Rick Shoulders

Rick Shoulders

A proposed 16.7-cent increase to the county's property-tax rate would see homeowners paying an additional $42 per $100,000 of residential property for the current fiscal year if approved, according to Macon County Assessor of Property Rick Shoulders.

The Macon County Commission's budget committee has presented the increase as a means to generate funding as the county trends toward growth, along with a $15-per-vehicle wheel-tax hike, and the commission will take official action at its meeting on July 29.

"Let's say somebody has $100,000 worth of property," Shoulders said. "That would be the land, the house, the garage, anything that's taxable. At the current rate (applied to a residential property, which pays 25 percent)... you're paying $553 in taxes. Under the proposed increases, you're paying $595 on the same property (in addition to the rate imposed by the city)."

Macon County's current property-tax rate is set at 2.21290, meaning approximately $2.21 per $100 of assessed value. The proposed increase would set the tax rate at 2.38 for the next fiscal year, and residents would begin paying it in October.

"Every year, the commission has a chance to change the tax rate," Shoulders said. "Reappraisals are once every five years, and our next reappraisal is in 2023. The state does an evaluation on everybody's property and what it's selling for currently, and that's why (property) values go up."

According to an assessment summary printed on July 3, the county has approximately $370.4 million in property, which would produce approximately $8.8 million in tax revenue during the 2019-20 fiscal year if the tax increase is approved. At the current tax rate, the same amount in property would generate approximately $8.2 million over the same period.

Based on the timing of construction projects, the county's total property value stands to increase by the end of July as well.

"I go out two different times a year to add new construction to the tax rate," Shoulders said. "I went around in January and February to make sure all the construction that was finished in 2018 will be on the tax row for 2019. Also in July, all properties that were finished between January 1 and the time I go out will be added. A house finished March 1 is going to go on for 2019 except for the first two months."

County taxes can also see cuts when property values increase upon reappraisal, something Macon County recently experienced.

"In 2017, our tax rate was 2.52," Shoulders said. "Say the county needs $10 million to operate on, as a round number. When the value of everybody's land and homes, as a general average, increases 15 percent in five years, the tax rate comes down to stay with the $10 million it was the year before the reappraisal, so it dropped from 2.52 in 2017 to 2.21 in 2018."

Over 22 years in office, Shoulders has observed the number of parcels in the county grow from approximately 9,000 to 14,000, though he noted that some of those properties are churches or cemeteries that cannot be taxed.

"Last year, I think I measured over 100 homes, and that's the most that I've added in a single year," Shoulders said. "It seems like this year so far is going to be at least that many, and maybe more."

Although the number of homes being measured is increasing, Shoulders said it is difficult to create tax revenue from residential properties.

"If I added $30 million in residential property, that just adds $165,000 in actual tax dollars because of the breakdown of 25 percent you're paying," Shoulders said. "Commercial properties, you pay 40 percent on those, so the more of them you can get coming in the more money they're paying (into the tax base)."

Shoulders noted that the loss of businesses such as Nestle, Rite Aid and Fred's has a measurable impact on the county's revenue stream.

"Nestle came in 12 years ago on the tax roll with a $25-million property, land and building, and their equipment was around $25 million," Shoulders said. "The first year they came on full value, they increased the taxes in the county by about $700,000, so you can see how much impact a commercial piece of property has, especially one of that size."

Shoulders said that information about how local taxes are being used is available from the county mayor's office and the trustee's office, broken down by which fund receives which portion of the money.

"Everybody wants to see what their money is going to," Shoulders said. "Whether that be a new school (or something ) else ... that way nothing can be hidden from anybody."