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Property Valuation Spike Won't Boost Suburban Fire Districts

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Ervins Strauhmanis/Creative Commons
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Jefferson County Public Schools is poised to forego a property tax rate hike for the next fiscal year largely because of the results of a recent round of property value assessments.

But other Louisville services that rely on property taxes aren't in the same position.

On Thursday, JCPS Chief Financial Officer Cordelia Hardin told a public hearing that an increase in assessed value in the county would generate the additional revenue needed by the school district.

The spike in property assessments in certain Louisville neighborhoods led to criticism this year from residents and some state legislators. The Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator's office has said the spike comes from home sale data and better technology to more accurately assess property values.

Jefferson County's suburban fire districts also rely on property taxes, but it's unlikely they'll be able to keep their tax rates steady this fiscal year. Jefferson County Fire Association President Kevin Tyler said suburban fire districts will still need to increase property taxes.

The property assessments done earlier this year didn’t include most of the properties in the special taxing districts served by suburban departments, said Tyler, who is also the fire chief for Harrods Creek Fire.

In other parts of Jefferson County, including Crescent Hill and Butchertown, some neighborhoods saw valuations increase by as much as 150 percent. That's helpful for the school district, which covers all but a small portion of Jefferson County — but not for the suburban fire districts.

Some of Louisville's suburban fire districts have faced financial struggles in recent years. Tyler said in February that the districts' fiscal issues stem from the agency's shift from volunteer to professional staff.

Tyler said neighborhoods in Harrods Creek Fire's district should be assessed in 2017; the PVA assesses properties in four-year rotations. But he said an valuation hike would only provide temporary relief, and some suburban fire districts are facing serious financial challenges.

“It’s going to give us room to take a breath,” he said. “It’s not going to alleviate the problem — sort of kicks the can down the road for your suburban self-taxing fire districts.”

Last week, Tyler said a deeper look is needed at how suburban fire districts are allowed to tax. Suburban fire districts cannot tax more than 10 cents per $100 of assessed property value. "(T)hat was set in 1944,” Tyler said.