Tazewell County voters Tuesday soundly turned down the County Board’s request for a 15-cent county property tax rate increase to counter rising budget deficits.

With all of the ballots counted, a referendum on the increase was failing by a count of 17,291 to 4,831, or about 78 percent to 22 percent.

The result likely will produce cutbacks in county road maintenance, mostly in rural areas, and possibly layoffs of county employees in the Sheriff’s Department and at the County Courthouse, said County Board Chairman David Zimmerman.

The board placed the referendum on the ballot as an option to counter an 11-percent decline in state-supplied revenue that came with the state budget the General Assembly crafted last summer after failing to produce one for two years.

Those losses were a “game changer,” said County Administrator Wendy Ferrill, that will produce an estimated $2.7 million deficit this fiscal year with more to follow unless costs are cut or new revenue is found. The board began its budget preparation for next fiscal year months early in search of spending reductions.

Voters’ permission was required to raise the tax rate – currently the second lowest among the state’s 102 counties – under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law that Tazewell voters passed 20 years ago. The law limits increases in property tax extensions to 5 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is lower.

The 15-cent increase, from 49 to 64 cents per $100 assessed valuation, would have raised taxes on a home valued at $100,000 by $50, a 24-percent increase.