By Daniel Elizondo
Commissioners fought back a proposed tax increase of $0.3 despite the decrease of contingency reserves for the county.
Hardin County Auditor Larry Parthum studied the future of county funds after learning that the appraisal district came back with the average value of homes in Hardin County decreasing slightly.
“I’m here to relay the numbers to the court,” Parthum told commissioners. “I crunch the numbers and I’m here letting you know what is there.”
Commissioners quickly decried the proposal citing that an increase on the county residents would put more damper on their households.
“We have to go out there and talk to these people everyday,” Pct. 2 Commissioner Chris Kirkendall said. “This is something that won’t work for the people that are already struggling. We represent the people.”
Parthum told commissioners that raising the current tax rate to $0.58 would increase a contingency fund that has been depleted in the last several years.
According to Parthum, the tax rate last saw a considerable increase in 2006 to $0.60 due to an inflationary raise and a decrease in mineral interests. The rate decreased to $0.53 in 2009.
Parthum also said that by not increasing the rate, the contingency reserve could drop as low as $1.7 million. The reserve fund was depleted from 2011-13 by as much as $2.7 million.
“Our county has been doing good the last few years, and I don’t think an increase is the answer,” Pct. 3 Commissioner Ken Pelt said. “I just don’t see how we can go by an average on the decreased value of homes when in fact most homes in Hardin County have increased value.”
Tax Assessor-Collector Shirley Stephens told commissioners that the decrease in the value of homes is only an average and doesn’t mean that everyone’s home has decreased in value.
Pelt pointed out that 60 percent of the county’s budget goes towards the justice system of Hardin County.
“We need to look into making cuts within county departments,” Pelt said. “We can look into areas within the county and make the proper adjustments. I don’t think these smaller offices like the county or district clerk is something we should consider, but there are certainly other areas to look into.”
The proposed increase has until Sept. 9 when commissioners will make a final ruling on the rate.
In a vote for the increase on Monday, Pct. 1 Commissioner Lenward Cooper, County Judge Billy Caraway and Pelt all voted for a $0.1 increase while Kirkendall voted no for any increase.
Meetings have been set for Aug. 26 and Sept. 9 to discuss the tax rate. Both are to begin at 9 a.m. On Sept. 23, the budget will be voted at 9 a.m.
In other commissioners votes, a unanimous vote for increase in records archive fees and the records management and preservation fees for the county clerk will go from $5 to $10.