Property tax bites


Property tax-setting time, in the five years since our economy went down the tubes, has forced local politicians to choose between feeding sacred cows and giving tax breaks to taxpayers who struggle to make ends meet. Frankfort and Franklin County leaders have done a little of both.

The City Commission recently agreed to a slight reduction in its property tax rate coupled with an increase in the payroll tax to balance the city budget. Fiscal Court has eased county property taxes repeatedly since 2009 but decided to reverse course this year and take the “compensating” rate, which theoretically means it’ll collect the same amount from property owners as it did last year. It actually expects to take in $170,000 more because of growth and reassessment of property. The owner of a $100,000 home will pay the county $165, $8 more than last year.

The biggest bite on local property owners is the school tax, higher than the city and county levies or any other imposed by a collection of special districts. Most people agree education is important. But in 2008, the county school board went too far, thinking taxpayers might be willing to alleviate the funding losses K-12 education suffered when the General Assembly cut spending because of the recession. The board proposed a tax increase that would have increased local revenue by 10.5 percent.

A taxpayers’ revolt that spread from California had prompted Kentucky legislators in 1980 to pass a bill capping property tax revenue hikes at 4 percent a year. Voters can petition for a referendum if higher increases are proposed. When petitions began circulating in 2008, the school board saw the writing on the wall and had to settle for 4 percent – the maximum being virtually an automatic choice for local governments and school districts at the time.

The county school board took the compensating rate last year, resulting in just a $1 increase on a $100,000 home. But like Fiscal Court, it may have reached its limit. The board has decided to consider a range of options, including a rate increase that would bring in the maximum 4 percent growth. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $25 more. The abortive tax increase of four years ago would have added $50 to that homeowner’s bill.

Why, you might ask, does the school board need 4 percent more revenue when the latest report from the U.S. Department of Labor showed the urban consumer price index rose just 1.4 percent in the 12 months ending in July? Franklin County’s biggest work force – state employees – likely faces another two years without even a cost-of-living pay adjustment. But county Superintendent Chrissy Jones says her system needs a 1 percent pay raise the tax increase would enable because it doesn’t want to lose teachers to neighboring districts where salaries are higher.

Public agencies also have inescapable obligations, like helping to reduce the multi-billion-dollar unfunded liability confronting the Kentucky Retirement Systems. Public retirees, including former teachers, get guaranteed pensions, which have to be paid in good times and bad. Taxpayers who receive no such benefits themselves often resent having to underwrite the promises government made to its workers in more prosperous times.

The public will have an opportunity to air its opinions on the school tax at 5 p.m. Tuesday in a hearing at the county system’s central office, 916 E. Main St.

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  • capntrade you may want to file an open records request for all of that info. Sellus is good about responding to all of us regular Joes & Janes but that is a lot. I would like to know myself to just to know. I personally do not care if it runs at a deficit because I personally know some people whos life depends on this service for all af their running around. Groceries, Bills, Doctors, Visiting, Shopping ect. But I also see a lot of empties running around & if this service could be streamlined to run in a more cost efficient way without disrupting the folks who do need it, then it would save us money that could be used in other areas like garbage for instance. What about it????

  • I've asked this question about a gazillion times, but perhaps if ENOUGH of us ask it, we'll actually get an answer. I know Sellus keeps up with the comments here. Full disclosure? How many buses (of how many different varieties) do we have in this city? What are their schedules? What does it cost to run/maintain them? What do they net? How many people actually ride them? And yes, "buses" includes the cute little trolleys.

  • I am still always confused as to how liberals can claim that when taxes are NOT raised, the property owner is receiving a "tax break"..... The increase in debt by the city of Frankfort is NOT caused by anything I do with my home, my car, walking my dog, or having my trash collected (since we now PAY for that separately from our "real" taxes). It comes from the city giving raises, paying for "search firms" to hire employees who do not last a year. If comes from spending too much money on fuel because you buy it at Speedway and allowing officers to drive their cars home and around town (granted I do not complain about that much, because I see minor benefits in that), it comes from calling the local utility a "municipal" utility, yet not taking the profits and adding them to the city budget. It comes from at least a dozen (maybe fewer) buses running all over town with little to no passengers on them EVER.... We have a police chief also acting as city he getting two paychecks, or did he do that out of the goodness of his own heart? What do we have a Mayor for if we have a city manager? Years ago the police department used to buy their fuel in bulk and had their own gas pump right down town, instead of having to fill up at market prices at the local gas stations. If the "green" energy is so effective, where are the savings? There are dozens if not hundreds of examples of how infrastructure could cost less,....but always seems to cost more, and we end up footing the bills. Live within your means, and stop trying to fix your problems by taking more of our money, making it harder on the people to actual pay our bills.

  • bjos, I knew one man who used to write them but he has since died and I have not heard who is writing them now. I don't know that it is top secret but it is customary for all newspapers to have op/ed pages and most of the time, the writer is not identified. I don't know the history behind that practice but maybe I will start googling next time I am awake at 2 am and can't sleep. With this new website, you have to scroll down to the citizens comments. It is on the left side "citizen comments/photos/opinion".

  • ok, that explains it---but it still would be nice to know who at the paper writes these

  • bjos, this section of opinions is from the opinion/editorial page of the newspaper. These are not the citizen comments/opinions. I thought maybe you were confusing the two. Opinions from the op/ed pages of newspapers do not usually name the writer whereas the opinion citizen comments do require a log in name. Is that what you are referring to?

  • Am I missing it, or do these opinions no longer show who the author is?