The Madison County Board of Assessors (BOA) passed the county tax digest narrowly and reluctantly Thursday following months of discussion. The assessors approved the digest, down by about $6.5 million this year, by a 3-2 vote. Chairwoman Samantha Garland broke the tie.

“‘Yes’ — on behalf of the county,” she said as she cast the deciding vote. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Bob Fowler and David Ragland also voted yes, while Larry Stewart and Jim Escoe voted “no.”

Stewart said his objections to the digest aren’t any secret.

“My opinion is that there’s things wrong in this digest and I just can’t go along with it,” he said.

When asked by Garland what he found objectionable, Stewart declined comment.

“I’d just really rather not go into the specifics,” he said. “I think we all know what the situation is.”

Escoe didn’t offer any comment on his ‘no’ vote.

Passing the digest will allow tax-levying boards in the county to set their millage rate and for tax notices to be sent out. Still, chief appraiser James Flynt was unsure when those bills would be mailed.

Moving forward was the main motivation of those who cast “yes” votes.

But those who did so, voted with reservation. Several felt the digest contained plenty of flaws following a “scathing” report from the Department of Revenue regarding the county’s appraisal practices.

“Let the record show that I am not giving my stamp of approval,” Ragland said. “I’m just simply saying this: At this point, place and time, we must make a yes or no vote.”

As Garland made up her mind, the board discussed the ramifications of passing the digest versus denying it.

Though he expressed misgivings with the digest, Fowler said it was best to approve it and fix the problems in the future.

“We’ve argued over this thing and talked about it since, I believe, the third week of June … It’s time to close the books. I have many problems with it, but it’s time to go on,” he said.

Ragland said it’s important to remedy problems next year.

“In 2009, we put the boots on the ground and go after it,” he said.

Garland labored over the decision for a few more moments and then provided the deciding vote.

Ragland noted that the board of commissioners has offered to give county appraisers assistance to help correct the current problems.

Because of that, Garland requested that Flynt start providing the board with progress reports of the appraisers’ activities.

“I feel uncomfortable going before the board of commissioners, asking them for additional funds to ‘put the boots on the ground’ if that’s what you want to call it, without knowing what’s actually going on in the office right now,” she said.

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