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Fiscal Court approves lower tax rate in second vote

Jessamine County taxpayers will have a little less property tax to pay this year after the Fiscal Court lowered its 2020 rate Tuesday.

Earlier this month, the court approved the 4-percent revenue rate increase to 9.1 cents per $100. During the court’s meeting Tuesday, a motion to approved that rate died for lack of a second. The court then approved the compensating rate of 8.8 cents.

The 2019 rate was 8.1 cents.

“It sounds like a lot, but it’s $3 on a $100,000 house,” Jessamine County Judge-Executive David West said.

The 4-percent rate is calculated to generate a 4-percent increase in revenue over the previous year, while the compensating rate will produce the same amount of money for the county as the prior year.

Several magistrates said public reaction was voluminous about the 9.1-cent rate.

“I get it,” Magistrate Justin Ray said. “I’m a father of four. In December I decided to retire from my job of 19 years” and take a reduction in pay.

The higher tax rate will, among other things, allow the county to increase salaries for county employees and purchase better vehicles, he said.

“We have to make decisions for the good of all Jessamine County,” Ray said. “It’s really disheartening when you try to do what’s right and get slammed for it.”

Ray said the effect on the property taxes for his home, which includes all but two of the taxing districts in Jessamine County, amounted to a $17 increase.

Magistrate Terry Meckstroth said he understood a lot of people are having a hard time this year because of COVID-19, and he did not want to add to their burden.

West said the lower rate will bring in about $140,000 less than the 9.1-cent rate.

“Compensating rate will keep you even with inflation,” he said. “I felt like with establishing a 911 fee and an insurance premium tax, it was prudent to keep the compensating rate.”

Magistrate Tim Vaughn cast the lone dissenting vote.

When no one spoke during a public hearing at the beginning of the meeting to discuss tax rates, West  said it was clear the county could do better in explaining tax rates and tax bills. The county is only one part of the tax bill, and the Fiscal Court has no jurisdiction over the rates set by other entities or taxing districts.

“There’s no ogres here to take your money and spend it on foolish projects,” West said. “Together we can make Jessamine County a better place.”

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0051.

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