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September 4, 2006

Property Valuations, Tax Digest, Budgets, and Millage Rate

These 4 items work together to determine your property taxes every year. This year the County has had property valuations and a timely tax digest. The tax digest shows which properties are taxable and at what value they are set. The budget shows how much the county will need to operate (for 2007). This is the vital part of the formula that doesn’t exist. After the taxable values are known, the county sets the millage to bring in the amount of needed revenues to fund the budget. (Digest x millage = budget revenues needed)

For the second year, our BOC has set the millage without setting a budget. Last year it looked as if there would be a significant shortfall; however, the 2005 audit reveals that the county brought in $2 million more than it spent! The audit shows that $7 million was spent; however, the new millage rate was set on “guess-ti-mates” by the County Manager of $8.4 million. That’s a 20% increase over what was actually spent in 2005.

Are the taxpayers going to be overtaxed again in 2006 for the 2007 budget? There are no real figures. The County Manager admitted all he did was take last year’s budgets (not actual figures) and guessed at what they might be for this year. Where does that leave departments like Public Works? This department depends on materials and gasoline that are ever increasing in price—certainly significantly higher than when the 2006 budget was set. What about the Assessors office? They should have a budget that has over $100,000 extra since they aren’t hiring outside consultants to do a revaluation of property.

Jasper County’s budget is not all that large and does not have a lot of unknowns. Proposing a millage rate without a budget is a pretty sad commentary on the Manager and the Commissioners who are his supervisors.

We need answers to many questions concerning the budget and to other issues of concern to the citizens. We again encourage our Chairman to hold those town hall meetings he campaigned on “to get public input.” Comm. Bernard stated in his column in the Monticello News (8/31/06) –

“With the help of the taxpayers of Jasper County, we can continue to keep tax increases to a minimum. But, we cannot do it alone; we need your active support and assistance to succeed.”

TWG is encouraged that the Chairman is asking for assistance from the public. We just hope he takes the good advice and ideas that many citizens have.

You can read Comm. Bernard’s entire column at www.themonticellonews.com under “Guest Columnist”.

TWG
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