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— Justices of the Peace passed an appropriation ordinance levying 2009 tax rates on to the Quorum Court during last week’s Committee of 13.

The ordinance is required by law to be passed each December and includes the millage rates for each taxing entity in the county, Justice of the Peace Kurt Moore said.

The 2009 tax levy passed with a vote of 11-2. Justices of the Peace Marge Wolf and James Wozniak voted against the measure because of the harm it does to the cities, they said.

In November, the Quorum Court voted to lower the taxes assessed by Benton County by one-tenth of a mill by increasing the county general fund taxes from 4.8 mills to 5.0 mills and decreasing the road fund taxes from 2.2 mills to 1.9 mills.

Changing the county’s millage rate will ensure more tax dollars stay with the county.

Taxes collected for the road fund must be split betweenthe cities and the county while the tax dollars collected for the county general fund is used solely by the county.

“They took the money away from the cities that cannot afford it,” Wozniak said.

Wolf agreed.

“The (Quorum) Court has to realize the cities are a part of the county,” Wolf said.

Justice Tom Allen voted for the 2009 tax levy because of the one-tenth of a mill tax break it provides residents.

The term mill refers to one-thousandth of a currency unit. For each $100,000 of appraised value of a house, 1 mill equals $20. So, for each $100,000 of appraised vale of a home or property, the one tenth of a mill tax reduction is $2.

Homeowners whose house carries an appraised value of $200,000 can expect to see their taxes lowered by $4.

“The county is not having to split as much money with the cities,” Allen said. “I felt like the county was in more of a need for the revenue than the larger cities. The larger cities are not in quite the cash strap situation that the county is in,” Allen said.

The Committee of 13 also voted to set a $9.5 million cash reserve for Benton County. The figure includes $4 million that the county is required by Arkansas law to keep on hand, $3.5 million in operating funds and $2 million that has been saved as a result of the county’s 2009 and 2010 budget cuts.

Money remaining above the $9.5 million will be placed into a capital projects, or building fund, McComas said.

“We are just going on record that we desire having $9.5 million in reserve. It is just more or less a feel good statement subject to change at any time,” Justice of the Peace Robert Stephenson said.

Wolf and Wozniak also voted against that measure.

“We took $1 million out (of the 2009 budget) in June. We took $1 million out of next year’s budget and we are going to cut another $800,000 from the next year. You have got a hiring freeze which means you have probably got some employees working those other jobs as well and you are not giving employee raises,” Wozniak said.

“Maybe some of this (money) ought to go for some of that,” Wozniak said.

News, Pages 21 on 12/16/2009

Print Headline: County officials levy 2009 taxes

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