A recent tax increase for residents of the Harlan Independent School District is causing concern for homeowners.
On Tuesday, Superintendent C.D. Morton met with Ivy Hill resident Eugene Douglas and six other homeowners in a private meeting where those concerned by the tax expressed their concerns to the tax increase.
Douglas said the homeowners were asking the superintendent and board of education to come up with a “different plan on a property tax increase.”
“Perhaps they could not increase it as much as they have voted to,” said Douglas. “This is going to be a great hardship for homeowners, because the economy is so bad with the recent loss of so many jobs in our county. All of us are having a hard time coming up with the money to pay our taxes. We sure don’t want to lose our homes because of this increase.”
The board approved a tax rate of 47.1 cents per $100 assessed value on real estate within the district in comparison to the last year’s 38.9 cents.
The increase would amount to approximately $120 in additional taxes on property valued at $150,000.
After speaking with Morton, he said the meeting with the residents was “similar” to the tax hearing meeting the board had before the tax increase was approved.
“They just don’t think the economy will support a tax hike,” said Morton. “As tax paying citizens of Harlan they are just concerned about what kind of burden this will put on the community.”
Morton said he felt the meeting “went well” and it gave the citizens a chance to share their concerns. He said it was also a chance to give them “solid concrete numbers for what the school district is trying to do.”
“I explained to them the state forecast for K-12 funding is not good,” said Morton. “Raising taxes has been something that was encouraged to local school districts and we talked about all that and all we hope to accomplish.”
Morton said he told residents this tax increase is “an investment in the children.”
“We know it’s a tax increase, but ultimately we’re trying to continue to provide the very best we can for students,” said Morton. “History has shown we’ve done a wonderful job of managing our money. We’ve been very efficient with what we have and we want to continue that trend knowing there may be less money coming from state and federal funds down the road.”
Morton said after the meeting ended, residents were still concerned about the tax increase and wanted more input from the board.
“I can’t disagree with their concerns,” said Morton. “I’m sympathetic. I know there are a lot of people without jobs. It gave me an opportunity to tell them about the cuts we have and other school districts have had to make and how hard that is to do. We’re also trying to keep some people employed in our county, giving them hope and a reason to stay here. While the tax increase won’t solve all those problems it can help and sometimes it’s directly and sometimes it’s indirectly.”
Morton said the issue will be placed on the next board’s agenda for board discussion only.
“We appreciate the community support we’ve had,” said Morton. “Obviously I can’t speak for the board without talking with them, but I heard what they said and I told them I would share their concerns with the board and the board can do whatever they choose to do. We don’t want to impede residents from doing whatever they need to do. That is one of the beauties of living in America. The superintendent and school boards are not anointed, they are appointed by people. We have processes in place to give people the opportunity to be heard and that’s what I did.”