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Poplar Talks

The cost of ‘catching up’

Zoe Haggard
Posted 7/30/22

I was intrigued by a statement Mayor Chad Graham made recently about the property tax increase and pay scale readjustment.

“So, when we look at this number and it seems like a great …

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Poplar Talks

The cost of ‘catching up’


I was intrigued by a statement Mayor Chad Graham made recently about the property tax increase and pay scale readjustment.

“So, when we look at this number and it seems like a great number—$4 million—at one time here for this body, this really is just catching-up.”

But why is Bedford just now “catching up” and why are citizens having to pay for it?

Let’s take a few steps back and look.

That $4 million, of course, refers to how much it will take to readjust the county government pay scale. This number is basically the majority of the revenue that will come from this tax hike of $2.32 per $100 of assessed property.

Commissioner Linda Yockey described previous commissioner boards as “conservative.” Which is why only a 1 percent yearly raise was offered for county employees.

From 2011 to 2016, the County tax rate was $2.27. It was then increased to $2.52 in 2017. Then there was another increase for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to $2.56.

At the start of the new fiscal year, in June of 2019, the Board of Commissioners approved an overall county property tax rate of $2.66. The entire amount of the raise was to pay for 20 additional employees that the state said were needed in order to operate the new county jail when it opened later that year.

A tax levy was then set at $1.97 in July of 2021. At the time, the lower rate was offset by much higher property values due to 2021 reappraisals, and according to state officials, the county’s revenue was approximately the same as before.

Kind of looks like the tax rate has been all over the place.

However, that’s the sticky part: changing rates amid higher property values means people are having to pay more and more.

The City of Shelbyville “lowered” their property tax last year from $1.77 to $1.59. Lowered is emphasized because since last year was a reassessment year, residents ended up paying more even though the rate was lower. Figure that yourself, as a property owner.

Bedford resident Logan Johnson owns a property that’s valued at $287,000. He said last year his taxes went up $211 and since he put doors on a carport this year, it went up another $44. And now the $1,100 he’s paying is going up again.

Johnson raised concerns over not seeing results in better road conditions or more jobs brought to Bedford.

On one hand, it’s good to see the County “catching up” and getting its act together. Because if our government can’t handle something like pay scales, then what makes us think they can run a county as wide and ever-growing as Bedford?

Plus, the services of emergency management and first responders are desperately needed (only eight full-time firefighters for the County, according to Fire Chief Mark Thomas) while the many vacancies are a concern for many.

People from all angles can point their fingers to the many reasons why rates remain the same or are lowered or are increased.

But the question of caution to ask is for a County like Bedford, that has grown slowly for so many decades, how much change is too much change?

This is one of the reasons why the County is “catching up” and residents are having to pay for it.

Then there’s the split among the Commission.

It’s concerning as a reporter to sit through meetings where many commissioners are still upset at how the tax rate increase was handled.

Many of them—Biff Farrar, Tony Smith, Linda Yockey—say the voting process happened too quickly and that there wasn’t enough discussion. Others—like Greg Vick and Mayor Chad Graham—say it’s now or never.

Whatever side of the debate you land on, it boils down to growth in moderation.

And with the recent announcement that a South Korean-based battery company, called Duksan Electera, is coming to Shelbyville, how well can Bedford keep up with its promises to maintain such growth and industry?

How can Bedford retain its identity? How can Bedford maintain its green space and agriculture?

At the County Commission meeting, they seemed to hint that they’ll figure that out “when they get there.”

Let’s hope they do— before they have to reach into the pockets of Bedford Countians, again.