Reduce Burden On Taxpayers

Local government officials throughout the Ohio Valley are enjoying higher taxes without risking the political heat of voting for them. They are in the enviable – for them – position of benefiting from higher tax revenue due almost exclusively to the gas drilling boom.

As we have explained, several county commissions and boards of education have been informed during the past few years that the taxable values of property in their counties have gone up. Most of the time, new plants and other investments by the gas industry are the cause.

What that means to the taxing bodies is that revenue from property taxes goes up, too. That is because property taxes are collected as percentages of the values of land, buildings, equipment, etc.

You may see it yourself when an assessor notices you have improved your home. The taxable value is adjusted and the check you write to the county sheriff has to go up.

Ohio County Board of Education members were told this week that during the coming year, the county’s “excess levy” will bring in about $3 million more than in the past. That levy is approved periodically by voters, with rates not to exceed specified levels.

Two board members, Gary Kestner and Shane Mallett, argue the school system should lower the levy rate by 0.5 percent. That would give property owners a small break on their tax bills – and the school system still would collect substantially more than in the past.

But three other board members, Christine Carder, James Jorden and Sarah Koegler, think the tax rate should stay where it is. They note the additional $3 million would help the school system overcome budget challenges including a $1.3 million cut in state funding. To their credit, however, the three have said they will consider a rate reduction.

They should agree to reduce the levy rate by at least the half-percent suggested by Kestner and Mallett. A more substantial break would be desirable.

No doubt board members can come up with good ways to use the additional tax revenue. But Ohio County property owners, some of them struggling to make ends meet, can find excellent uses for the few dollars a tax break would save them.