Franklin City Council votes 4-3 to raise taxes 17 percent

Published 10:50 am Wednesday, June 27, 2012

FRANKLIN—The Franklin City Council voted 4-3 Monday to adopt a $52 million budget that includes a 17 percent real estate tax hike and additional funding for the library.

The increase means that the owner of a home valued at $140,000 would pay $54 more a year for a total of $1,132.

Favoring the budget were Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson, Councilwoman Mary Hilliard and Councilmen Benny Burgess and Barry Cheatham. Voting against were Mayor Jim Councill, and Councilmen Greg McLemore and Don Blythe.

The 2012-2013 budget raises the tax rate to 90 cents per $100 of assessed value to help offset an 8.9 percent decrease in assessed value and a loss of $1.1 million in revenue from the International Paper mill.

The budget also includes $241,686 for the Ruth Camp Campbell Memorial Library, which is an increase of $13,000 what had been proposed.

Councill, McLemore and Blythe supported funding the library the $260,000 it requested.

“We’re really happy they gave us at least part of what we asked for,” said Bonne Roblin, library branch manager. “We’re grateful for the support, but it’s not nearly enough to cover our salary costs.”

Roblin expects the library will have to cut some services including hours of operation and employee hours.

The council agreed on a motion by Burgess to use $56,000 set aside from the city’s debt restructuring in 2010 to drop the proposed tax rate by 1 cent or $14 a year for the average homeowner.

“Taking one cent off is window dressing,” Councill said. “It’s $10 on a $100,000 home and it’s $50 on a $500,000 home if those still exist in Franklin.”

McLemore was against the tax rate increase and asked for 2.5 percent cuts across the board.

“I don’t see any significant cuts to say we can’t cut anymore without affecting services,” McLemore said. “We haven’t discussed how to make ends meet without raising taxes on citizens.”

City Manager Randy Martin said the budget was a combination of cuts and revenue increases that includes leaving vacant seven part-time positions.

The city also will give:

• $5,000 to the Genieve Shelter, a home in Suffolk for domestic abuse victims.

• $5,000 to the Boys & Girls Club

• $15,000 for Smart Beginnings of Western Tidewater, which helps prepare children for school.

The money will come from $114,000 council discretionary fund that was built into the budget this year.

The city will raise electric bills by $1.17 a month for the average user, but will drop garbage fees by the same amount.