Board approves small tax hike in new budget

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Despite citizens’ calls for controlled spending, Lincoln Countysupervisors Monday approved a $10.8 million new year budget thatincludes a small property tax increase.

The fiscal year 2004 budget anticipates total county revenue of$11.5 million. Of that, $6.9 million is expected from propertytaxes, a 6.62 percent increase over this year.

Brookhaven resident John Perkins asked supervisors to do somesoul-searching and look at controlling expenses before approvingthe tax increase.

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“It seems to me a good faith effort has to be made to reduceexpenses before you raise taxes,” said Perkins, who has alsoappeared at public hearings on the city’s new year budgetplans.

The property tax levy for county operations will be going up1.59 mills to 39.89. That amounts to about $15 more a year on a$100,000 home.

The tax levy for school district operations will rise 6.35 millto 52.53 and is budgeted to generate $3.27 million. For countyschool district residents only, that translates to about $63 moreon a $100,000 home.

The 12.01 percent increase in tax levy funding for countyschools also garnered attention during Monday’s meeting.

“You’re killing people like me who are retired,” saidStoneybrook Trail resident George Wilson, who was critical of boththe tax levy increases.

Wilson said there was a county increase last year and anotherthis year. He anticipated another one next year to fund a newindustrial park, but supervisors president Nolan Earl Williamsonsaid that issue had not been decided yet.

“You’re going to drive people out of this county because theywon’t be able to pay the taxes,” Wilson said.

Wilson said there were potholes on his road ranging from nineinches to 20 inches in diameter and up to two inches deep. Hecommended Williamson for being able to fix some road problems inhis district.

“Where he got the money from, I don’t know, but he did the job,”Wilson said.

It was pointed out that the biggest part of the tax levyincrease is due to a $4 million school bond issue that was passedlast year. The money is funding improvements at each of the fourschools.

“We would have been better off in this county if we closed everyschool and privatized it,” said Wilson in a reference to allowingvouchers for private schools.

Bob K. Smith, a former District 5 supervisor candidate, alsourged the board to give consideration to eliminating the taxincrease for next year.

In another budget-related matter, a group of Lincoln Countyjailers appeared before the board to ask for a $2 an hour raise.The county has 13 jailers who help supervise inmates.

Williamson, however, said there are other county employees whoalso want similar pay increases. The new budget includes $50 amonth raises for all county employees.

Later in the meeting, supervisors voted 3-1-1 to approve the newyear budget as proposed and tax levy rates to cover it. Williamsonopposed the motion and District 1 Supervisor Vedia Givensabstained.

District 4 Supervisor W.D. “Doug” Moak, who offered the motionto accept the budget, pointed out that inflation is rising about1.5 percent annually whereas the county spending is going up 1.49percent. He mentioned higher costs of fuel, materials and otheritems needed for county operations.

“I haven’t seen anything going down in those areas,” Moak said,adding that the increase was necessary to maintain and not loseground in the budget areas.

Moak also pointed out that the levy increase of county schoolswas the result of an election.

“There were a number of comments about the schools, which wedon’t have any control over,” Moak said. “The tax increase is theresult of the democratic process.”

District 5 Supervisor Gary Walker referred to an earlierproposed budget that had a millage increase of over two mills. Theincrease was lowered after supervisors elected to maintain currentfunding levels for various agencies and organizations assisted bythe county.

“Any time we can keep an increase under two mills, I thinkthat’s good,” Walker said.