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story.lead_photo.caption The Cole County Courthouse is shown in this Sept. 15, 2016 file photo. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

The Cole County Commission scheduled a 2019 tax levy hearing for Aug. 20 during its regular meeting Tuesday.

The hearing will be conducted at 9 a.m. at the commission chambers.

The commission sets two tax levy rates each year — general revenue and public works. Both are due Sept. 1.

Last year, the commission set the tax levy at 7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for general revenue and 27.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for public works.

Since 2009, commissioners have been reducing the general fund rate with a 60 percent rollback in tax collection because of the 2008 sales tax approved by voters to pay for ambulance and service operations. The county's plan raised money through a half-cent sales tax, with 60 percent of the money collected used to reduce taxes for all Cole County property owners. The rest of the money collected pays for the ambulance service.

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Cole County Finance Officer Debbie Malzner suggested keeping public works rate at 27.2 cents per $100 assessed valuation, but raising the general revenue rate to 7.8 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

As of last week, Cole County's sales tax revenue is flat so far this year, Malzner said.

Malzner also noted a lot of counties get into trouble because their tax bases were mostly dependent on sales taxes, while Cole County has a balance between property and sales taxes. That means the county has to keep the two balanced and doesn't have to rely heavily on one form of tax.

If no one speaks about the levy during the hearing, the commission will likely take a vote to approve the levy.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners approved paying $31,171 for the county's share for a new tower for a radio system used by area fire protection districts as well as the county ambulance service.

Bill Farr, director of Cole County Emergency Management, and Regional West Fire Protection District Chief Jack Brade told commissioners the improvements began in 2010 when the county helped pay part of a $44,679 program that brought in two new towers and new radios.

The radio system is also used by the sheriff's department when its radio system is down.

The proposed 100-foot tower is located in St. Martins behind the new Regional West station off Business 50. Farr and Brade said the tower will improve the system's coverage on the western side of the county.

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