County commission sets rollback tax rate

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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) kept their word and adopted the rollback millage rate on Tuesday, August 18, at a specially-called meeting.  The BOC voted to approve the rate at 11.194, down from 11.310.  The BOC managed to keep a roughly similar budget for the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year, about $16.6 million in order to adopt the rollback rate. “This year’s general fund budget is only $198,000 more than last year’s,” said Chief Financial Officer Lori Sayer.

According to Sayer, county staff took great care to propose a frugal budget this year to ensure property taxes would not go up on account of the millage rate.

“The commissioners had expressed concerns with the millage rate and they wanted to take the rollback rate because of the large increase in the prior year,” explained Sayer.

Last year, the BOC voted to forgo the rollback rate in order to raise the millage rate by 1.8 mils—which amount to a 19.1 property tax increase. The millage hike coupled with the increased property values in the county led to the average homeowner experiences a 27 percent increase in their property tax bill.

“After last year, no one wanted to see the millage rate go up again,” said Sayer.

Although, many requests for funding and projects were denied in the county’s budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, there were some additional expenditures approved.

Additional expenditures added to the FY 2017 budget include $120,000 for the purchase of three vehicles for the Sheriff’s Department, $9,540 for the purchase of Easy Vote upgrades for Board of Elections, $15,000 to replace laptops for road deputies, $25,000 for Microsoft Office and mail exchange upgrade, and $20,000 for Firefighter turn out gear replacement. Other expenditure increases include a 6 percent health insurance premium increase in the amount of $62,000 dollars, $146,800 in unfunded health insurance benefits from last year, $58,562 for state-mandated salary increases for elected officials, $103,000 for a Defined Benefit Retirement Plan, and $84,631 for other professional and purchased services. The budget also reflects some significant decreases in expenditures, including $120,029 less in Capital Outlay costs and $136,753 in savings on supplies and fuel for the year.

Additional revenues for the county’s proposed budget include $153,685 in grants, $28,533 from the Forest Land Protection Act, $23,500 in license and permit fees, $60,000 from an Insurance Premium Tax. But the county also lost some revenue, including a $41,250 decrease in Court Fees and Charges and a $26,247 reduction in penalty fees for late payments on property taxes.

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