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Good news for Shelby County’s property owners came Tuesday night when magistrates voted not to raise property tax rates.
Personal property tax also would remain the same, but magistrates did approve a 1 cent increase for vehicles and watercraft, up to 16 cents per $100 of assessed value.
The vote was unanimous on the plan that kept real estate taxes at 11 cents and personal property taxes at 10.5 for the 2013 assessment.
District 1 Magistrate Hubie Pollett, chair of the county’s finance committee, said it has been at least a dozen years since the property tax was raised.
“We raised a little bit on the motor vehicle and watercraft, but everything else is pretty much the same,” he said. “We kind of pride ourselves that we haven’t raised the tax rate for so long.
“We [finance committee] looked at it, and we know things are getting better, but they’re not great. We’ve been pretty frugal about we spend, and we really watch it and hold people accountable, and make people justify things that they buy.”
“I think we’ve done a real good job of kind of holding everything the same and keeping the tax rate the same going on twelve years. We’re just trying to do what we can on our side.”
Why the slight increase in cars, boats, and planes?
“It’s just a slight increase,” Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger said.
“The cost [to maintain] EMS just keeps going up and up, so this will give us a little more money in the general fund to help respond to automobile accidents.”
Also, Rothenburger said, an increase in motor vehicle tax is more fair across the board to the population in general. Although not everyone is a property owner, most people do have a vehicle.
“Most people have a car, where in real property, you would asking those same property owners [in the event of a property tax increase], the ones who are already paying the bulk of it, to pay more,” he said. “This way, it’s spread more evenly across the entire population.”
Magistrates also approved the County Road Department’s revised Entrance Permit and Construction Policy and Procedures, which spells out the responsibility of property owners who are installing driveways, either new or renovated, on county roads.
“This is just clarifying what it [procedure] consists of,” County Road Supervisor Carl Henry said. “If you’re redoing a driveway, but not going past the sidewalk, you don’t need a permit, Henry said.
But those people who are putting in a new sidewalk must first get a permit and then contact Henry to come out before construction starts.
That’s because he has to inspect the area to see if a culvert pipe would be required, he said.
“Some of them, you don’t need a pipe, and some you do,” he said. “Where the roadway meets your drive, it depends on the contour of the ground. That’s why it’s my job to go out and inspect them before you get a driveway.”
If the driveway does need a pipe, Henry said he would explain the procedure to the homeowner.
“I inspect it, and I tell the property owner, you need to purchase a pipe, and we will go pick the pipe up and take it out there, and put it in our ditch line and make it work,” he said. “We do not charge the property owners. That’s paid for by tax dollars.’
Henry said that years ago, property owners were in charge of deciding for themselves whether or not they needed a culvert pipe, and if so, how it should be installed, a task that many lacked expertise to do, he said.
“Ninety percent of them either weren’t put in right, or they didn’t put a pipe in at all, or it was all messed up,” he said. “A lot of our roadways have ditches, and a lot of times when you put a new driveway in, if you don’t put a new culvert pipe in there, then you’ll get a pond.”
Henry said that even though he is called out to do about two-thirds fewer inspections now than before the recession – about 35 per year compared to 100 per year previoiusly – he wants the public to know the correct procedure and also to understand that when they see the road department crew working on a driveway, they are not doing a private resident a personal favor.
“We’ve had people call in, saying, ‘Oh, they’re over there doing work for Joe. They’re putting in a driveway.’ No, that’s what we’re doing – it’s our right of way,” he said. “I just want to make sure everybody understands that.”
Also at the meeting, magistrates: