City loses taxes on $3M in property

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By Donna Carman

In the last nine years, the city of Liberty has lost more than $3 million in property from its tax base, according to figures presented to the Liberty City Council on Wednesday night.

And it could lose even more if the Casey County Hospital District goes ahead with plans to buy a piece of property on Wolford Avenue where they hope to build a road.

“We’re losing a significant amount of money each year,” Mayor Steve Sweeney told the council.

Since September 2000, the city has lost approximately $6,825 in tax revenue due to the acquiring of city properties by taxing districts and/or other tax-exempt entities.

County Surveyor Richard Montgomery, who presented the figures to the city, noted in the last nine years that $3,074,390 worth of assessed property located within the city limits has been removed from the tax base. That includes property bought by the county government, the hospital, health department and extension taxing districts, Casey County Community Ministries, Economic Development Authority and the city itself.

“You might not pay any attention until you look at the bottom line,” Montgomery said.

According to Casey County PVA Eric Brown, all property that is owned by government (city, county, state or federal) is tax exempt. That also applies to churches and public charities.

Montgomery said the removal of the property from the city’s tax base means, of course, that less tax money is flowing into the city to provide services to its residents. And he asked the council what they intended to do about it.

“What are the city’s options,” Councilman Barry Davis asked. “The only thing we can do is annexation or payment in lieu of taxes.”

Montgomery said the federal government will make a payment to communities when removing properties from their tax bases. Sweeney said the council should ask their city attorney if it’s viable for the city to also require payment.

Currently, the Casey County Hospital Board is hoping to buy another piece of property on Wolford Avenue. According to Brown, that property is assessed at $25,000, which was the purchase price in December 2005. The city would lose $50 in taxes on that property, while the county and its taxing districts would lose $200, Brown said.

When the city loses tax revenue, Montgomery said it’s the city residents who suffer as they pay both city and county taxes, as Liberty itself is a part of the county.

“It’s not a question of whether we need the services or not, it’s that the city residents pay more of a proportioned share,” he said. “When the county takes property out of the tax base in the city, the city residents ultimately pay twice.”

City property taken off tax base since

September 2000

Hospital & Health District             $1,556,890

Fiscal Court                                    1,018,000

Economic Development                    287,500

Community Ministries                        104,000

City of Liberty                                       58,000

Extension District                                 50,000

Total                                               $3,074,390