City approves property tax rate increase
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
Jul 23, 2013 | 1210 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the absence of support or opposition from area residents during a brief public hearing, the Cleveland City Council on Monday approved a new Fiscal Year 2014 property tax rate of $1.7655 per $100 of assessed value.

The rate includes a 9-cent hike in the certified tax rate, as set by the Tennessee Board of Equalization, and an 18.51-cent increase that will be used to fund a variety of city departmental needs.

Council members approved the measure on two separate 6-1 votes. One vote came in support of the 2013 State Certified Rate of $1.5804, and one was a vote on the total FY2014 rate of $1.7655.

First District Councilman Charlie McKenzie cast the lone dissenting vote on both items. Those supporting both measures were Councilmen Bill Estes, David May Jr., Dale Hughes, Richard Banks, George Poe Jr. and Vice Mayor Avery Johnson Sr.

“This is the first time the state certified rate required an increase of the city’s tax rate,” City Manager Janice Casteel said during Monday’s early afternoon work session. “It has always been a decrease. Whether it’s (property revaluation) up or down ... it guarantees the city or county the same property tax revenue [from the year before].”

According to information provided by the city manager, the 18.51-cent tax hike, which constitutes a 12.4 percent increase over the previous rate, will add about $46.28 to the annual tax bill for a home with an assessed value of $100,000. In this scenario, the tax bill will increase from $372.60 to $418.88. These figures do not include the 9-cent state certified rate.

As required by the state of Tennessee, Bradley County reappraises property value on a four-year cycle. The property tax rate is adjusted up or down depending on the total value of real and personal property in the city and in the county. Subsequently, some tax bills increase, but some will decrease or remain the same depending on the reappraisals.

Casteel’s explanation of the state certified rate came in response to questions by At-Large Councilman Banks who asked if the Council had any control over the state-mandated hike of 9 cents.

“No control,” Casteel assured him.

Banks sought to confirm this is the first time such a scenario has surfaced (increased state certified rate) and that it is based on a lower valuation of property, “... which we have no control over.”

Casteel affirmed his assessment and pointed out other municipal and county jurisdictions across the state are facing the same predicament.

“Ultimately that caused a 9-cent property tax increase for city residents across the board?” Banks asked. “Some had their property values go up, some had them stay the same, some went down ... but we had no control over this 9 cents?”

None, Casteel repeated.

Banks also addressed the city’s property tax increase of 18.51 cents and why it became necessary. Casteel refered to a series of documents in the Council members’ packages and pointed to some of the items included in the budget and their costs, and the amount, and their impact on the tax increase. They included: cost to deliver the same municipal services as the previous year, 4.5 cents; a 3.5 percent cost-of-living increase for city employees, 6.12 cents; library budget request, .4 cents; property maintenance official, .65 cents; two firefighters, .93 cents; six police officers whose grants ended June 30, 3.35 cents; six additional police officers, 3.92 cents; and a motor equipment operator (MEO 1) for the Public Works Department, .42 cents.

Banks also confirmed the city saved $314,000 by rebidding the solid waste contract; however, Casteel reminded him the city lost $298,000 (an amended amount) when a new animal control services contract was not successfully negotiated with Bradley County government.

“This Council has a duty to make sure we try to do what’s right for our citizens,” Banks pointed out. He also asked the city manager about Cleveland’s tax rate status when compared to other cities in Tennessee.

“... We are the lowest [property tax rate] in the state for a city our size that has a K-12 school system,” Casteel responded.

Motion to accept the 2013 State Certified Rate of $1.5804 was made by May and seconded by Estes. Motion to accept the 2013 Tax Rate for FY2014 of $1.7655 was made by Estes and seconded by Johnson.

In other developments Monday, the City Council:

- Received a report from Mark Fidler, manager of the Cleveland Regional Jetport, that Whirlpool will host a board meeting in Cleveland in mid-August in which nine corporate jets of various sizes will be landing at the new Cleveland facility.

- Presented a key to the city to Tim Passmore, a municipal intern who has worked with the city for the past year in the role of grant researcher and writer. Passmore, who is relocating to Colorado later this month, was credited with helping to secure several state and federal grants on the city’s behalf. Passmore is also a guest columnist for the Cleveland Daily Banner whose “Your World Today” opinion pieces are published in the newspaper’s Friday editions.

- Authorized a children’s water polo team, coached by Tim Davis, to practice at the Tinsley Park pool for the first half of August at a rate of $75 per two hours. The USA Water Polo team is insured, sanctioned and certified, Davis explained.

