By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
Tax rates were on the agenda for the Knox County Fiscal Court on Wednesday morning and, in the end, court members kept the real property and personal property tax rates the same as last year’s.
The 2013 real property tax rate for the county remains at the compensating rate of 10.9 cents per $100. As for the personal property, or tangible property rate, that remains at 24.42 cents per $100.
Knox Judge-Executive J. M. Hall said the state suggested a compensating rate this year of 12.6 cents per $100 for real property, which the state noted would produce the same amount of revenue for the county as last year. But the court didn’t want to raise taxes, and decided to keep the rate at 10.9 cents.
“By doing this, we’ll lose around $150,000 in revenue,” he added.
As for the tax rates for motor vehicles and watercraft, they remain the same as well.
The court voted to keep the current 14 cents per $100 rate for motor vehicles and watercraft for 2014. When Hall asked how long those rates have been in effect, Knox County Property Valuation Administrator (PVA) Bill Oxendine stated, “That rate’s been the same since 1983.”
Moments earlier, court members acknowledged the new tax rates from the countywide taxing districts. Hall stressed the taxing districts’ boards approved their rates, and that the court did not set them.
The Knox County Extension Service rates remained the same, at 3.5 cents per $100 on real property, 7.89 cents on personal property, and 2.24 cents for motor vehicles and watercraft.
The Knox County Public Library’s rates also remained the same, at 5.8 cents per $100 on real property, 71.93 cents on personal property, and 2.4 cents for motor vehicles and watercraft.
The county Health Department rates remained the same for real property and personal property, at 4.0 cents per $100, while the rate for motor vehicles and watercraft was set at 2.5 cents per $100.
The Knox County EMS board set the property tax rate for 2013 at the current compensating rate of 0.52 cents per $100. Also, the county’s Soil Conservation District set their property tax rate for 2013 at the compensating tax rate of 0.017, and the Artemus Fire District’s property tax rate remains at 10.0 cents.
While the personal and property tax rates are for 2013, the motor vehicle and watercraft tax rates apply for 2014.
During the regular meeting held in the Knox County Courthouse, several discussed the action taken by the Knox County Board of Education on Tuesday night.
The school board approved a 4 percent increase at 49 cents per $100 for real property and personal property tax for 2013. A public hearing is now required for the potential increase at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, at the Board Annex building in Barbourville.
The county schools’ current tax rates on personal and real property are 46.5 percent per $100.
Oxendine presented a comparison of assessments in the county from 2011-2013. It showed residential property assessments for 2011 at $504,749,693, while in 2013, they were assessed at $501,771,721, a decrease of about $3.26 million.
“When you have a piece of property that goes from tangible to intangible, it’s a decrease. We’ve had a lot of foreclosures in the last year. … We’re losing industry and we can’t replace them,” he said.
Farm assessments were down almost $700,000 over the period, while commercial property assessments were down nearly $6.3 million during that time. Total real estate assessments were $817,679,406 in 2011, compared to $814,874,183, a decrease of about $10.2 million.
Assessments on oil, gas and minerals were down during the three-year period by some $5.6 million, but unmined coal assessments went up by $10.3 million during the same time.
Total assessments came to $874,047,290 in 2011, but were down to $869,692,857, a decrease of $5.5 million.
Oxendine pointed out total tangibles with the full local rate went from $66,051,396 in 2011 to $81,720,230, a increase of $9.5 million.
“An increase, even with Truseal closing,” he added.
Total motor vehicle and watercraft tax assessments went from $142,968,104 in 2011 to $151,145,854 in 2013, a $2.3 million increase.
But Oxendine found a trend that he said could have repercussions statewide on county governments.
“We’re finding large corporations are paying less and less property taxes,” he told the court.
Oxendine mentioned the Walgreens Corporation is undertaking litigation across Kentucky on the way they value their commercial property.
“Walgreens’ case is in state court. They have two cases up for appeal in September. If the state loses, it will be a big game changer,” he said.
Knox County has two Walgreens stores, one in Barbourville on the Cumberland Gap Parkway, the other in Corbin at Trademart Shopping Center.
The court approved a resolution allowing 13 line item projects to be funded in 2014 through coal severance funds.
In order of priority, the City of Barbourville will get two separate $10,000 checks for fire department supplies and police department supplies. Third in priority is $25,000 for the city to purchase police cruisers. A $10,000 check will each go to the Artemus and Bailey Switch Fire Departments for equipment and supplies, while the Knox County Jail gets $10,000 for equipment.
Seventh through ninth on the list are three $10,000 checks for equipment and supplies to the East Knox, Poplar Creek and Richland Fire Departments. That’s followed by $10,000 for the Knox County Sheriff’s Department to purchase equipment, with three $10,000 checks going to the Stinking Creek, West Knox and Woodbine Fire Departments for equipment and supplies.
In other actions taken at the session, the court approved the second reading of the budget amendment for the 2013-14 Fiscal Year. Hall said the amendment uses a balance carryover from the prior year and some state grants, to increase money in some county funds, including the General Fund, Road Fund, LGEA (Local Government Economic Assistance) and 911 Funds. As a result, the budget was increased by about $1.4 million.
The hiring of three new county employees was approved. Donna Smith, a courthouse veteran of over 30 years who formerly worked in the County Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Office, was named administrative assistant and fiscal court clerk. Floyd Blevins was named as deputy coroner, while Bradley Reeves was named as a part-time deputy jailer.
The County Attorney’s delinquent tax report of $92,311.16 was also approved. Hall introduced the new county attorney, Gilbert Holland, who succeeds Charley Greene Dixon. Holland said his office was now doing a payment plan on back taxes, to let people get caught up before those taxes are purchased by a third-party.
Earlier in the session, Hall said the Fiscal Court Committee met Wednesday morning and discussed county employees’ salaries and other matters, but took no action. Fifth District Magistrate Guilio Cima mentioned the court was looking at “a small across-the-board raise for this year, but without raising taxes.”
After Jailer Mary Hammons asked the court for a small raise for all jail employees, Hall said to her and the audience, “I know the county schools have had to make cuts. We are looking at some small across-the-board raises, without a tax increase, and we hope to have more on that at our next meeting.”
By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
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