, 2015

Lancaster supervisors raise
taxes 4 cents; adopt $27.9
million budget for 2014-15

by Audrey Thomasson

LANCASTER—After several years of reduced or level real estate tax levies, the Lancaster board of supervisors on June 26 raised the property tax rate by 4 cents.

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“What’s running through my mind is the years we reduced the tax rate,” said District 2 supervisor Ernest Palin. “If we hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t be talking about this now. I’m torn on which way to vote.”

In a split decision, supervisors voted 3-2 to raise the rate from $0.50 to $0.54 on every $100 of assessed value of real estate. Each penny increase in the tax base is estimated to bring in $263,770 in revenue.

The new rate will be reflected in the 2014 tax bills, payable by December 5.

The motion for a 4-cent increase was made by District 4 supervisor William Lee and was supported by board chairman Wally Beauchamp, District 5, and vice chairman Jason Bellows, District 3. Opposed were District 1 supervisor Butch Jenkins and Palin.

Jenkins suggested supervisors should have made more cuts during the budget process. “(The increase) may be comfortable for us, but it’s too much for taxpayers to take,” said Jenkins. Specifically, he pointed to first responders, the service industry, people on fixed incomes and the many residents who have not seen a pay increase in years or have not been helped with rising health care costs.

“These people are hanging on,” he added.

Supervisors all expressed a distaste for higher taxes.

Bellows noted that no one wants to see a tax increase.

“We did a real good job going through the budget,” said Bellows.

Increases in school expenses and services are forcing the increase, he said. He also reminded Jenkins the county had not raised the tax rate in years, other than last year which he said was an “equalized tax increase” based on lower property assessments.

“I pondered this (tax increase) for a long time,” said Lee. “Mr. Jenkins is right. I’m feeling the brunt of it.”

The increase will support the 2014-15 fiscal year operating budget of $27.9 million which supervisors voted to appropriate. Excluded from the vote was $793,260 in capital improvements, which the county is expected to finance with a low interest loan.

The board decided to hold a workshop in the next few weeks to determine how much they will finance.

However, at the suggestion of Bellows, they voted to allow the school district to move forward on a capital improvement project to add a shower facility to the special education room at Lancaster Middle School.

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