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Chiefland to see higher taxes next fiscal year

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Taxes will be going up in Chiefland for the next fiscal year.

Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to raise the millage rate by about 26 percent from 4.75 mills to 6 mills, the first rate increase the city has seen in years.

The new rate is not, technically, a tax hike. It's a roll back rate that aims to keep things even by adjusting for falling property values. In years past, commissioners failed to adopt a roll back rate, which amounted to tax cuts that have put the city in financial trouble.

A mill represents $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value, so, as an example, a tax payer owning property assessed at $100,000 would pay about $600 in taxes.

This rate is down from the 6.27 mills tentatively suggested in earlier meetings. Commissioner Chris Jones, after talking to area business owners since the last meeting, was the first to suggest a drop in the tentative rate Monday night.

"I'm, personally, at 6.0," he said.

Commissioners later voted that the $34,000 difference in city coffers from the drop from tentative rate to actual rate would come out of the city's contingency fund.

Commissioner Betty Walker questioned the drop in millage.

"I hate to see taxes raised, too, but I hate to see the city go broke, three," Walker said, eliciting laughter from the commission and audience.

Vice Mayor Teresa Barron, at one point, suggested dropping the rate to 5.75 mills, offsetting the loss in funds to the city by pulling from the water and sewer budget.

The budget has been worked out, Walker said. "Now you're gonna' sit here and cut it back?"

She reminded commissioners that some area business owners have come to meetings in support of raising taxes.

City Manager Kevin Gay reminded commissioners that upcoming negotiations with the Police Benevolent Society union could call for an increase in spending for police salaries, pension and other benefits.

Firefighter Gene Stockman, in the audience, said the $34,000 difference in dropping millage could help pay for another firefighter.

Next fiscal year's budget was also approved unanimously. The city estimates a total of $2, 077,939.08 in expenses. Money to carry forward and "put in the bank" in the general fund was reduced from $128,138.55 to $94,138.55 in the rate change from 6.27 mills to 6.0 mills. Total funds to be carried forward from all departments totals $292,057.05.