County taxes frozen to 2016 numbers
By Daniel Arens
In the midst of intense debate between the current Mercer County Commission and many of its most active criticizers, a simply matter of procedure determined the fate of the arguments involving the tax levy for the 2016 budget.
Publication of notice for a public hearing on the proposed mill levy increase was made in the official county newspaper the week of Sept. 29. Although the paper was printed in the evening two days previously, it did not reach Mercer County citizens until either Sept. 28 or 29.
However, the public hearing was scheduled for Oct. 4, a week after the printing of the previous week’s newspaper, but only five days after that paper was dated to reach the residents of the county.
Casey Voigt, attending the public hearing Oct. 4, pointed out to the commissioners that because the publication had not actually provided seven days of notice to county taxpayers, as required by statute, the commission could not raise the tax levy.
With a tax increase of any kind off the table, the county commission had to cut nearly $190,000 from their budget to bring the 2017 budget in line with 2016 tax levels.
The Oct. 4 public hearing began as Mercer County Auditor Shana Brost laid out the proposed plan for a 5 percent tax increase, while noting that the proposed mill levy would only increase by 1.15 mills, from 92.11 to 93.26 total mills. In her handout, Brost showed that the proposed plan would mean that, for example, a home valued at $100,000 would see a maximum increase in property taxes of $5.17.