Published: Jun 29, 2010 12:28 AM EDT
Updated: Jun 28, 2010 4:18 PM EDT

Lee county commissioners appear poised to hike the tax rate slightly, to help solve a huge budget shortfall.     Property taxes would go up an average of about 71 dollars for a home, valued at 100-thousand dollars.

"The fact is, we need to do this to help the health of the county," said Commission Chair Tammy Hall, who is running for re-election.  "The voters want facts, and I never shy away from the facts."

The county board learned Monday, just how dire the situation is.   "The future is maybe even worse than we thought possible," said Commsr. Brian Bigelow.

He was referring to projections that show, if the county dips into reserves again this year to balance the budget, the general reserve fund will be running a deficit of 14.4 million dollars in two years.   "That is totally unacceptable," said Commsr. Frank Mann.      A negative general reserve could ruin the county's bond rating and lead to massive tax increases.    

Mann and Bigelow suggest deeper cuts in pay for county employees, and other belt-tightening, rather than a tax hike now.

Hall says,  it's time for slightly higher taxes.   "The fact is, many homes have lost value, even this year, so the small increase may not show up on  your tax bill at all.     Plus, some places will still see a decrease in taxes, because their values have dropped 15 percent or more," she told WINK.

Commissioners have to set a tax rate in early July.

Commissoners appear ready to approve an average of 10 days of un-paid furlough for 2000 county employees.   Plus, they will demand that employees pay more for their health insurance.

Commsr. Mann says, he still wants across the board pay cuts for county employees.