County tax rate to increase

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By Thomas Barr

      SHEPHERDSVILLE - For the first time in recent history, Bullitt County officials have opted to increase the tax rate on property owners.

     Instead of settling for the current rate of 9.3 cents on each $100 of assessed property, Bullitt Fiscal Court voted 3-2 to take the compensating rate of 9.6 cents.

     On a $100,000 home, the increase would be $3, from $93 to $96.

     By taking the compensating rate, will avoid losing tax revenue from the current year.

     In calculations provided through a state formula, keeping the 9.3-cent rate would generate an additional $45,452 over the current year in real property taxes. However, due to a $21 million decrease in personal property assessments over the past year, the county would lose $161,720. It would result in a net loss of around $116,000.

     In accepting the compensating rate, the county could generate $182,779 in additional revenue, while losing only $140,975 in personal property revenue for a net gain of $42,000.

     Magistrate Ruthie Ashbaugh started the conversation on a possible tax increase by suggesting a rate of 9.4 cents on real estate and 11.8 cents on personal property, a slight increase on both.

     "It's not a good thing to raise taxes," Ashbaugh acknowledged.

     However, she said the cities continue to increase the amount they take out of the county's insurance premium tax and there are things needed by the county.

     County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts, who broke the 2-2 deadlock, said that the not taking the higher rate would only push the county further behind. She said that while cuts still need to be made and waste is still apparent, she supported taking the compensating rate.

     Magistrate Rick Clements said that the county, like any other business, had to keep up with its expenses. Many of the residents would be eligible for homestead exemptions, which provides relief for those 55 and older who own real property. Those benefits must be secured through the county Property Valuation Administrator's office.

     "I think we need to take advantage of the opportunity that we have," said Clements.

     Roberts' only concern was whether the additional funds would be spent appropriately by the court.

     Mike Higgins, a resident from Fox Chase who regularly attends fiscal court meetings, said the compensating rate only keeps the county from losing revenue.

     "We want services," said Higgins. "We realize it will cost money."

     Fiscal court clerk Donna Ploetner said that many people don't understand that the county's portion of their annual tax bill is very small. There are other agencies, such as the school system, state and fire districts, that also get a larger portion of the tax bills.

     Even on a $200,000 home, she said the tax bill for the county's portion would increase by only $6 a year.

     Ashbaugh, Clements and Roberts voted in favor of taking the compensating rate. Joe Laswell and John Bradshaw voted in opposition.

     Tax bills normally are sent out in late September or early October. Discounts are provided for early payment.