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Property Tax Hike Likely in Bellevue

The Bellevue City Council is considering a 4% increase in the property tax and while some residents that attended a public hearing on Wednesday were somewhat supportive, others were not.

"I am here to ask for a reprieve on the four-percent," one resident said. "It's been compounding and repetitive and I think everyone does a pretty good job but I think there's a strong argument for giving the taxpayers a little break."

Bellevue has typically taken the full 4% increase each year, the maximum allowed under Kentucky law without a vote by the citizens. 

"We do our due diligence to spend that tax money very well and invest it in the community," Mayor Ed Riehl told the crowd. "If you look at surrounding communities, some of them have not the taken the four-percent and have struggled financially over five to seven years. This body has always historically taken that increase and we've been able to maintain a good financial position for the city and provide quality service, police, fire, public works, and administration, and retain good employees to fill those positions."

But though Bellevue has been in relatively good financial shape, not all of its residents have been. "I have just a small dollhouse here in Bellevue, this friendly city," said Sharon Neal. "We have a great police department, a great fire department. Any time I need to call down here to the city administration, it's been great. They're just great people. But my income isn't growing like the whole county is. We've got the library tax, county tax. It seems like everyone going for the gusto and it's all hitting at the same time but I don't get raises."

Other residents suggested that the city should be more aggressive in collecting the roughly $200,000 it claims to be owed by the Ackermann Group, developer of Harbour Green and the retail plaza on Fairfield Avenue. That developer was recently turned down by city council after proposing a 180-apartment building where condominiums were originally planned. The developer and the city are likely headed for litigation.

"Our income has been down for the past few years and we've had to tighten up our belts and spend less," said resident Kathy Hegge. "I'm in support of the four-percent increase for the common good of the people of this city, but what I find really disturbing is that the Dobbs Ackermann Group owes approximately $200,000 to the City of Bellevue and this administration has done nothing to put him on notice to pay. Why should every day people have their taxes raised and pay them when someone like this owes so much and all you've done is put them on notice to pay?"

City Administrator Keith Spoelker said that there was not much city officials could say about the Ackermann situation because of the pending litigation and the advice of the attorney hired by the city. (City Solicitor Mike Surrey has recused himself.) Spoelker did say that while the city would raise roughly $45,000 in new revenue from the rate hike, while most of the $200,000 the city says it is owed by Ackermann would not go towards its general fund budget.

Without the increase, cuts would be likely. "We would preserve any necessary services, police, fire, (public works), and bureaucrats. We have to make the engine run," Spoelker said. "The budget amounts start dwindling a little bit in terms of what we can do. To the extent possible, we would hold those four harmless. It may be in contributions to the parks fund, your roads may not get paved as often, we may not be able to get to a pothole."

The city has put a couple of posts on its website explaining its proposed increase and budget. Based on numbers provided, a homeowner whose house is worth $100,000 would pay roughly $16 more in taxes when the bill comes due in November.

The property tax increase had its first reading on Wednesday and will need a second reading before a formal vote takes place.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Bellevue, KY (provided)