The County Council voted, 6-1, Tuesday to cap property tax assessments at 6 percent, a move that could cost the county a minimum of $938,000 in revenue in the 1993-1994 fiscal year.
The county ordinance, which affects only owner-occupied houses, was passed as a result of a state law requiring all counties to cap increases in property tax assessments at 10 percent or less.
The 6 percent cap was proposed Tuesday by Councilman John Schafer, D-District C.
No citizens spoke at a public hearing Sept. 25 on the tax cap bill.
Although the county could have adopted the maximum property tax assessment cap allowed by the state, Schafer said he introduced the amendment to set the cap at 6 percent because he was concerned that a higher tax assessment cap would hurt senior citizens living on fixed incomes.
However, Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson, who cast the lone dissenting vote, called the bill "a fiscal sleight of hand and an irresponsible action."
Wilson warned that passing the 6 percent property tax assessment cap would mean that two or three years from now the council would have to find other sources of income.
But the majority of the council felt that by lowering the property tax assessment cap below 19 percent, they would be able to help more homeowners.
Property tax assessments are performed every three years and determine how much an owner-occupied house is worth based on market value.
In fiscal year 1989-1990, which ended June 30, the county took in about $50.9 million in property taxes based on a tax rate of $2.34 per $100 of assessed value. Property taxes make up 40 percent of the county's total operating budget.
The full effect of a property tax assessment cap won't be felt for two to three years, county treasurer James M. Jewell told council members Tuesday.
"Under a 10 percent cap, houses that are worth the most will get the maximum benefit because those houses will have a greater increase in assessments," Jewell said.
Under a 10 percent cap, 9,600 owner-occupied houses would be affected in the 1993-1994 fiscal year. A 6 percent cap would benefit 21,400 homes in the 1993-1994 fiscal year, Jewell said.