No pushback on conveyance fee increase

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(Posted March 22, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

No opposition was expressed at the first of two public hearings on a proposed increase in Madison County’s property conveyance fees—a fee charged to anyone purchasing property in the county.

The county budget commission is recommending an increase from $2 per $1,000 of the property sales price to $3 per $1,000. By law, counties must charge at least $1 but no more than $4. Madison County’s fee has been $2 since at least 1999.

The commission cited two main reasons for proposing the fee hike. One was to help offset an anticipated loss of $500,000 in annual sales tax revenue when, by federal mandate, the state eliminates sales tax on managed care services starting July 1. The other was to offset continuing cuts in local government funds from the state.

At the March 20 hearing, members of the budget commission—Jennifer Hunter, county auditor; Donna Landis, county treasurer; and Stephen Pronai, county prosecutor—reiterated their reasons for proposing the fee hike.

Hunter added that most other counties in the state charge $3 or more. This is a chance to bring Madison County in line with other counties, she said. She also said it’s a good time to take advantage of the healthier real estate market.

Tim Beathard, a local auctioneer and real estate agent, asked how much money the fee increase would raise. Hunter estimates it would generate an additional $100,000 per year. Last year, the county collected $296,521 in conveyance fees.

A second public hearing is set for 11 a.m. March 27 in the county commissioners’ office in the courthouse. The proposed fee requires the commissioners’ approval.

Commissioner Mark Forrest said he voted against previous attempts to raise the conveyance fee. He said he plans to vote for the hike this time, in light of budgetary issues related to the forthcoming sales tax change. He also said the county could incur more costs in jailing and monitoring people who commit non-violent, non-sexual fifth-degree felonies should the state approve elimination of state prison time for such offenses.

In other business, the commissioners opened bids on an improvement project for Clevenger Road in Mount Sterling. The three bids submitted ranged from $150,822 to $164,811. County Engineer Bryan Dhume will review the bids and make a recommendation March 27.

County Adminstrator Rob Slane reported that through negotiations with electricity providers, he was able to reduce the county’s electricity costs by $78,700 over the next three years.

The commissioners approved enterprise zone agreements for Mount Sterling Holdings LLC and M.H. Eby, each for another year. Both companies received tax abatements on property improvements and, in return, agreed to certain levels of job retention and creation. Both agreements started in 2015. Both companies are meeting their obligations.

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