Citizens offer opposing viewpoints on proposed millage rate increase

Published 6:57 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Several Decatur County citizens spoke out against the county’s proposed 1.5-mill millage rate increase Tuesday.

The citizens spoke during the public participation portion of the regular meeting of the Decatur County Board of Commissioners. During a May 28 budget workshop, the six commissioners appeared to come to a consensus that they would seek a 1.5-mill rate increase in property taxes, when the Fiscal Year 2013-14 budget is finalized.

During Tuesday’s meeting, several citizens took the time to express their concerns with the proposal.

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Stephen Wells said that “we are here to show our concern on a tax increase of any kind.”

“The county should run their budget like a household runs its budget,” he said. “You can’t just adjust the revenue to cover the expenses. That’s what this tax increase is.”

Wells said that he believed there were still places where the county could cut expenditures. County Administrator Gary Breedlove said that the proposed 2013-14 budget includes a cut of 8.2 percent across the board, compared to the 2012-13 budget. He also noted that many of the county’s expenditures are mandated by state and federal agencies, and cannot be cut.

Breedlove noted that the proposed 2013-14 budget is $1.4 million less than the 2012-13 budget, but even after those cuts a millage rate increase will still be needed, because of expected sales-tax revenue shortfalls.

“[Cutting next year’s expenditures by $1.4 million] is a move in the right direction, but it still won’t solve our problem,” he said.

One citizen said that the millage rate increase was necessary.

“[Breedlove] has the miserable job of informing his commissioners and the citizens that a millage rate is necessary to survive,” Ted Snell said. “There are a lot of seniors, as myself, who are finding it very difficult to survive in Decatur County.

“He’s requested a millage rate that will be discussed later, and that is a nasty word, but here in Decatur County it’s probably the only way we can raise money … by raising property taxes. We need jobs.”

During the regular meeting, a woman asked why the county couldn’t address its budget shortfall by raising the sales tax.

Breedlove explained that the county is currently at its state constitutional limit, and the only way to increase that rate would be to have the state’s General Assembly introduce legislation to change it.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a spending resolution that will keep the county operating at the current 2012-13 budget funding levels. According to state law, the county is expected to finalize its 2013-14 budget by June 30, 2013, but since the county will not reach that deadline in time, it is permitted to use a spending resolution.

When the county has finalized its budget, it must first be presented to the public in two separate hearings. Then, it must be voted on during a regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners.