The county commission Monday night gave it's blessing for another public referendum to increase the local option sales tax from it's current rate of 1.50% to the maximum of 2.75%, but no date for a special election was set.
The commission has also pledged to reduce the property tax rate by a minimum of nineteen and a half cents, if the referendum is approved by the voters. Last September, the commission raised the property tax rate by 39 cents to $1.90 per $100 of assessed value. A reduction of nineteen and a half cents would roll the property tax rate back to a little over $1.70 cents per $100 of assessed value
County Mayor Mike Foster says a proposed date for the referendum will most likely be set by the county commission at it's meeting in March. Community meetings may be held in the coming weeks to seek more public input on the proposal.
The first referendum to adopt the increase failed at the polls last August by 252 votes, losing 1,898 to 1,646.
Foster says that while the proposed sales tax hike would not be enough to roll back the entire 39 cent property tax increase from last fall, it would still create enough extra revenue to allow for a significant tax cut to property owners. \"We think it's fair. According to numbers supplied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, there are approximately four million people who visit Center Hill Lake each year. That's why our sales tax numbers are higher in July than in December. If we have to answer emergency calls down there (lake), you and I are paying for of the sheriff's calls, all of the benefits, and all of the infrastructure for the tourists. But this way (sales tax hike), they get to pick up part of that bill. Plus, it gives our taxpayers at least a 10% cut in property taxes.\"
Foster added that \"Everybody on this board (county commission) has agreed that they would sign a statement guaranteeing that they will take this (19 ? cents) off the property tax rate if the referendum is approved by the voters. We will publish it in the newspapers and announce it on the radio so that the people will understand what we're doing.\"