RUSSELLVILLE – Logan Fiscal Court on Tuesday set tax rates for the county, including a slight decrease in the personal property rate, and took a step toward making the county more appealing as a site for a potential solar farm.
The personal property rate was reduced from 20 cents per $100 of assessed value to 17 cents, which would mean a payment of $170 on a $100,000 home. The tax on real property stayed at 13 cents, the tax on motor vehicles and watercraft stayed at 10.6 cents and the tax on aircraft stayed at 17 cents.
Thomas Bouldin was the sole magistrate to vote against maintaining the real property tax at the current level.
Bouldin said he wanted to see the county take the compensating rate for the real property tax, which would mean an increase from 13 to 13.5 cents per $100 of value, which he said is needed to keep up with inflation.
If the valuation of property within the county goes down, Bouldin said, the county will collect less revenue and potentially find itself in a financial tight spot.
Legally, the county can take the compensating rate, which is designed to collect the same amount of revenue as the previous year, provided 100 percent of all tax revenue is collected, implement no change or raise the rate by 4 percent, Bouldin said.
With occasional small increases, fiscal court could avoid a possible financial emergency requiring the implementation of a 4 percent increase, he said.
“I don’t want (a) tax increase, but if we take small steps, it prevents us from having to take big steps later,” he said.
Bouldin said an increase in the real property tax is long overdue.
“They make that comment every year, ‘We need to take it next year. We’re not going to take it this year, but we’re going to take it next year.’ Every (fiscal) court’s been saying that for at least five years,” he said.
In another matter, fiscal court approved a measure to establish its own rules on where a solar farm can be positioned.
The Tennessee Valley Authority for months has been considered Logan County and other places in its service area, which includes most of Tennessee and parts of Kentucky, Virginia North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, for a planned solar farm.
Fiscal court previously met with Chris Killenberg of Community Energy Solar, who said his company plans to submit a proposal for building a solar farm to TVA. He requested that the county establish a setback statute that would give him more wiggle room than state law, which requires electric generation units to be at least 1,000 feet from existing structures.
Logan County Judge-Executive Logan Chick said the 1,000-foot mandate was originally intended for coal-powered plants and that solar farms can be safely positioned much closer to local residences.
“Solar’s a whole different animal than those smokestacks,” he said.
The measure passed Tuesday said a solar farm must be positioned at least 100 feet from existing boundary lines and at least 250 feet from residences and other structures.
Chick said this didn’t guarantee that TVA will choose Logan County as the site for the solar farm.
Barry Joe Wright, who recently went with Chick to visit a solar farm in Butler, Ga., said he was impressed with the facility.
“We saw it before we landed there,” he said. “You could see the solar site. There was no pollution, there was no erosion. It was manicured, everything looked good. No noise. I see no problem for the county at all with it.”
Fiscal court also heard from Amanda Castile, director of the Logan County Humane Society, who said she’s been having trouble bidding out some projects for improving the shelter.
One of the main issues is a floor that’s rotting away, Castile said.
“There’s several boards that are completely split in half and that’s between the beams so someone’s going to end up falling and that’s a danger to the people that come out there,” she said.
Additionally, the facility’s front door needs to be replaced and a hole in the washroom that lets the air out of the building needs to be patched, Castile said.
“We’ve taped it up and blocked it up as much as we possibly can, but we’re losing a lot of air through that hole,” she said.
Castile said she has two bids for the renovations but wants to rebid, noting she’s had trouble finding people who will come out and inspect the property so she can get a better sense of how to bid out the work.
Magistrate Jason Harper, who took a look at the facility recently, also spoke to the need for the repairs Castile mentioned and offered to help Castile examine the property and determine how to bid out the needed renovations.
Though Harper said some $15,000 needs to be spent on repairs to the shelter right away, no action was taken.