By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Reporter
The perception in Fort Thomas is the majority of the property taxes go toward funding the highly-ranked schools.
While that is true, Fort Thomas City Administrative Officer Don Martin wanted to clear up a huge misconception. The city does not operate the Fort Thomas Independent School System.
“The school system, through its Board of Education, establishes its tax rate separate from the city. The city, through its Board of Council, establishes its tax rate,” Martin said. “The school contracts with the city to send bills and collect property taxes on behalf of the school. Because the property owners are writing the checks to the city, they assume it is all ‘city taxes’ when in fact, the ‘city tax’ is about 30 percent of the total bill.”
The city’s tax rate is $3.60 per $1,000 of the assessed property value while the school system’s rate is $9.50. A tax bill for a house with a $200,000 value would be $720 in city taxes and $1,900 in school taxes making the overall bill $2,620.
The city tax rate ranks 13th highest out of 36 cities in Northern Kentucky on a chart Martin e-mailed a few weeks ago. Crestview Hills came in the lowest at $1.52 per the same value and Elsmere was highest at $5.46.
The city property taxes go toward a number of things such as employee pay, benefits and insurance and the mandatory contribution toward the state retirement system. Martin also listed the maintenance of parks, shelters and recreation facilities, the purchase of public works, police and fire vehicles, waste collection, general liability insurance, construction supplies, utility bills which include street lights throughout Fort Thomas, snow removal among many other items and programs as places where the city spends tax dollars.
Martin said before that keeping up with rising insurance costs and mandatory state pension contributions rank as the biggest problems Fort Thomas faces. But those are not always the biggest issues.
“When large ticket capital items need to be replaced, the city must determine a best course of action,” Martin said. “We have been very fortunate that the city has been able to obtain grant funds to offset the majority of the cost for our most recent fire truck purchase and life squad purchase.”
Property taxes fluctuate on a yearly basis. Martin said the average amounts of paid increases average four percent annually, which is the state-allowed limit. Property taxes went down 2.62 percent in 2010 before going up 3.89 percent in 2011 and another 3.75 in 2012. The current tax rate is the highest it has been since 1989 when it was about $3.49 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The lowest the property taxes have been in recent years is $2.90 in 1994.
“If property values increase, then the property tax rates may actually decrease,” Martin said. “If the property values decrease or remain flat, as happens in a sluggish economy, then the property tax rates increase. This fluctuation in tax rates as a result of the fluctuation in property values helps provide a consistent property tax revenue stream to ensure the residents receive the essential city services from Fort Thomas.”