- Praised the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities for its selection of Ken Webb as the utility’s new president and CEO to succeed the retiring Tom Wheeler, effective Nov. 1. Webb, who spoke briefly to the Council, currently serves as the utility’s senior vice president and chief financial officer. Webb pledged to maintain a close working relationship with the City Council and described it as one of his priorities.

- Mayor Tom Rowland announced that Fourth District Councilman David May Jr. has been elected first vice president of the Tennessee Municipal League for the coming year. As first vice president, May will now be next in line to serve as TML president if he is confirmed next year.

- Approved Ordinance No. 2013-17, amending section 4.7 of the Zoning Ordinance to provide for provisions for the continuation of nonconforming uses within industrial zoning. This allows homes inside the industrial zone near the old Whirlpool manufacturing complex to be rebuilt if they suffer damage in excess of 50 percent of their value.

- Approved Resolution No. 2013-67, authorizing the mayor to sign a grant contract with the Tennessee Department of Transportation for the Greenway extension (Ocoee Greenway Connector) from Tinsley Park to Ocoee Crossing and Blythe Ferry Road. The $495,000 grant includes an 80/20 match, bringing its total to $619,972.50.

Items on the Consent Agenda, which was described by Poe as one of the longest he can remember in Council history, included:

- Approved Ordinance No. 2013-31, amending the City Code Title 14 Section 14-1201(2) that the presence of four members of the Historic Preservation Commission shall constitute a quorum and that a motion shall have passed upon the affirmative vote of a majority of the quorum of board members present and voting.

- Approved Ordinance No. 2013-32, rezoning .56 acres at 775 Gaut St. N.E. from IH to R3.

- Approved Ordinance No. 2013-33, rezoning 6.77 acres at 4025 Georgetown Road N.W. from R1 to CG.

- Approved Ordinance No. 2013-34, amending Section 1.6.21 of the Zoning Regulations to amend the definition of townhouse dwelling in order to allow for the construction of two-unit townhouse dwellings.

- Approved Ordinance No. 2013-35, rezoning 1.04 acres at Candies Creek Crossing located on Georgetown Road from CG to CH.

- Approved Ordinance No. 2013-36, amending the City Code regarding the Animal Shelter Advisory Board. This action eliminates any county representation on the advisory board during periods when a service contract does not exist between municipal and county governments. During Monday’s formal session, Casteel said she fears the lack of a contract between the two governments will lead to county residents dumping dogs inside the city limits. Poe said this reportedly occurred recently when an unidentified person left dogs in the downtown area near the Courthouse. Chief of Police Wes Snyder was authorized to investigate the claim.

- Approved Resolution No: 2013-58: 2012 Tax Refund, Broad Street United Methodist ($116.00).

- Approved Resolution No: 2013-59: 2012 Tax Refund, Broad Street United Methodist ($120.00);

- Approved Resolution No: 2013-60, to support TML’s Resolution and authorizing the mayor to write a letter to U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and to U.S. House members to strongly oppose any efforts by Congress or the administration to reduce or eliminate the tax exemption on municipal bond interest.

- Approved Resolution No: 2013-61, to support TML’s Resolution and authorizing the mayor to write the city’s Congressional delegation to show the city’s support of the Marketplace Fairness Act (a reference to the collection of sales tax from online purchases).

- Approved Resolution No: 2013-62, accepting a donation of property from the Church of God to be used for the construction of a restroom adjacent to the Greenway.

- Approved Resolution No: 2013-63, authorizing the mayor to sign an inter-local agreement with Bradley County in connection with the 2013 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant which allows for an $18,000 federal grant for the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.

- Approved Resolution No: 2013-64, authorizing the mayor to sign a grant contract with the Tennessee Department of Transportation for the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant ($150,000, a 50/50 match of $75,000).

- Approved Resolution No: 2013-65, authorizing the mayor to sign a grant application with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for the Green Development grant program for irrigation at Tinsley Park ($30,000, an 80/20 match).

- Approved Resolution No: 2013-66, authorizing the mayor to sign a grant application with TDEC for the Green Development grant program in connection with the Mohawk Trailhead parking lot paving project ($30,000, an 80/20 match), which will allow for the expansion of this parking facility which has become increasingly overcrowded.

- Approved a bid report that bids have been rejected for uniforms for Public Works and Parks & Recreation due to the need for improved cost efficiencies.

- Approved the reappointment to the Beer Board of Donald Humes for an additional 2-year term to expire July 2015.

- Approved the reappointment to the Beer Board of Ellie St. Pierre for an additional 2-year term to expire July 2015 (previously served as a first alternate; this position will be filled later).