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County to see slight tax hike

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By John Overby

Last Friday, the Washington County Fiscal Court met in regular session, with the most pressing issue being the first reading of the property tax rates for 2014.

In the previous court meeting, Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles urged the court to make a decision on whether or not to raise county property taxes so that County Attorney Hamilton Simms could be prepared for the first reading last week.

With the current rate at 7.6 percent, Settles made the court aware that the compensating rate for the upcoming year was 7.5 percent and that the highest rate the court could raise it to was 7.7 percent.

The estimated difference between these two rates would be $9,711.

“That amount may not sound like much, but it would allow us to take care of our employees,” Settles said.

“If you look at it over 10 years, it will help the county more than that $9,000 dollars,” Simms added.

After some discussion by the magistrates, the consensus was that raising property taxes to 7.7 percent would be the most beneficial option.

It was also established that going up to 7.7 percent could be done without any referendum or recall vote, but there still would need to be a public forum.

District 6 Magistrate Greg Simms also noted that the rate had actually gone down in his time on the court.

“I think it should be noted that, I’ve been on this court for 25 years, the rate when I came on was at 8 percent, so I think we’ve done a pretty good job of managing the taxes.” Simms said.

The first reading of the property tax rate reflected the suggestion from the court.

The second reading of the rates will be at the Friday, Sept. 26 fiscal court meeting with a public forum preceding the meeting.

Other news:
• The court decided it was in their “best interest” to reimburse a resident the maximum $500 for help clear a right of way on Russell Lane. It was estimated to be about 1,200-1,500 feet long.

• The court granted the soil conservation’s request for $30,000, which is only part of the $50,000 appropriated for them.

• Settles clarified that the $2,500 given to the chamber of commerce during the previous court meeting was a result of their dues for being members of the chamber rather than a contribution to the upcoming Sorghum Festival.

• The library’s tax rate public hearing will be on Sept. 8 at 8:30 a.m. at the 1816 Courthouse building.

All magistrates were in attendance. The next regularly scheduled fiscal court meeting will be Monday, Sept. 8.