramifications could be. If the Department of Revenue suspected his office of artificially depressing property valuations, they could move in and reassess all 12,100 lots of property in Mercer County, increasing values until they were 100-percent. Best could also face malfeasance charges.
“By law, I have to keep it as close to 100-percent as I can,” Best said. “I will follow the law.”
The good news is that Best’s office will perform reassessments on properties in the lake district over the next year, which means property values should go up, he said.
The fiscal court also corrected the tax rate for motor vehicles and watercraft, which is 9.20 per $100 in assessed value. The rate, which is set by the state, was recorded incorrectly at the last fiscal court meeting.
Property owners in Mercer County are getting a clearer picture of what their next tax bills will look like. The Mercer County Board of Education voted last week to increase the tax rate on real estate and personal property to 69.2 cents per $100 in assessed value from 66.5 cents. The Burgin Board of Education is considering raising property taxes to 77.5 cents per $100 in assessed value. The Mercer County Health Department is raising their tax rate from four cents per $100 in assessed value to five cents. On top of that, the state has instituted a six-percent tax on services, which is one of the reasons opponents turned out for the fiscal court hearing, even though the fiscal court counts for a small part of the total tax bill.
“When in the world is it going to stop?” asked Waldon Adkinson, who attended the tax hearing to voice his objections.
The next meeting of the Mercer County Fiscal Court will be 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at the Fiscal Courthouse (207 West Lexington Street).
To learn more about taxes in Mercer County, check out this week’s issue of the Harrodsburg Herald.