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Mercer School Board OKs Lower Tax Rate

Image: James Petts, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

Homeowners will see a slightly smaller property tax bill next year.

The Mercer County Board of Education approved a new, lower tax rate during a special-called meeting on Thursday, Sept. 3. In a unanimous vote, the board chose to reduce the real estate rate from 71.8 cents per $100 to 70.1 cents, a decrease of 1.7 cents. For the owner of a property worth $100,000, that translates to a $17 reduction in their tax bill in 2020-2021.

The board also approved the motor vehicle tax rate of 49.100 cents per $100 of assessed value. The personal property rate went up to 72 cents per $100 from 71.8 cents last year.

The new real estate tax rate is the compensating rate, calculated by the state to generate approximately the same amount of revenue as prior year, a little over $9 million. Because the board accepted the compensating rate, no public tax hearing is required under state law.

According to Chief Finance Officer Amber Minor, by taking the compensating rate, the school system will see a $48,781 reduction in general fund revenue next year, while at the same time facing increased costs from the COVID-19 pandemic,  such as creating hotspots for students who don’t have access to the internet.

Minor told the board she is still working on assessing the impact the pandemic has had on the district’s budget. The district has seen huge energy savings and purchased less bus fuel, but they still had to pay the drivers, who are under contract.

“It’s just such a strange year,” she said.

Minor said they have received $500,000 through the CARES Act, which went towards providing students with Chromebooks, and she is looking to see if they can get funding from FEMA.

She said she usually presses the board for the four-percent increase, but this year was different because of COVID-19.

“Of course I would love more revenue,” Minor said. “I know we’ll be able to pull through regardless.”

The board will be approving the working budget on Sept. 17.

“We can make some smart decisions with the funds we’ve received through the CARES Act,” Minor said.

Superintendent Dennis Davis recommended taking the compensating rate.

“We are happy to go with the compensating rate to try and help the community,” Davis said. But he said next year they would not have a choice but to take the four-percent increase.

Minor was asked if the collection rate would remain at 96 percent like last year.

“I’m hoping people can recover enough to pay it,” she said.

In other business, the Mercer County Board of Education:

• Approved hiring an additional full-time substitute teacher.

Davis told the board the district currently has three full-time substitute positions. He said it would allow the district to have a substitute in each building, which would help prevent them from transferring between buildings.

• Approved the SBDM allocations.

The next meeting of the Mercer County Board of Education is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 17, at 5:30 p.m.

Other Tax Rates

The Mercer County Fiscal Court set their property tax rate on Tuesday at 12.5 cents per $100 in assessed value. Even though that is the compensating rate, it is a one-tenth of a cent increase over last year. The magistrates also approved the personal property tax rate of 17.11 cents per $100, which is also the compensating rate.

The fiscal court will hold a special-called meeting sometime this month to approve the tax rates submitted by all the special taxing districts in Mercer County.

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