Hearings Monday on county budget, tax rate

Howard County commissioners are set to hold public hearings Monday morning concerning the proposed 2012-2013 tax rate and budget, as the county looks to move forward with its fiscal plan for the coming year.According to County Auditor Jackie Olson, commissioners will be moving forward with a proposed rate of 33 cents per $100 valuation.According to county records, the effective tax rate — the rate which would bring in the same levy as last year — is 30.9221 cents per $100 valuation. The rollback rate, which is comprised of the effective rate plus an 8 percent increase in the levy, has been calculated at 33.1460 cents per $100 valuation.Olson said the proposed rate — which is slightly less than the rollback rate — will generate $753,000 more tax dollars for the county than last year's levy, which was 43.6720 cents per $100 valuation.County Judge Mark Barr said the difference between the 2012-2013 rate and last year's tax rate is due mainly to increases in mineral values in the Crossroads area.“We had expected mineral valuations to be up, but we never expected them to be as high as they are,” Barr said. “It came as a bit of a surprise to the court.”Barr said the funding generated above the effective tax rate is necessary due to the poor shape county roads are currently in. The issue of wear and tear on county roads is one the court has struggled with for some time now, as the boom in the oilfield — and subsequent increase in truck traffic too and from well sites through out the county — has taken a heavy toll on the roadways.“The damage to our county roads caused by the increase in truck traffic has been tremendous and it's getting worse every day,” Barr said. “Overall, the damage is estimated at approximately $22 million right now. What we're hoping to do is be able to spend approximately $400,000 to $500,000 a year to try to make repairs. This isn't something we're going to be able to fix all at one time, obviously.”Commissioners have considered utilizing road use agreements — which would have the oilfield companies using the roadways paying for a percentage of the upkeep — during the past several months, however, Barr said little to no progress has been made on the issue.The rollback rate, which is still 10 cents lower than last year's rate, could likely spell some relief for area taxpayers despite being higher than the effective rate, according to Barr.“Because of the increase in mineral values, most taxpayers will see a decrease in their tax bill for the coming year,” Barr said. “It all depends on their valuation and how much it may or may not have changed since last year.”Also during Monday's meeting, commissioners are expected to set the salaries, expenses and allowances for elected officials for the coming year.The meeting will get under way at 10 a.m. in the commissioners courtroom, located on the third floor of the county courthouse. For more information, contact the county judge's office at 432-264-2202.