County commission agrees to 9 percent property tax increase
Douglas County commissioners plan to increase the county's share of property taxes by 9.12 percent for next year, now that they've closed the books on discussions for their 2011 budget.
The increase would be 2.993 mills — enough to add $51.63 to the property tax bill for the owner of a $150,000 home. One mill equals $1 in property tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed valuation.
Commissioners had started their initial budget negotiations with a proposed 15.9 percent increase, which would have added $90.22 to such homeowners' property tax bills.
Commissioners plan to review their decisions during coming weeks, as they prepare for a formal public hearing Aug. 18. That hearing is set for 6:35 p.m. at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.
To help get to the lower increase, commissioners agreed Tuesday to:
• Cut proposed investments in economic development and open space efforts. Commissioners Nancy Thellman and Mike Gaughan agreed to pump $350,000 into each effort, down from the $500,000 for each that had been included in County Administrator Craig Weinaug's draft budget. Commissioner Jim Flory opposed those decisions, favoring instead to provide $100,000 for economic development, and nothing for open space and heritage efforts.
• Give county employees a chance to share in merit pay increases, ones that would average 1 percent.
• Use $200,000 in money generated by a one-cent countywide sales tax — approved by voters in 1994 — to help offset the increase in property taxes.
The county's property tax rate is only part of the upcoming tax bills for Lawrence residents. Lawrence city commissioners have agreed to keep their property tax rate steady for next year, while the Lawrence school district has agreed to increase its tax by 2 mills.