Commonwealth Journal

September 13, 2013

County, city property taxes won’t increase

Staff Report
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — Property taxes are a common political football that allow city officials to cry, “Hike!”

Except in Pulaski County, where the three largest governments aren’t raising taxes by a cent for the coming fiscal year.

Pulaski Fiscal County voted to keep the property tax rate in the county at 5.10 cents per $100 of real property.

Pulaski County Treasurer Joan Isaacs presented two other options to magistrates on Tuesday — one was the compensating rate that would jump the property taxes to 5.20 per $100, and a third option that would have increased taxes 4 percent to 5.40 cents per $100.

“We can make it fine on what we’re doing now?” asked 4th District magistrate Glen Maxey.

“We should do fine (on the 2012 rates),” Isaacs responded.

With that, fiscal court unanimously voted not to increase taxes for 2013.

Somerset City Council this week unanimously passed Ordinance 13-16, which sets the 2013 property tax rates at 13 cents per $100 of taxable property.

This year marks the seventh year in a row the city has either decreased tax rates for its residents or held steady, with additional discounts available for early payers.

“I applaud the city council for representing the interest of the tax payer,” said Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler during Monday’s city council meeting. “We generate our revenue through other means, so that’s just one way we can pass that savings on to the tax payers.”

By “other means,” Girdler was referring to money made through the city’s natural gas pipeline network, its sewage plant and water plant, and more.

As per the ordinance, taxpayers can take advantage of a 10 percent discount for each $1 collected before Nov. 1. Those who fail to pay before Jan. 1, 2014 will see a 20 percent penalty and six percent interest per year imposed on each $1 of unpaid taxes until their bills are squared away.

Ordinance 13-16 underwent its second reading on Monday. The first reading was held on Aug. 26.

“We’re so proud to have done it, and honored ... to be able to do it,” said Girdler.

In Burnside, city officials made a similar decision to stay steady at a rate of 17.1 cents per $100.

The rate has stayed constant since 2007, when additional revenues through alcohol and food taxes following the “wet”/”dry” referendum three years earlier allowed the Burnside City Council to lower tax rates by a cent.

Since that time, there’s been discussion about lowering it further, but it hasn’t happened. Instead, Burnside officials have held steady to balance the needs of taxpayers against the numerous costs of a small but busy tourist town with an ailing water system.

“One thing that gives us a little bit of a problem is when they designed this intersection up here at (Ky.) 90, (Ky.) 914 and (U.S.) 27, they took seven or eight businesses out, which was a tax base,” said Burnside Mayor Ron Jones. “In addition to that, every year, we have 10 to 12 more people filing for the Homestead Exemption (referring to the protection against property taxes in the event of a homeowner spouse’s death).

“Every year, we lose $350-420,000 towards the tax base ... and there isn’t anything to replace that,” he added. “Chemicals go up (in cost) on our water and wastewater. We’re in a never-ending struggle to not raise tax rates anything, to cut something somewhere, and still be flowing along. ... Nobody wants to pay anymore than they absolutely have to.”

The council voted unanimously to leave the tax rate the same for the 2013-14 fiscal year.