Harlan County property tax levies are going up, but not as much as they could.
During a special called meeting of the Harlan Fiscal Court on Thursday, magistrates collectively raised property taxes by more than $22 million. The increase represents a little more than a 2 percent increase from 2013 to 2014 going from 31.40 cents compensating rate in 2013 to 33.60 cents compensating rate for 2014.
Harlan County Treasurer Ryan Creech told members of the court last year’s total assessed value of property for the county was $1,252,897,727. He said the 2014 total assessed value of property decreased to $1,230,858,330, leaving an approximately $22 million deficit.
“This is the county government tax rate. It has nothing to do with the school, library, health department or county extension tax rates,” said Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop.
Creech said the 33.6 cents compensating rate was calculated and designed by the state to generate the same amount of revenue for the county as they received in 2013.
“It is a little bit of an increase,” said Creech. “Personal property values went down over $51 million from last year. Overall, we went down a little over $22 million in property values. This is the reason for this rate increase. The compensating rate is generated in Frankfort.”
The way property taxes are calculated is through the use of the mill levy and the assessed property value. The mill levy is simply the tax rate levied on your property value, with one mill representing one tenth of one cent. So, for $1,000 of assessed property value, one mill would be equal to one dollar.
Tax levies for each tax jurisdiction in an area are calculated separately and then all the levies are added together to determine the total mill rate for an entire region. Generally, the city, county and school district each have the power to levy against the properties in their boundaries. So each entity will calculate its required mill levy and it will all be tallied up to equal the total mill levy.
Grieshop said the court could have chosen a 4 percent increase with a 34.9 cents compensating rate, but they chose not to at this time.
“Frankfort takes our values and sets the rate to compensate for the loss,” said Grieshop. “All this does is bring the money up to where we were. No additional monies — just where we were. Because the coal economy in the county has been going down, equipment has been pulled out and values have gone down. That will have to be shifted to existing structures, these are private homes, businesses, etc. to make up that difference. So the increase will come in the rate on your home, your neighbor’s home — everybody’s home to make up that difference.”
Grieshop said if the coal industry, per chance, rises next year then the compensating rate will decrease.
“It’s just that we have to maintain the tax base of where we were — the income the county needs and that’s all it is — it’s just a replacement for what was loss,” said Grieshop. “The compensating rate means simply you are compensating for your losses.”
Grieshop added there have not been any tax increases in the county for many years.
“I’m not aware of any tax increases during the time of Delzinna Belcher as county judge-executive and for sure during my time as judge-executive, we have never raised the tax level on our citizens,” said Grieshop.
Creech added the personal property rate will be set at 48.32 cents.
“This increase is basically a cost-of-living adjustment,” said Creech. “A lot of times when property values go down rates will have to go up to adjust for that. There have been times in the past where property values went up and the compensating rate goes down, but this time property values went down a little over $22 million which led to the increase in the compensating rate.”
Nola Sizemore may be reached at 606-573-4510 or on Twitter @Nola_hde