JEFFERSON — Marion County is proposing to raise its tax rate by 3.75 cents above the effective rate, and has set its first public hearing on the matter for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 3.
A public hearing on the archive plan is set for 9 a.m. that morning, followed by a public hearing on the proposed $4.2 million budget at 9:15 a.m.
The second public hearing on the tax rate will be 9 a.m., Monday, Sept. 9. The proposed budget and tax rate will be considered for adoption at 9 a.m., Sept. 16.
The proposed rate is 0.578067 per $100 valuation, which is an increase of 3.75 cents or 7.92 percent above the effective rate, which is 0.540567.
It’s a little more than 2 cents above the current tax rate, which is 0.554933 per $100 valuation.
“The difference between our current tax rate — 0.554933, if you go up to 3.75 cents, the difference between that tax rate and the new tax rate that you’ll be setting is actually a little over 2 cents,” confirmed Auditor Shanna Solomon.
The motion to set the proposed tax rate at 0.578067 per $100 valuation was made by Pct. 1 Commissioner Charles Treadwell; and seconded by Pct. 2 Commissioner Joe McKnight during a recent budget workshop.
Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur said no one wants to raise taxes, but they have to be able to fund services.
“All the services that the county provides cost money,” said LaFleur. “We all understand how this works. We’ve got to provide services and we’ve got to have the funds to do that.”
With the tax rate increase, property taxes will go up about $23.73 for a $100,000 home.
“That’s without any exceptions or anything,” explained LaFleur.
Regarding the budget, the court debated on whether to raise the insurance deductible to $2,500 and give employees a $300 annual raise to compensate.
“We are raising the deductible on the health insurance; and if we’re gonna do that, I would like to see us give all employees a small token raise to fill in the loss of the increase of health insurance,” Commissioner Treadwell proposed.
McKnight said he’d rather not do that because it’s a no-win situation.
“That’s my only (bother). If we go with $2,500 and then give a small token raise, we’re not saving anything,” he said.
County Clerk Vickie Smith said the option would definitely be a loss for employees.
“If you raise the deductible to $2,500, that could be taking money out of your employees’ paychecks,” Smith pointed out. “That’s not going to cover the deductible.”
“It’s not a win anywhere on this,” McKnight agreed.
Taking all into consideration, the court agreed to a compromise of no pay raise in exchange for keeping the deductible at $2,000.
“Hopefully everybody understands that,” Judge LaFleur said.
He explained before that insurance costs have increased by 5.5 percent. Since the county furnishes insurance for about 60 employees, raises cannot be afforded.
“We gave them a raise in the form of health insurance,” said LaFleur.
“I think we’re all in agreement … insurance is worth a whole lot more than a token raise,” said McKnight.
LaFleur also made note on Thursday that the county is, “100 percent debt free,” he said.