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Accepting police coverage offer, Mills River to raise taxes by 6.76 cents

MILLS RIVER — Ending a bitter two-year feud with Henderson County, the Mills River Town Council on Thursday voted unanimously to accept an offer from the county to provide sheriff's coverage for $775,000 a year — an operating cost that will result in a tax increase of almost 7 cents per $100 valuation by 2019.

After spending most of this year weighing the options, the Mills River Town Council emerged from a closed session with its attorney and voted to accept a three-year contract for expanded sheriff’s department coverage in the town.

The unanimous decision by Mills River Town Council will increase the number of deputies designated specifically to Mills River from one to six over the three year period of the new contract. The Town Council was deliberating over whether to spend around $600,000 for garbage service or to start a police department when the Board of Commissioners made a new offer increasing the cost of deploying deputies to the farming community. Sheriff Charlie McDonald told the Board of Commissioners that the number of calls in Mills River plus criminal investigations takes the work of six deputies.

The total cost to the town will be approximately $775,000 by the third year of the agreement. To pay for the service, Council has agreed to a property tax increase of 6.76 cents per $100 valuation. This will increase the town’s portion of the total property tax rate to 9 cents; and together with the tax levy for Mills River Fire and Rescue the total rate for the town will increase to 18 cents effective this July 1. That rate will still be one of the lower of all the municipalities in Henderson County.

“The county’s proposal for an expanded sheriff’s contract appears to be the most cost effective way of providing law enforcement services the growing and successful Town of Mills River will need going into the next three years," Town Manager Jeff Wells said in a news release.

Mayor Larry Freeman added: “Council has always been committed to very careful stewardship of the taxpayer’s money. Raising taxes is never easy, but after many months of work our Council has concluded that this is the best way to provide the best service at the least cost for the citizens and taxpayers of Mills River.”

The number of designated deputies in Mills River will increase to three in the first year and to six by the third year of the contract period, at which point the arrangement will be evaluated. No additional increases in the tax rate are anticipated through the initial three-year period.