Aug. 3—Walker County commissioners are nearing the final stages of completing a $43.2 million budget that's nearly 10% higher than last year's spending plan, saying bigger tax bills will help cover salary increases for public safety employees.
Commissioners are expecting to adopt a tax rate of 48.28 cents per $100 of assessed property value to fund the budget. The rate will effectively amount to a property tax rate hike of 0.4% due to a continued boom in the home values.
According to county auditor Patricia Allen, the average homestead appraisal jumped from $162,469 in 2020 to $176,267 in 2021, a 7.8% jump. The proposed tax rate is three cents above the 'no-new-tax rate' and 0.2 cents above the current rate. However, according to Allen the average property owner will see an annual increase of $69.87 on their tax bill for Walker County taxes if the proposed rate is approved.
But commissioners justified the $3.8 million increase, saying it addresses much-needed salary gaps with employees at the sheriff's office, jail and EMS, when compared to surrounding jurisdictions.
"As a court we always centered on the no-new-tax rate and we kept everything but public safety within those expenditures, and took the three cents it cost to fix the salaries at the sheriff's office, EMS and jail," Commissioner Bill Daugette (Pct. 3) said. "It will put us almost identical to where we were this year, which is a heck of an accomplishment."
If approved, the proposed tax hike would be the first jump above the no-new-tax rate since 2013.
The county has also increased the salaries of other personnel in preparation for a county-wide salary study.
Action taken by the court on Monday included:
—approving the hire of Rahcel Parker as the new director for Walker County EMS.
—extending the disaster declaration for COVID-19.
—approving the applications for membership to the Walker County Historical Commission for Tina Sanders and Roberta Cowan.
—approving a request from Huntsville Main Street to utilize the Ernst Parking Lot for the city's farmers market.
The next scheduled meeting of the Walker County Commissioners Court is scheduled for Aug. 16.