Citizens complain to commission about budget proposal

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Several citizens showed up at the Campbell County Commission workshop Monday to voice concerns about a proposed property tax hike.

“I’m sick of paying over and over,” county resident Bill Deguire said. “Higher and higher. This and that. We’ve got enough to contend with (in Washington D.C.), without the people that live in the county.”

“Mr. (Jeff) Marlow, director of finance, has proposed a (16 percent) increase in property taxes, the largest tax increase in the history of the county,” county resident Jim Slusher said.

Marlow sent a letter to Commissioner Marie Ayers, who sits as chair of the budget and finance committee. In the letter, Marlow proposed increasing the property tax by 29 cents per $100 of assessed value to help finance the 2012-13 budget.

Marlow cited several reasons for this proposal in the letter.

State law requires the county to increase its funding for education by at least $250,000.

“We have to have additional revenue, $250,000 to $350,000, for the education department,” Campbell County Mayor William Baird said after the meeting. “That is an increase the state mandates the county comes up with.”

Through the Better Education Program, the state and Campbell County will eventually share the funding for schools evenly. Accomplishing this puts strain on the county.

“Each year, the local portion increases a little bit, and the state portion decreases a little bit,” Baird said. If the county doesn’t budget for this, it will have to raise taxes.

The school board has also requested an additional $420,000 above the state mandated minimum, Marlow said in his letter.

There has been a decrease in revenue of about $188,000 in the county’s general fund, Marlow said.

“Our revenues are down,” Baird said. “Federal revenues to the education department are very down.”

There have been decreased revenues in the highway fund and roads superintendant Dennis Potter has requested $1 million for road paving projects.

“We have a proposed budget,” Baird said. “We’re just getting into the budget process to see what our options are.”

The county commission has a 92-day continuing resolution during which to finalize its budget. This resolution takes affect July 1 and ends Sept. 30.

Over the next few weeks, the commission will begin to look at the budget and solutions, Baird said. Marlow’s proposal is an option.

Prices are going up for everything, and that includes government, Baird said.

While the prospect of higher taxes has upset some citizens, they aren’t looking at the big picture, Baird said.

Some of the people who showed up in protest of a tax increase also voiced concerns over losing services that would have to be cut to prevent a tax increase.

While Slusher spoke out against the tax increase, he also criticized the commission for not spending enough money on the highway department.

“We are in the greatest recession since the depression, yet nothing has been cut except Mr. Potter’s elimination of nine positions,” Slusher said. “His reward, no budget increases for asphalt. He’ll probably be blamed for the proposed tax increase. In my opinion, that’s called scapegoating. Do as he suggested and find the money in the existing budget. It’s there. In the meantime our county roads are going down the tubes.”

But the highway department’s lost revenue and request for $1 million to pave roads is part of next year’s budget, and part of the reason for Marlow’s proposal to increase the property tax.

“There are some things you have to do,” Baird said.

The county has to maintain the same level of funding it did the previous year to certain departments, such as the highway department, education department and sheriff’s department.

There are some services that state law doesn’t require the county provide to its citizens, Baird said. “All those things will be on the chopping block.”