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The Shelby County Board of Education on Thursday took an action that it hasn’t taken in years, voting unanimously to keep the district’s personal property and real estate taxes at 71.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.
By maintaining the same rate as last year, the district officials estimate that general fund will take a revenue decrease of more than $740,000, but Superintendent James Neihof said the district could withstand that this year.
“I think we should once again recognize the work of the budget committee that trimmed about two million dollars from the budget earlier this year,” board chair Doug Butler said. “I expect work will begin soon for the next time around.”
The board accepted the recommendation with little discussion, but it was just two weeks ago that Neihof had announced that he would recommend the compensation rate, a half-cent increase.
However, last week Neihof decided to back off that increase, which would have raised the taxes on a $100,000 home by $5. Instead, he said after continuing to study the numbers he believed that the estimated revenue increase of 1.7 percent would be enough to offset the more than $1 million estimated decrease in Public Service tax.
Butler questioned that decrease, noting the outlet mall construction in Simpsonville.
“That [an increase in the Public Service Tax] may in fact happen, but it’s hard to predict,” said Greg Murphy, the district director of finance. “The public service taxes don’t go in the same logical pattern as property taxes. They may get an assessment but then appeal, which could take more than a year to decide. And in the event they do owe money, it’s paid in a haphazardly way.”
Despite Neihof’s announcing his intention of recommending a flat tax rate, one citizen was still on hand to complain about the district and the superintendent’s attitude toward tax increases.
“I applaud you for not raising the taxes this year,” Karen Waller told the board during the public input portion of the meeting. “But citizens feel the pain as the city, state and federal government continue to attack.
“Last year you noted that about ten percent of the property taxes went uncollected. But it’s not because people don’t want to pay; it’s because they can’t afford it. And the superintendent is oblivious to these issues.”
Waller continued to note that the annual increases “rob citizens each year” as seniors and the disabled remain “helpless” and are “forced to make difficult decisions.”
Although Whaler condemned the board, one other citizen was there to say he understands the situation.
“I came tonight because I want you to know that at least one of your constituents understands why you had to at least discuss a tax increase,” Austin Redmon told the council. “You shoulder an unnecessarily heavy burden because you are not being supported by those that are supposed to support you in the General Assembly.”
Also at the meeting, the board: