The Douglas County Commission voted 3-2 last week to increase the millage rate by 23 percent — from 9.9 mills to 12.25 mills. The increase will mean the owner of a house valued at $125,000 will pay about $103 more per year in property taxes.
District 4 Commissioner Ann Guider, who voted for the increase, said the board of commissioners “had to do something” to fund a seven-month-old budget which also included road projects.
“I hate that we got to this point,” Guider said.
Commissioners in December publicly said a tax increase likely would be needed for the $89.4 million budget, which was an increase from $73.4 million in 2012. Though almost 47 percent of the budget goes to public safety, much of the 2013 increase was for road projects and maintenance county residents requested, commissioners said at the time.
Before last week’s vote, the commission considered an increase to 12.9 mills. However, county finance officials recommended a decrease in the amount meant for spending on contingencies by $900,000. They also said more money could be added to the revenue side because of an anticipated higher property tax collection rate and less-than-expected drop in the tax digest.
Guider had voted against the budget passed before the start of the county’s budget year Jan. 1.
She said she supported an increase in the millage rate to 12.15 mills but followed the county staff’s recommendation of 12.25.
Guilder noted an informal poll taken publicly of other commission members showed Chairman Tom Worthan and District 3 Commissioner Mike Mulcare supporting 12.25 and District 1 Commissioner Henry Mitchell supporting 12.5. District 2 Commissioner Kelly Robinson did not publicly state a desired rate, she said.
Guider, Mulcare and Worthan ultimately voted for the 12.25 rate, while Mitchell and Robinson voted against it.
She said news reports about the commission’s two Democrats opposing a tax increase were inaccurate because of Mitchell’s public statement and Robinson privately backing an increase. Both have denied Guider’s claim.
Robinson, who voted for the increased budget in December, said he opposed the 12.25 rate because the public did not want it.
Approval of public referendums for bond issues for some of the items in the budget would have been a better alternative, he said.
“If you do not do bonds and all you do is [maintenance and operations], I can’t support that,” he said.
Robinson said he also objected to the amount meant for public safety, which equated to about $800 per capita compared to about $300 per capita in surrounding counties.
He noted his eastern Douglas County district is 63 percent commercial, while other commissioners’ districts are comprised of up to 90 percent residential land.
“In the absence of going after projects, you’re just increasing on the backs of consumers,” Robinson said.