Rockwell Town Board increases property tax rate to 27 cents

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Shavonne Potts
ROCKWELL ó The town board, with much trepidation, increased property taxes for the first time in four years. The new rate is 27 cents, 2 cents higher than it had been.
Even with the increase, Rockwell still has the second-lowest tax rate in the county.
Cleveland has the lowest. The Cleveland board adopted a budget two weeks ago, raising its tax rate from 19 to 21 cents per $100 of assessed value.
The 2-cent increase in Rockwell equals an additional $30 in the property tax bill on a home assessed at $150,000. The next tax bill for that $150,000 home will be $405.
The last time Rockwell’s property tax rate reached 27 cents was from 2000 to 2003. After that, the board decreased the rate to 25 cents, where it stayed until this upcoming budget year.
Aldermen approved the increase when they adopted the town’s 2008-2009 budget June 30.
“We didn’t gain anything in revenue,” Mayor Beau Taylor said.
There wasn’t much choice, he explained.
“We didn’t want to get rid of employees,” Taylor said.
Firing employees was an option on the table, but the board did not want to go that route, deciding instead to overhaul the budget with cuts and a tax increase.
The board chose to leave some requests from the police and fire departments out of the budget. The Fire Department requested a new full-time firefighter, and the Police Department asked for a new patrol car.
“It was really tough,” Taylor said.
He expects those requests will return in next year’s budget, but since the future of the economy is uncertain, Taylor wasn’t prepared to predict how the board will treat the requests next year.
Rising fuel costs affected much of the budget.
“Fuel costs hit hard. It’s the biggest increase we are having,” he said.
Fuel was not something the board could compromise on because it would mean not providing services to the residents.
One item that was not decreased or cut was a 3 percent raise for employees. Taylor said the board felt a possible cut could mean losing some employees to jobs with better benefits.
“We’ve got good employees and we want to keep them,” he said.
Taylor said there has not been much talk amongst residents about the increase. In fact, no one spoke at a public hearing on the matter. There also have not been any inquiries through town hall, but Taylor expects that to change.