Phelps County residents will pay slightly higher personal property and real estate taxes later this year after county commissioners approved increased tax levies at their meeting Tuesday morning.
Two public hearings were held to set the 2013 tax rates — one for the county’s general revenue and the road and bridge funds and another for the Phelps County Board for the Developmentally Disabled fund.
Commissioners unanimously approved a tax levy of 16 cents per $100 in assessed valuation for the county's general revenue fund, an increase from the 2012 rate of 15.26 cents. A previous story in the Aug. 26 edition of the Rolla Daily News incorrectly stated this was a decrease.
All three commissioners also approved a tax levy of 9.81 cents per $100 in assessed valuation for the bridge and road fund. In 2012, that rate was 9.35 cents.
Based on a total assessed valuation of $558,934,743 for the 2013 tax year, the new rates are expected to bring in $894,295.59 in taxes to the general fund and $548,314.98 to the road and bridge fund.
Also approved was the 2013 tax levy for the Phelps County Board for the Developmentally Disabled fund, which increased to 7.11 cents for every $100 of assessed valuation from 7.08 cents.
Based on the same total assessed valuation for 2013, a total of $397,402.60 in taxes is expected to be collected for the county’s developmentally disabled fund.
County Clerk Carol Bennett said that the personal property and real estate tax levies are increasing because of a decrease in sales tax revenue.
According to August figures from County Treasurer Carol Green's office, this year so far, county sales tax is down compared to last year by 2.87 percent.
Bennett explained that when the county sales tax was approved in the 1980s, for every dollar brought in by the sales tax, it was meant to roll back a county resident’s property tax by 50 cents.
Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp asked if it is common knowledge in the public that if shopping local helps reduce property taxes.
“When you shop somewhere else, you’re fixing their roads. When you shop here, you’re fixing ours,” Verkamp said.
During the public hearings, one resident, Alfred Chapman, said he feels Missouri University of Science and Technology is in “the residential property business” and “should be taxed like everyone else.”
Chapman said, “We pay income tax to the state and the state turns around and gives it to S&T,” Chapman said.
County Assessor Bill Wiggins told the Daily News Tuesday afternoon that anything owned by the state, including Missouri S&T, which is a state university, is not subject to property tax.
Page 2 of 2 - Dormitories and residential halls that are owned and ran by the university are exempt from property taxes, but if a residential area was to be leased out, then it would be subject to taxes, Wiggins explained.
Chapman also told commissioners that he lives on a fixed income and doesn’t want his taxes to increase.
“Everyone’s income has been down,” Chapman said. “How do you expect me to pay more. My income is not going up.”
The only other county resident to comment during the hearing was Pam Grow, who said she felt the Consumer Price Index (CPI) formula, which is used to determine any growth in taxes, “grossly underestimates” inflation.
Also during the hearings, Wiggins provided the commission with a comparison of how the tax levies have fluctuated over the last six years (See attached graph).