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Hawkins presses case for 1.4-cent property tax reduction

Henderson County Commissioner Grady Hawkins urged his fellow commissioners to lower the county tax rate by a penny and a half, saying the rate reduction would free up money for businesses and help every household.

"It's doable, it would be an investment in our community, in the county," he said. "There's a lot of things I think would spin off in that, particularly in our small businesses and even in our large business. Since they are appraised every year, (the businesses would see a tax cut) that would probably result in more jobs and it would bring back more to the county in sales tax or even property tax that would pay for itself."
Dropping the rate from 51.36 cents to 50 cents per $100 valuation would cost the county about $1.6 million in property tax revenue for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Hawkins told the board that in a meeting Tuesday night Tax Assessor Stan Duncan had reported that "we have seen some fairly good improvements in the number of investments in businesses and even in homes that should increase our tax base" for the 2013-14 fiscal year. In addition, Hawkins said, the current year forecast that County Manager Steve Wyatt had just given showed a half-million-dollar gain in sales tax revenue for the current year.
"So the money's there and I think it's as good an investment as we could make with that is to give it back to the county for everybody."
The other four commissioners did not immediately react to Hawkins' proposal. It went on, during a budget work session scheduled to last six hours, to hear from department heads about their 2013-14 needs.
Chairman Charlie Messer warned that legislation from the federal and state government could have an impact on the county budget unknowable now, starting with the national health care reform.
"We don't even have a clue what that's going to cost," Messer said. "My concern is about what we'll be faced with this time next year. If you look at Obamacare for every employer, it's going to be a lot more money. Believe you me it's definitely on our radar. If you put that many more people on the syst
"I can tell you that there's a lot of people in this county that are struggling to pay their taxes, there's a lot of people out of work, there's a lot of houses in foreclosure and I think this would be a great thing for the county."