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$244 million Jefferson County budget raises tax levy by 2 percent

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Jefferson County legislators Tuesday unanimously approved a $244,108,186 spending plan for 2013 that calls for a 2.2 percent increase in the tax levy.

Legislators had whittled the proposed tax increase down from 4.4 percent proposed by Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III to 2.2 percent in the final budget by, in part, estimating that sales tax revenues will be higher than anticipated by staff and that the county’s Home for the Aged, an adult home also called Whispering Pines, will close sooner than originally planned.

The budget calls for total spending to increase 2.9 percent, rising about $7 million from last year. The tax levy, or the amount to be raised through taxes, will rise 2.2 percent from $47,576,554 to $48,619,644, an increase of $1,043,090.

The tax rate will rise less than 1 percent, going from $6.37 per $1,000 of true value in 2012 to $6.43 per $1,000 in 2013. That means that the average taxpayer with a home at $100,000 true value will see a tax increase of $6.

Legislators were initially considering a 4.4 percent increase in the levy that would have raised taxes on a home valued at $100,000 by $19, but took a more optimistic view of sales tax projections than Mr. Hagemann did in his proposed budget. Mr. Hagemann projected that the county’s share of sales tax revenues in 2013 will be about $34 million, which is roughly what the county expects to realize this year. The budget adopted by legislators contains $250,000 in expected sales tax revenue above Mr. Hagemann’s proposal.

Legislators also revised anticipated costs to operate Whispering Pines, which was expected to close in the third quarter of the fiscal year. However, Samaritan Medical Center appears prepared to open its under-construction elder-care facility before then, which legislators believe could hasten the closure of the county home. Based on that, legislators lopped $100,000 from its budget for costs it expected to incur in running the home into the latter part of 2013.

Legislators are also betting health benefits will drop by $500,000, reducing the budgeted amount for these costs from Mr. Hagemann’s proposed $4.058 million to $3.558 million. The approved budget also contains $200,000 less in a contingency fund than the $800,000 offered by Mr. Hagemann, further reducing the levy.

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