State's tax ratio impact worries county

Stanley Thompson: 'This is nothing new'

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 5/22/19

The financial impact of a property tax appraisal ratio was again the topic of discussion for the Bradley County Commission.

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State's tax ratio impact worries county

Stanley Thompson: 'This is nothing new'

Posted

The financial impact of a property tax appraisal ratio was again the topic of discussion for the Bradley County Commission.

During their voting session Monday, commissioners were offered a look at how the state of Tennessee formula has been applied for the past two decades. The appraisal ratio of .8717 effectively flattened the county’s property tax growth for the next two fiscal years.

Commissioner Milan Blake, who is chairman of the Finance Committee, said there was good discussion last week on the appraisal ratio study, but Assessor of Property Stanley Thompson was not present to answer any questions. This week Thompson attended the meeting and Blake said one question commissioners had last week was why did county government officials not see this coming.

“This is nothing new,” Thompson said.

Thompson said he and County Mayor D. Gary Davis received the letter from the state at about the same time, then told the Finance Committee at its next meeting. He said the study is done every four years and Bradley County’s previous ratios were:

• 2015 — .9408

• 2012 — .99

• 2007 — .85

• 2004 — .92

• 1998 — .77

Commissioner Thomas Crye said the ratio will cost Bradley County more than $600,000 in property tax revenue. He said an appraisal every two years “would cut this nonsense out.” Thompson said he would “need to beef up my staff, for sure” to do the work.

“I’m not totally against it,” Thompson said.

Crye also questioned why the ratio study of 3,800 property transactions included residential, single-family properties when personal property tax isn't part of residential appraisal.

Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber asked if the ratio is due to over-appraisal. Thompson said it isn't — that appraisal is an equalization tool — and a countywide reappraisal was done in 2017.

Commissioner Kevin Raper said the appraisal ratio seems like “a punishment for when you do well.”

The appraised value of land, improvements and personal property in Bradley County increased by more than $135 million from 2018 to 2019.

The appraisal ratio effectively gives a .8717 tax bill discount for commercial and industrial properties that submitted their information to the assessor’s office before March. Blake asked when those businesses that will receive the .87 discount will be notified.

“It’ll be on their bill,” Thompson said. “The ratio will still be on there until the next reappraisal.”

Thompson said he did a survey of other counties on the same four-year reappraisal cycle as Bradley County. Their appraisal ratios are:

• Davidson County — .84

• Hamilton County — .89

• Knox County — .87

• Loudon County — .90

• Shelby County — .88

"The trend is about the same (across the state)," Thompson said.

In other business, the County Commission:

• Approved a motion for the Finance Committee to review a recommendation from the Emergency Services Committee to give $5,000 sign-on bonuses to new ambulance service employees, in an effort to fill 10 vacant positions.

Commissioner Mike Hughes, who is chairman of the Emergency Services Committee, said EMS continues to struggle to fill open positions. As a remedy, the committee recommended a $5,000 sign-on bonus paid in two equal installments over two years, paid on the hiring anniversary, for up to 10 employees. Hughes said the committee’s recommendation is for the bonus to go in effect after July 1, 2019, making the first payment in the 2021-22 budget year.

Commissioner Charlotte Peak asked if the recommendation has been sent to the Finance Committee. Hughes said it hasn't been because it doesn't impact the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Hughes said the sign-on bonus is an attempt to negate losses of employees to higher-paying jobs. Yarber said he would like to find money to pay for people to go to EMT school, and for EMTs to go to paramedic school.

Blake said he supports the idea, but he is concerned about putting it so far out on the calendar.

Peak made a substitute motion to send the recommendation to the Finance Committee to "vet it completely" and bring it back to the County Commission to discuss. The substitute motion was approved 8-5.

Hughes said the Emergency Services Committee also discussed how the negated funding resulting from the property appraisal ratio will affect the fire tax, noting it will be a "tight year."

Crye, who is a member of the Emergency Services Committee, said the sign-on bonus would also be somewhat offset by cutting down on overtime costs.

• Approved a resolution authorizing the county mayor to execute a deed conveying certain real property owned by Bradley County to the Industrial Development Board of the county of Bradley and the city of Cleveland.

• Approved a resolution to rezone from Forestry/Agricultural/Residential (FAR) district to General Commercial (C-2) district property located at Washington Avenue S.E., a vacant lot.

• Heard the Road Committee will meet at 10 a.m. on June 10, in the Louie Alford Commission Conference Room at the Courthouse.

• Heard Bradley County offices will be closed on Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day. Offices will reopen on the regular schedule on Tuesday.

The Bradley County Commission next meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, in the County Commission Courtroom of the Courthouse.

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