Harrison County to hold second hearing on tax rate today
By: Kevin Schmidt on August 25, 2016
From The Marshall News Messenger
Published on Aug. 19, 2016
The Harrison County Commissioners Court will hold a second public hearing today on the proposed increased tax rate for the 2017 fiscal year.
"It is the first time in six years that I've had to set those two hearings," Harrison County Judge Hugh Taylor said previously, noting he hasn't had to have public hearings on the tax rate since he's been in office, because the rate has remained the same.
"We encourage the public to attend and voice their opinion," he said before.
The first public hearing was conducted Monday with only one local resident and business owner, Kevin Schmidt with Doodley Dee's Farm, addressing the court, speaking out against the proposed increase.
"I touched on two things. One when I got there, it's obvious whenever I walked in no one from the public (came) at all - only employees from the county there," Schmidt told the News Messenger Thursday. "There was not one citizen that came.
"It struck me as so odd because I've heard people almost everywhere I've gone in Marshall lately about the tax situation and they have these meetings during the week, especially a Monday at 9 a.m., where the vast majority of everybody is working and they don't have the ability to get up there."
Schmidt asked the court to consider conducting the meetings after 5 p.m. or on a Saturday, in the future, to allow more people from the public to attend.
Schmidt said he also expressed frustration about the tax rate being increased when the median income for the middle class hasn't increased since 2008.
"It's been stagnant," he said, referring to statistics found online. "The general population has not had a raise. In fact, they've had a decrease in pay due to the inflation rate."
"Because wages have not moved, the average person is still losing 1.6 percent of their purchasing power every year; so everybody in Marshall, especially in this area where we've been hit so hard in the downturn of the oil and gas, is (having it rough)," Schmidt said. Thus, "I think it is grossly unfair to force upon the citizens an increase at this time.
"If they want to consider that, they should consider giving themselves pay raises whenever the general population is seeing an increase in their pay," Schmidt added. "Not only is the general population wages decreasing with inflation, now, on top of that, they want to punish and steal from us more by giving more to themselves. It's disturbing."
Schmidt said he plans to address the court again, this morning, when the public hearing begins at 9 a.m. in the courtroom of the historic 1901 Harrison County Courthouse in downtown Marshall.
The proposed rate is .3498 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The effective rate is .34243. Last year's was .31895.
"We find ourselves in this position, as I have explained in the past, due to the dramatic reduction in the value of our oil and gas properties, countywide," Judge Taylor said in a previous interview, explaining the reason for the increase. "If you compare the certified value from 2010 in the oil and gas sector to the certified value we received for 2016, you'll see a seventy five percent reduction in valuation over six years.
"That equates, in dollar terms, to an annual reduction of $3.1 million less tax money received by the county," he said. "One million of that damage was done this year alone, because our certified values for 2016 show a 55 percent reduction of an already reduced oil and gas sector. That was the main reason and it has been the main reason."
This will be the first time in years that the county has filed a proposal that passes any of that reduction onto businesses and homeowners, Taylor said. The county has been operating on less tax collection today than it has for several years in the past.
"When you look at tax revenue collected, year over year, you can see that in the FY (fiscal year) 2016 budget, which is our current year budget, we're actually operating on less tax collection than what was collected for the 2008 -2009 budget and that's a flat line from '09 all the way through FY '16 in overall tax collections," Taylor pointed out.
Tax revenue collected was $20,272,825 in 2012; $20,015,700 in 2013, $19,551,429 in 2014; $19,718,053 in 2015; and $19,283,304 in 2016 .
Officials said before that the county can't continue to operate in that regard.
"The effective rate's gone up so much because of the lower valuations that it's having a big impact," Judge Taylor said.
"We've been putting it off and we can put it off no longer," he said of raising the tax rate.