County mulls tax increase

Published 6:00 pm Monday, May 1, 2023

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Come FY 2023-24 budget approval time, the Claiborne Commission will be neatly tucked between a rock and a hard place courtesy of the Budget Committee and its plans to wring blood out of a turnip.

The ink has dried on the proposal to add an additional 50 cents per $100 of assessed value to the current property taxes. Or, reduce the hike to 30 cents so long as a new $50 per year wheel tax is created for every vehicle registered inside the county.

County finance director Eric Pearson said early in the budgeting process that the current $2.00 levied on property taxes were pitifully below what was actually needed to run county business. Pearson said early in March that the county should have had at least $2.26 levied in order to balance the current fiscal year budget.

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It looks as though the $2.44 per $100 in assessed value bandied about during the first budget meeting was a low estimate to what is being presented to the full commission for adoption.

If the Claiborne County Commission decides to go with this route, property taxpayers will need to scrape up another 25 percent on top of what they paid this year.

If the commissioners go with the tandem of a 30-cent hike and the new wheel tax, it will mean those who buy their license tags in Claiborne County could be paying a total of $100 per vehicle, per year – if the commissioners vote to accept the new wheel tax and the $25 wheel tax to pay off the jail remains in place. The county continues to derive benefits from the $25 highway department wheel tax.

The current value of the ‘penny’ is $67,680. Each county department is doled a specific amount of those ‘pennies’ to operate. Last year’s real estate boom accounted for much of the dramatic increase in property values which, in turn, set the stage for the substantial increase in the value of the ‘penny.’

The current $2.00 tax rate was set when the state handed out its recommendations following last year’s release of the numbers from the regular five-year property reassessments. The state can and will step in when it deems necessary to prevent counties from receiving more in revenues via property taxes than necessary to run county business.

Last year, the county commission decided to go with the state’s guidelines. It is unclear just what the commissioners will do this year.

The Budget Committee voted six to three in favor of the proposal. Commissioners Zach Mullins, Sherry McCreary and David Mundy voted ‘no.’