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Stalemate Occurs By Board On Real Property Tax Rate
The Lee County Board of Supervisors required some additional discussion at their June 30 recessed meeting to adopt the budget for Fiscal Year 2022-23 which was set to begin the following day (July 1) but they failed to come to an agreement on the tax rate on real estate property.
The board unanimously agreed to maintain the current tax levies on personal property, machinery and tools, and merchants capital. Those rates are $2 per $100 of assessed value on personal property and machinery and tools with the rate being $1.41 per $100 on merchants capital.
Supervisor Sidney Kolb made the motions to adopt the three tax rates with Larry Mosley providing a second and board members DD Leonard (chairman) and Robert Smith were in agreement with votes of aye. Supervisor Charles Slemp was absent due to health reasons. Leonard then made a motion to adopt the rate of $.6187 per $100 of assessed value on real estate property with Smith supplying a second. They voted in favor of the motion with Kolb and Mosley voting no.
Prior to the vote, Kolb asked about the timeline for any change to the real property rate as well as rules in place regarding the raising of real property tax rates with Poe stating that he would have to review the State Code. “In 26 years, we’ve never made an adjustment after adopting the budget,” said Poe. Kolb said, “Then you are not aware of anything that says we can’t do it?” Poe said that he couldn’t recall reading anything that would prevent it but he added that the timeline to prepare tax bills is quickly approaching.
Kolb asked the other Supervisors if they would consider a modest increase on real property taxes with Smith voicing “no” to the question. Following some additional discussion about the budget deficit Smith asked what would be required to make up the shortfall of $1.735 million in terms of an increase to the real property rate. Kolb said a rate of $.70 per $100 would be a step in that direction along with cutting expenditures to balance the remainder of the deficit. Mosley said, “The problem is that (real) property taxes haven’t been raised in 15 years. When you don’t raise it a couple of pennies, here and there, then you get caught with what we’re facing now.”
Kolb asked Poe what was the deficit for the previous year with the Administrator recalling a figure of $1.3 million being adopted. Following the deadlocked vote on the real property rate, Kolb said he would vote in favor of the budget and accompanying deficit if there would be an increase in the real estate rate. Leonard then moved on to the next item which was the budget adoption with the proposed revenues for Fiscal Year 2022-23 expected to be $81,913,51 and expenditures to total $83,648.201 with a transfer of $1,735,050 from the General Fund required to balance the projected figures.
Leonard made the motion to adopt the proposed budget and appropriate the funds with Smith again offering a second. The vote was again 2-2 with Leonard and Smith in favor while Kolb and Mosley were in opposition.
The board did approve supplemental appropriations for miscellaneous items, Sheriff’s Department, Thomas Walker pool, Department of Social Services, VRS funds, landfill expenditures and others along with some budget transfers in various departments.
The board then entered closed session for the discussion of personnel, acquisition of property and contracts with Poe stating that without the adopted budget, tax rate and budget appropriation he did not have authority to commit to any expenses in the operation of the county. He said there was the option of a one month appropriation but some expenses are an annual fee. Poe did find information in the code section related to tax levy which states that the tax levy must be set prior to the start of the new fiscal year as well as adopting the budget.
After that information was explained then Mosley joined with Leonard and Smith in adopting the budget and appropriation resolution with Kolb voting no on the motions. There wasn’t another motion on setting the tax rate on real property.
Other actions that occurred upon reconvening included the awarding of a contract with Lee Auction Company in auctioning some properties in St. Charles as well as some surplus items and vehicles; award a contract for construction of parking lot behind the courthouse to Diamond Consulting Services of Wise with some deletions made to the initial bid; approved a purchase option agreement on an undisclosed piece of property; and a motion to retain the county attorney failed on a 2-2 tie vote. Poe said he would be in consultation with County Attorney Stacy Munsey on whether the current rate would remain in effect if no action is taken.