In Graham and hundreds of communities around the country, citizens, especially property owners, are becoming more and more tax burdened.

From his vantage point as a Young County Commissioner, Mike Sipes said he can empathize. To him, it appears that costs are rising across the board, and he said he remains fixated on lowering the burden on Young County taxpayers.

“It's a real challenge because we still have roads to maintain and we've got culverts to fix and bridges to repair,” he said. “We've got the courthouse to run, we still have to turn on the lights everyday. It's a difficult thing because energy is rising, telephone bills have gone up, the cost of technology is up and of course every employee wants a raise.”

He said that with all of those pressures, it's difficult for the commissioners to do a lot about controlling those costs. And now, Sipes said he is also concerned about recent rising property valuations in Young County.

“We need to think outside of the box because the time has come where people have paid all of the taxes they can pay,” Sipes said.

Over the last two years, he has seen the valuations rise substantially on the properties of the two buildings he has a financial stake in: the Potter's Pizza building he co-owns with Alvin Caulder, and Mike Sipes' State Farm Insurance, a building he leases. He's not the only one.

Terry Bishop owns Chicken Express on Highway 16, and while the valuation of his business didn't raise significantly this year, his home's valuation did. Bishop said that the tax burden is hurting Graham property owners, as rising tax rates have now met rising property taxes.

“So, if the rates don't go down, it doesn't matter what the appraisal is,” he said. “If the (tax) rates are low, you can raise the appraisals up high. If the rates are high and the appraisals are low, that's ok. But now, both of them are high. The best option for the taxpayer is to keep your local representative, whether it's the school, the hospital district, the county or the city, keep them accountable.”

Bishop himself is one of seven newly elected members of the Graham Regional Medical Taxing district, a body currently under fire from anti-taxing district PAC Young County Citizens for Responsible Taxation for what it deems to be an unacceptable ad valorem tax rate of 36.5 cents for property owners living within the hospital taxing district.

Read the entire story in Wednesday's Graham Leader.