The county government on July 1 advertised a proposed “revenue neutral” rate increase in the July 1 edition of the Cherokee Tribune, the county’s legal organ.
The county’s total millage rate sits at 9.13 mills, which includes 5.36 for the general fund, 3.129 for the fire district and .641 for the parks bond.
If the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners approved what’s called a “revenue neutral” increase, that could raise the rates to 5.82 for the general fund, 3.39 for the fire fund and .693 for the parks bond.
The rate is considered “revenue neutral,” as most taxpayers saw their property values decrease by the same percentage as the rate increase.
A home valued at about $170,000 with the standard $5,000 exemption would pay about $590 in county property taxes.
Many residents are expected to see their property tax bills decline as their home values also dropped.
The county commission will hold two public hearings — 6 p.m. July 10 and July 24 — on the proposed increases.
State revenue rollback calculation allows the county to raise its rate to any point below the revenue neutral rate to not be considered a tax increase.
The board is set to adopt its millage rates for fiscal year 2013 during its meeting on July 24.
Chief Financial Officer Janelle Funk said one-time temporary funding sources it utilized for the current fiscal year will not be available, such as pension fund credits used to reduce the current year’s contributions and the use of jail fund reserves.
She also said the county is expecting $350,000 in increased legal costs, $400,000 in road improvement costs, possibly paying $1.2 million in additional debt service for the Resource Recovery Development Authority
Funk said the county’s debt service related to the RRDA was imperative to cover.
Funk listed possibilities and options the county could use to plug the shortfall:
* using $1.9 million out of $3.8 million the county has in its pension plan credits;
* $600,000 if it found a new business operator to assume 50 percent of the RRDA debt;
n using $2.1 million from the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax fund reimburse its general fund;
* $200,000 in funds generated from new growth;
* $100,000 in decreased workers compensation costs;
* $100,000 in reduced costs for the elections office;
* $50,000 if the county finds a new corporate sponsor for the aquatic center; or
* postponing for another year building up the county’s reserves, which could save $900,000;
If the county commission used those possible offsets, Funk said the county would only have to increase the rate to the revenue neutral point.
If the commission decides against utilizing the dollars, she noted they would have to increase the rate past the revenue neutral point or “make some more drastic cuts which would have an impact on our service levels.”
County Commissioner Jim Hubbard said he felt comfortable with the numbers presented and added the proposed increase is necessary.
“That’s necessary for us to keep our government going,” he said. “We’re scaling back everywhere we can, but we’ve got to maintain a minimum level (of service).”
County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens agreed, adding “our job is to make sure we have adequate level of services in those critical areas” of public safety and courts.