Morgan County taxing bodies are in the midst of multiple truth-in-taxation hearings this month.
The taxing bodies are going beyond a 5% increase threshold in their annual tax levy in an attempt to capture every dollar provided by the increase in estimated assessed value of property caused by the Lincoln Land Wind Project and other green energy projects in Morgan County. Morgan County is a Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) county. PTELL is designed to limit the increases in property tax extension (total taxes billed) for non-home rule taxing districts. The limit is at 5%. Whenever a taxing body goes beyond that 5% increase, a public hearing must be held explaining why the taxing body is seeking the more than 5% increase.
Franklin Superintendent Jeff Waggener says these massive increases in aggregate tax levies are a one-time deal for the county: “When the wind farm came on, an increase in growth came with it. We had a partial payment with it last year of about 3 or 4 months, and so we were able to try and capture that new assessed value. That’s the only time as a ‘tax cap’ county that we can do that when there is a new revenue that is possible for the district to pick up. This year we are levying for the entire wind farm, which was predicted when they came and talked to everyone about the project was going to be about $1.65 million the first year, and then it will go down every year after that. As it comes on this year, we only have one chance to encumber all of the money that’s due to the district.”
In a letter sent out by Franklin Community Unit District #1 on December 8th, the aggregate percent levy this year will be a 54% increase in an effort to capture over $1.7 million. In the letter, the 54% is said to not be the amount that individual property tax bills will be increasing, but is the increase in valuation of property that the school district is levying this year compared to last year.
Waggener says he understands that this process is confusing for everyone: “As a school board, it’s confusing to the school board at times. It’s confusing to our constituents for sure because we are that ‘tax cap’ county. In our levy information letter we sent out, we wanted to start the informational process of getting it out to our people and explaining what we’re doing, why we have to do what we’re doing, and then the revenue that will be captured from the wind farm for the district. In the letter we sent out, it was just our intention to start the conversation and make people aware of where we’re at as a district and give them a little background leading up to our truth-in-taxation hearing on Monday, Dec. 19th. That’s when I’ll do a full, formal presentation of the levy and answer questions.”
The Franklin School District truth-in-taxation hearing will be held Monday, December 19th at 6:30 in the high school media room. Jacksonville School District 117, Virginia School District, and Waverly Community Unit District #6 are also holding similar meetings this month.