10-Cent Tax Hike

Published 3:34 pm Thursday, February 27, 2014

CUMBERLAND — The hard numbers are here. Due to decreased values as a result of this year’s real estate reassessment, Cumberland County will have a shortfall in tax revenue of roughly $742,670.68, according to Commissioner of the Revenue Julie Phillips. That’s if board members keep the real estate tax rate at 68 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The board will have to raise the tax rate 9.8 cents to offset the loss and preserve the current amount of revenue.

In an email sent to Cumberland Board of Supervisors Chairman Lloyd Banks, and later sent to the remaining four supervisors, Phillips told board members the amount of tax based on a $.01 tax rate for real estate, as of February 20, is $75,599.62.

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There are still some factors that are being finalized as the Cumberland Board of Equalization concludes its meetings and Phillips finishes calculating land use parcels. However, Phillips told The Herald she believes the estimates are a fairly accurate projection of the county’s expected revenue.

For most citizens, a hike in the tax rate won’t lead to an increase in their individual tax bill. Instead, their lower assessment value will be multiplied by a higher rate, equalizing to close to the same amount as last year’s.

But, the assessment is variable. While many properties decreased in value, some increased. Older properties that are not well maintained especially followed the downward trend in values, according to assessors.

Property owners that have done a lot of work on their homes, however, more than likely saw an increase in their assessment value. A possible raise in the tax rate would hit their wallets extra hard.

A ten-cent hike to 78 cents would only “level-fund” the County, so to speak. It would not cover the growing costs to house prisoners at Piedmont Regional Jail or fund much needed capital improvement projects, such as a new tanker for Randolph Volunteer Fire Department, a new fire house for Cartersville Volunteer Fire Department or replacement of the failing HVAC system at Cumberland Elementary School.

Last year, supervisors funded only one capital improvement project, an $11,820 payment on Randolph Volunteer Fire Departments’ Engine 42.

In order to cover the cost of the jail, estimated to be roughly $300,000, the tax rate would have to be increased by another four cents to nearly 82 cents.

Last year, supervisors discussed other means of raising revenue for the County, including liquidating assets, raising the airplane tax-rate and eliminating the timber land-use tax deferment.

In 2013, with the higher assessment values, the estimated amount deferred for land use (both farm and timber) was $585,456.94, according to a report by then-Commissioner of the Revenue Anita French.

Banks also inquired about how much revenue would be generated by raising the personal property tax by each ten cents. Those numbers will not be available until the end of March though, according to Phillips.

A public hearing for the budget, tax rate and CIP plan is currently slated for April 1. During the month of March, the board plans to review the County Administrator’s proposed budget and meet for more discussions on how to make the numbers work.