Fort Thomas property owners will see a 2.4 percent hike in their 2017 property tax bill. A proposed overall tax rate of .412 per $100 of property was approved by the city council in a four-to-two vote at its September 18 meeting.
The new tax rate includes the compensating rate plus a four percent city revenue increase, the maximum allowed by law.
Councilmembers Ken Bowman and Lisa Kelly voted against the new rate. Bowman expressed concern at the last council meeting that the city should consider not raising the rate to the maximum allowed amount.
"With trash collection and school board going up, I would like us to find a middle ground instead of going for the maximum amount every time," said Bowman at the previous council meeting.
RELATED: City Council Roundup: Property Tax Discussion Points to Increase
Councilmember Roger Peterman said a public hearing on the new tax rate was held last week but no one from the audience asked about the tax hike. He said he had hoped to be able to address concerns people might have.
Per the KRS statute, the tax rate meeting was advertised in the back pages of The Recorder.
He offered his perspective on the topic. "At this point in the process, approving this tax rate becomes more of an administrative act. We considered this tax rate when we developed the budget, and we’ve already adopted the budget for this year," he said. "We are depending on those revenues to balance the budget."
"We did not adopt a budget with that increase…Other financial demands might develop. Health care costs have gone up significantly." Because health care is figured on a calendar basis, he said, it’s unclear how much it will impact the budget even over the next few months.
He also cited potential costs associated with the new visioning process. He was present for the last visioning and said there were costs for improvements that were made on city streets and in parks.
Property taxes cover about 46 percent of the city’s budget. Licensing fees, business taxes and other smaller resources cover the rest. Peterman said that if it would turn out that the city did not need all the revenue collected with the new increase, a reduction in the property tax rate could be discussed for next year.
He added that, instead of reducing the rate, the council could discuss lowering other costs for residents such as the occupational licensing fee. The licensing fee was increased by a quarter percent after the last visioning project.
The bottom lineThe average single family home in Fort Thomas is worth $216,000, and so the increase would be $21.60 for that average home. In addition to the property tax hike, property owners will see an increase of about $56 in school taxes on the average home, and a $35 increase for garbage collection.
Still, Peterman says the property tax is a fair and reliable resource for city needs. "It has been my experience that we run pretty efficiently here. We don’t have a big staff, and the staff we have works very hard, including the people in public safety and public works. We operate well."
By Robin Gee
PHOTO: Councilman, Roger Peterman, addresses his thoughts on raising the property tax.