BOE sets property tax rates, hears public comment
Published 5:32 pm Monday, August 21, 2023
BY ABIGAIL ROBERTS
STANFORD – The Lincoln County Board of Education voted to take the four-percent revenue increase in setting the 2023-24 property tax rates during the last regular monthly meeting.
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At a previous working meeting, Director of School Finance Lee Ann Smith broke down the multiple tax rates that the board could choose from, and recommended a four-percent revenue rate increase.
The recommendation is due to the board’s expressed desire to provide district staff with raises and bring wages to a competitive place when compared to neighboring districts.
Last year’s rate for real estate property was 52.2 cents per $100 of assessed property value and the personal property rate was 54.5 cents per $100 of value.
Smith said in total, the district received about $6.6 million. Property taxes brought in $5.3 million, the franchise tax brought in about $1.2 million and delinquent taxes brought in about $115,000.
The compensating rate would bring in about the same amount of revenue as last year at about $6.9 million. The four-percent revenue increase rate will bring in about $7.1 million.
“Something that has been good for our county over the past couple of years is that our assessments are increasing and because of that we don’t have to have such a high tax rate in order to get a desirable outcome for us,” she said. “Because of that, the rate that we had last year, 52.2 would only have to go up to 52.3 for us to get the four-percent revenue increase. So you’re talking about on $100,000 worth of property, a dollar or two that the taxpayer will see an increase of.”
Smith said expenses are always increasing and this is one of the only ways for the school district to increase revenue.
“One of the goals of the board is to keep our salaries and our pay rates comparable to districts around us and this is one of the ways that I feel comfortable offering pay raises every year because we can back it with this four-percent revenue increase every year if the board decides to choose it,” Smith said.
The motor vehicle tax rate, which is set at 54.2 cents and stays the same each year, brought in about $1.2 million in revenue.
“We would expect that to remain the same this year,” Smith said. “Our utility tax remains the same at three percent and that last year brought in about $1.2 million also.”
Smith provided additional information on surrounding districts’ tax rates and property value.
Out of the eight nearby districts listed, Lincoln County has the third highest property valuation assessment.
When it comes to tax rates, Lincoln County is in the bottom three, out of the eight districts.
“So you’re looking at Danville, 97.1; Somerset, 78.8; Garrard, 64.9; Boyle, 65.2; Pulaski, 53.4; we’re at sixth with 52.2,” Smith said.
Lincoln also has the sixth lowest tax revenue per student out of the eight districts, Smith added.
“Your top district listed there is Danville. They bring in $6,700 of tax revenue per student. If you look at us we’re bringing barely over $3,000 per student,” she said.
Public comment on tax rate
Before voting during the Aug. 10 meeting, board members heard from local resident Anthony Ruckel, who opposes the increase.
“Evaluation of my property doubled, so if you increase that at all my taxes have doubled before you raise. I think you really need to look at the fact that we’re being taxed everywhere. Your tax revenue is already going to increase….,” Ruckel said. “People are getting hit harder and harder with taxes just from evaluations.”
Chairman Etta Meek invited Ruckel to stay as the Director of Finance Lee Ann Smith would be addressing the tax rate later in the meeting.
After recapping the recommendation of a four-percent revenue increase, Board Member Marvin Wilson asked what the rate would be per thousand.
“So if we’re looking at the real property and the rate that we are proposing we use this year it would be $523. If you look at the rate we used last year it would’ve been $522. So on a $100,000 worth of property you’re looking at an increase of $1,” Smith said.
Meek said it’s a small increase and important to keep Lincoln County Schools going.
Meek asked if Ruckel had any questions for Smith.
“Things are tight for me and my house. I am on a fixed income. I don’t have any way of increasing my income. What is little to you is a lot to me,” Ruckel said.
Smith asked if Ruckel had spoken to the PVA about his assessment. He said he has.
“I don’t see you all looking at any ways of spending money more wisely. I see you talk about getting more and more money. I never see you all try to prioritize, which I have to do at my house, how do I get the most out of my money? It’s ‘How do I get more money?’” Ruckel said. “I get a feeling the money’s coming first, teachers come second, the kids come third.”
“Sir, I totally disagree with what you’re saying right now. The kids absolutely come first,” Smith said.
Board Member Christine Killen spoke up next.
“I would have to disagree. In order to get quality teachers that provide the best education we have to provide comparable wages for those people…” Killen said.
Ruckel said people are leaving the county because there’s been a decline in the quality of education and the school district doesn’t prioritize the kids.
“We prioritize the kids by having good buildings, by having good, quality teachers. How else would you prioritize the kids?” Smith said.
Killen said the new board has a new vision and changes are coming.
The board proceeded to vote unanimously to approve the new tax rates, reflecting a four-percent revenue increase.