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Tax rate may change: Budget to be reconsidered tonight

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bedford County commissioners will consider a request by seven commissioners to reconsider the allocation of the property tax rate for the 2012-2013 budget in a special called meeting tonight at 6 p.m.

Agenda item A reads, "Consideration of a request that the matter of the allocation of the property tax rate for the 2012-2013 budget which was passed at the meeting of the County Commission on June 12, 2012, without any discussion or explanation about changes from the budget approved by the County Finance Committee at their May meeting, be placed on the agenda of the special called meeting on June 28, 2012 for reconsideration. Per Commissioners Bobby Fox, Phillip Farrar, Billy King, Linda Yockey, Don Gallagher, John Brown, Jimmy Patterson."

The second item of the agenda reads, "Consideration of 2012-2013 Board of Education Budget (Commission set tax rate on June 12, 2012 at .96 and Board of Education was to return with revised budget within the adopted tax rate)."

Numbers change

The T-G reported May 21 that the budgets recommended by the finance committee at that time would keep the overall county property rate where it is now, $2.27 per $100 assessed value. That breaks down as follows:

County general fund, $1.11

Highway department, $0.04

General purpose schools, $1.02

Debt service, $0.10"

However, when the full commission met on June 12, the tax rates were approved as follows:

County general fund: $1.11

Highway fund: 4 cents

Schools: 96 cents

Debt service: 16 cents

Debt service

The change shifts six cents from the school's budget into debt service, with assurances the measure would enable the county to build a new high school in the Cascade school zone much quicker.

In an earlier meeting, Wilson stated that the budget as submitted by the school system was about that same amount above the "maintenance of effort" target for spending set by the state. He said if the commission had granted that amount this year it would have been bound to give the same amount of funding to the schools next year.

Since the June 12 meeting, some commissioners have claimed that the budget which was voted on in that session was not representative of the numbers they reviewed in a packet of documents provided to each commissioner in advance of the meeting.

Maintenance of effort

Barry Cooper, chairman of the board of education, said at their monthly meeting last Thursday that the state's maintenance of effort target, a complex formula requiring that local government put as much into education each year as it did the previous year, is by no means the gold standard for school funding. He said maintenance of effort is "a nice way of saying 'give the children as little as you can legally.'"

Cooper passed out figures showing the growth of several common fixed costs such as electricity, water and sewer, and diesel fuel over the past several years, comparing it to student population growth and per-pupil expenditures. If the six-cent tax cut stands, the county will spend less per student in 2013 than it did five years ago.

In fact, according to a state fiscal consultant, the maintenance of effort target for the county may require a rate of $1.08 to match next year's projected BEP funding.