Council frowns on tax hike

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, June 9, 2010

FRANKLIN—Most members of the City Council said Monday they would not support increasing the city’s real estate tax rate for fiscal year 2011, despite an average drop in property values.

The council advertised a tax rate of 79 cents per $100 of assessed value for public hearing, however the proposed budget was built using the current rate of 77 cents.

“I don’t see the need in increasing the 77-cent rate,” said Councilwoman Rosa Lawrence. “I think we need to kind of help the citizens out and leave it where it is.”

Mayor Jim Councill said that a rate of 79 cents, on average, wouldn’t change the amount of taxes that citizens paid, noting a drop in assessed property values.

“The 77-cent rate actually is a reduction in tax—which everyone would like to have, but two years ago we went from 90 cents to 77 cents to keep it neutral.”

If the tax rate were increased to 79 cents, yearly taxes due on a property valued at $200,000 would increase from $1,540 to $1,580.

The additional revenue from a rate increase could go into a reserve fund, the mayor said.

While there was an average decline in assessments citywide, Councilman Benny Burgess said assessments for downtown businesses were flat this year.

“So if you go up 2 cents, you’re going to put a tax increase on every business downtown,” he said.

Council members also discussed the city’s support for outside agencies and travel budgets for city departments. The proposed budget cuts total outside agency funding by more than half to $24,000.

“I think we have a certain responsibility to provide certain services to our children and to those who need health care,” Councill said.

Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson said she “would love to be able” to fund the outside agencies at the same level as the past, but couldn’t support it considering the current economic conditions, pointing out that city employees have been asked to sacrifice to save the city money.

“I can’t see raising taxes to fund something outside when we haven’t done our own housekeeping,” she said.

Addressing the travel budget issue, Councilman Barry Cheatham said there are city vehicles available for employees who need to travel for city business.

“I don’t think the travel and meeting budget is out of line the way it’s set,” he said.

During a public hearing for the city’s proposed budget, Councilman-elect Greg McLemore was the only citizen to speak. He listed a number of areas in the proposed budget that he thought could be cut further, including postage, office supplies and uniforms.

“I would ask that you do go back and really reconsider a lot of these things in this budget,” he told the council. “Can we really afford it right now, considering the economic times that we’re in?”

The City Council is set to adopt the fiscal year 2011 budget at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, June 14.