Commissioner recommends 3-cent property tax decrease

Published 5:11 pm Wednesday, March 7, 2012

After a majority of Polk County commissioners agreed Monday, March 5 to pay off the county’s senior center loan for an overall savings of $316,307, commissioner Ted Owens proposed a 3-cent tax decrease for residents.
Owens said the 2005 board of commissioners, on which he served, asked taxpayers to take on a 9.24-cent tax increase in order to meet the county’s debt of approximately $27 million at the time.
That debt originated from costs related to building Polk County Middle School and recreation complex, as well as the transfer station.
“I personally feel that in 2005 we asked the taxpayers of this county for the taxes to pay the debt,” Owens said. “Therefore, as the debt is paid off, then the taxpayers should get their taxes back, just as any lender would get.”
Owens suggested the tax decrease following a 3-2 vote on Monday, March 5 in favor of paying off the senior center loan at $1,376,043.
Owens and commissioner Tom Pack voted against paying off the debt, saying the county should use its fund balance for other projects, such as laying water lines.
During the loan payoff discussions, Pack also suggested giving residents a tax decrease.
Commissioner Renée McDermott responded to Pack’s suggestion of a tax decrease, saying a tax decrease is not a good idea now, given state threats of withholding revenues.
She said the state legislature is putting everything on counties’ backs and it’s not the time for a tax decrease.
“We will still have $11.5 million in debt after paying (the senior center loan) off,” McDermott said.
McDermott said there was a time not too long ago when Polk’s fund balance got below 8  percent and the state threatened to come in and take over. She said the county doesn’t want to give a tax rebate, then have to increase taxes the next year, because commissioners miscalled it.
Owens asked county manager Ryan Whitson to include a 3-cent tax deduction in the upcoming fiscal year’s budget proposal.
Commissioner Cindy Walker asked that the proposal be put on the county’s next agenda so commissioners can have a full discussion. She argued that Owens’ proposal was not an agenda item and commissioners should follow procedure.

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