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Morehead City Council approves 2023 property tax increase

Morehead City Government

At their regular meeting Monday night, Morehead City Council approved the second reading of a tax increase by a vote of 4 to 2. Under the newly accepted rates, 2023 Real Property Taxes will increase from .384 to .410 and 2023 Personal Property Taxes will increase from .6584 to .7491. Officials said on $100,000 value, that’s an increase of $26 and $91, respectively, over last year’s rates.

The meeting was well attended by the public, many of whom were at a public hearing regarding the rates last week. Attendees were given a total of ten minutes to make comments Monday evening. Several people took the opportunity to question the necessity of the increase and express how detrimental it could be to lower-, middle-, and fixed-income people.

Mayor Laura White-Brown said without the tax increase, cuts would have been necessary. That could have included ending the city’s lease of Laughlin Health Building and cutting child and adult sports programs.

“Some of you asked the question, ‘where will this money go?’ I cannot tell you exactly where it will go. I can tell you areas I’d like to see it reflected in the budget, but until next May and June, that’s when you pass the budget. I can’t promise anything and again, I don’t have a vote on the budget,” said White-Brown.

White-Brown said Morehead is projected to grow substantially in the next ten years and revenue from the increase could help address homelessness, city employee wages, expanded outdoor recreation and retention of firefighters and police officers.

The Kentucky State PVA recommended a .362 tax rate. However, Morehead City Council proposed .410. Officials said the increased rate will earn the city $224,000.

Before the meeting began Lincoln Caudill was sworn in as City Councilman, filling the seat left vacant by the recent resignation of Jim Tom Trent. Caudill voted no on the proposed tax increase. The new councilman said he’s no economist, but the recommendation from the state should have been more closely followed.

“You know, the state has economists hired by tax dollars to come up with that rate. So, when we’re given something like that, I would feel a lot more comfortable with what they suggest rather than going above and beyond,” said Caudill.

Mayor White-Brown said the Kentucky League of Cities recommended that all cities keep a four percent tax rate each year. David Perkins voted yes and said he remembers a time when Morehead struggled to make payroll.

“And over time we’ve gradually gotten in a better financial shape and if we don’t try to stay ahead of the increase in our overall cost, we might find ourselves back in that scenario and we certainly don’t want to at some point have to cut back on the services we do provide,” said Perkins.

Councilwoman Edna Schack paused briefly before casting her no vote.

“I could have gone either way, actually. Because I think the mayor made very good points about why we need the increase and it doesn’t bring us a lot more money, but it would bring us enough money to do a few little things and it will, now. But I also see the side of the citizens. It’s just… There are a lot of things that are piling up on each other right now, it’s a hard time in our economy,” said Schack.

Tax bills are expected to arrive in mailboxes toward the end of October. Bills paid before the end of November will receive a discount.