Lee County-- Dozens of people in Lee County still express outrage their tax rates might be going up. Commissioners plan to balloon the county's tax rate about 14 percent. For some homeowners in the small city of Smithville, it's an increase that's too big.
Every now and then you can find Mary Lee French busy at work in her yard. "Cleaning up the yard. It's so full of grass and hedges growing up," says French. She takes pride in her home. She's been living in the small city of Smithville since 1953. "A long time," says French.
Over fifty years in her home equals years of property taxes. "I pay two taxes. Lee County and city tax," says French, "All together it runs about $770." Those two taxes are hard for her to pay on a fixed income. "Most of the time I pay a penalty, $15 extra. Because I don't have it. They don't take part of it. You have to pay it all," says French.
Soon she may be paying even more if Lee County approves a millage rate increase of 14 percent. That's a 6.61 percent increase for taxpayers. "When you grow 1,500 people a year, your expenses go up. It's going all the way across the table," says County Chairman Jackie Sizemore.
Many citizens turned out to a public hearing to voice concerns about the county's spending and ways to cut back in order to prevent the increase. Commissioners say the hike is unavoidable. "We have turned everything upside down. I don't think there's any stone unturned," says Sizemore. Mary French hopes the increase will better her city.
"A lot of time you increase something, you don't ever see where the money's going. That makes you feel bad because a lot of work needs to be done to this little town here," says French.
Sizemore says Smithville has been overlooked in the past but things are changing. "Smithville's gone without for a long time and we finally got a foot in the door now and things are starting to open up," says Sizemore. But residents hope those changes don't come at a price they can't handle.
Monday was the third and final public hearing on the tax issue. Commissioners will make a final vote next Thursday.