County budget: 'Obviously, it's going to be tough'

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 5/19/19

The impact of a State of Tennessee formula on Bradley County’s property tax revenue for the 2019-20 fiscal year was a topic of discussion Monday for county commissioners.

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County budget: 'Obviously, it's going to be tough'

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The impact of a state of Tennessee formula on Bradley County’s property tax revenue for the 2019-20 fiscal year was a topic of discussion in a recent session of the Bradley County Commission.

Commissioner Milan Blake, chairman of the Finance Committee, was asked to share more information about the appraisal ratio from the State Comptroller of the Treasury’s Office that has effectively flattened the county’s property tax growth for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

“Basically we did have growth … but then because of the ratio study … we came down about $636,000,” Blake said, adding that left the property tax growth with a loss of $3,748.

He asked the commissioners “to keep that in mind” when looking at the upcoming budget.

“Obviously it’s going to be tough,” he said, adding it “puts us in a very difficult spot.”

Commissioner Charlotte Peak asked Blake to explain the ratio more in-depth. Blake said the state did a study and determined to give a discount to companies that have offered a statement on their personal property tax.

“This happens every four years,” Blake said, adding it applies only to commercial and industrial property, not residential. He said in years past, it has not had a significant impact because they had “enough growth to cover it.”

Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber asked that if this happens every four years, why doesn’t Bradley County adjust for it ahead of time so there is not such an impact?

“We are just now finding out about it,” Blake said.

Commissioner Howard Thompson said, “this is nothing new, we’ve always adjusted to it.”

In other discussion related to the appraisal ratio’s impact, Commissioner Mike Hughes said the County Commission's main focus is on improving employee pay. If the county is negative in growth because of the negated property tax revenue, "I am trying to figure out how in the world we're going to do it."

County Mayor D. Gary Davis said the No. 1 priority of employee pay "won't be near as big … as it would have been" because of the negated property tax growth.

"I'm still fairly confident (employee pay raises will be possible) but at a smaller percentage" than expected before they learned of the negated property tax growth, Davis said.

In other business, commissioners:

• Heard from Doug Berry, vice president of economic development for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, who asked commissioners to consider a resolution next week to address an issue he discussed briefly in March. The resolution pertains to the former Westvaco Corp. facility on Old Tasso Road.

Berry said there is a 1.6-acre parcel in that business’s name with a railroad spur that served two manufacturing plants. The resolution is to move forward with deeding the property to the Industrial Development Board, which will allow the board to make a contract with the railroad company.

Blake placed the resolution on next week’s voting session agenda.

Davis said he anticipates an announcement soon related to the property.

• Heard from Blake the Finance Committee discussed the water and sewer feasibility study recommended by the Ad Hoc Committee on Drinking Water and Waste Water Treatment Services. The Finance Committee recommends putting off until the 2020-21 fiscal year the requested $80,000 in funding for the study.

• Heard from Peak the Building and Land Committee will meet at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, May 20, in the County Commission Courtroom. She said there will be discussion of the feasibility study “getting pushed to the following year.”

“I will come back with a fight next week because I want to see it in this budget year,” Peak said. “This is for existing homes” on Spring Place Road, Samples Chapel Road and Ladd Springs Road, among others, as well as future development.

Peak added she believes the commissioners need to help their constituents facing issues with water and sewer.

Blake said he doesn’t disagree, but the vote to hold off on the feasibility study was made right after the Finance Committee was told about the appraisal ratio and that there would be no property tax growth.

• Heard from Commissioner Dennis Epperson, who requested for the Building and Land Committee to review the request related to PIE Center funding and the sales agreement from 2017.

• Heard from Commissioner Kevin Raper the Road Committee will meet at 10 a.m. on June 3 in the Louie Alford Commission Conference Room at the Courthouse.

• Heard from Commissioner Bill Winters he is concerned about the lack of communication from the Tennessee Department of Transportation related to work on Highway 60. He said he has heard from property owners whose homes are on planned easements and rights of way, but who have not been given information from TDOT. Winters said his own requests for information have not been answered.

“There have been general meetings (about the project), but this is specific for people,” Winters said, adding he believes there are several cases that need to be discussed.

Chairman Johnny Mull said he will work to develop a “line of communication” with TDOT.


Inset Quote:

"I'm still fairly confident (employee pay raises will be possible) but at a smaller percentage." — Mayor D. Gary Davis


Inset Quote:

“Basically we did have growth … but then because of the ratio study … we came down about $636,000." — Commissioner Milan Blake

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