Highest and lowest tax levies create a broad spectrum

Two of Marion County’s smaller communities are at the extreme ends of the mill-levy spectrum.

With a levy of 5.28 mills, Durham has far and away the lowest city levy in the county while Ramona, at 123.019 mills, can claim the highest levy.

One key to Durham’s low levy is that fire and law-enforcement protection is not part of the city’s levy, but that’s true for several of the smaller communities in the county.

The extent of volunteerism in Durham makes a key difference, according to Mayor Glennon Crowther.

“We get along all right,” Crowther said. “We do a lot of the work ourselves. We don’t spend a lot of money foolishly, that’s for sure.

“We try to maintain close to $100,000 in the bank. We buy what we need to do and get along with less than some of the other people think they have to have.”

Crowther added with a chuckle that Durham’s low levy hasn’t resulted a population boom.

“It doesn’t seem to be attracting too many,” he said.

“Some of the other mayors want to know how in the world we can operate on that kind of deal. They are good friends of mine and we all get along, but they can’t figure out how we can get by-but we’ve been doing it.”

Pat Wick, Ramona’s mayor, discovered firsthand the impact of her town’s high mill levy when she and her sister built a new home in town for their 89-year-old mother.

As mayor, Wick was aware of Ramona’s levy, but that first tax bill for the new property staggered them.

“We knew when we decided to build the house in Ramona that we probably wouldn’t get the retail value out of it, but weren’t expecting taxes to be that high,” Wick said.

She said the levy was already high in Ramona when she and her sister moved to town, so she wasn’t sure when or why it has increased dramatically from a level of 43.203 mills 10 years ago.

“As the population of a town declines, you have to raise the levy on those who are left so you can provide basic services,” she said. “It’s a ‘Catch 22’ for a little town.

“I wish there was an answer to that. It’s enough (of a challenge) that you’d like not to be in (local) politics because of it.”

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