In recent years, several major industries have agreed to PILOTS including Wacker, Whirlpool, Amazon, M&M Mars, P&G Duracell and others. The result has been the creation of approximately 2,500 new jobs in the past 36 months and the number continues to grow. In addition to new jobs, the PILOTS are beginning to pay off in the form of new revenue for the county.
The PILOT programs have been heavily criticized in the past by some folks. Yet, the evidence shows the PILOTS were not only a good idea, but a good investment.
Recently, Bradley County Trustee Mike Smith presented his annual report to the County Commission. Mike has spent weeks crunching numbers and revenue estimates with Finance Director Lynn Burns and Assessor of Property Stanley Thompson. The PILOTS are projected to put more than $19 million in new revenue in county coffers beginning with the 2014-15 budget cycle. This means the next two budget cycles may still be very tight, but we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I also want to highlight some other items in Trustee Smith’s annual report. In 2010, his office instituted a 12-month partial payment program which allows property owners to make advance payments on taxes owed for the coming year. The program is especially helpful to homeowners on a fixed income and has been a big success. The number of property owners using the plan has far exceeded expectations. Payments can be made by monthly bank draft, by mail or visiting the Trustee’s office in person.
The Trustee’s Office has also instituted a Partial Payment program for delinquent property taxes. This program does not require a minimum payment amount or a maximum number of payments. The goal is to give some relief to property owners who may be struggling due to the economic recession and are having difficulty coming up with a lump-sum tax payment.
In 2006, Tennessee voters approved a “tax freeze” program which authorized cities and counties to institute a local option property tax freeze for taxpayers 65 years of age or older. This program is available in Bradley County through the Trustee’s Office. Smith reported to the Commission that there are currently 1,270 pieces of property under the tax freeze.
Those who qualify for the program will have the taxes on their principal residence frozen at a base tax amount, which is the amount of taxes owed in the year they first qualified for the program. The taxes will remain at that level as long as the owner continues to meet the qualifications.
The Trustee’s Office also oversees a “tax relief” program which is based on a household income of $26,830. This program pays a portion of the property tax for seniors and disabled persons who meet certain requirements.
Contact the Bradley County Trustee’s Office to see if you qualify for any of these programs.
I want to commend Mike Smith and his staff in the Bradley County Trustee’s Office for a job well done. He has instituted some new policies and procedures which provide the taxpayers of Bradley County with high-quality service at the lowest possible cost. I appreciate the close working relationship between our two offices.
For information about the Bradley County Trustee’s Office or any other county department, log on to www.bradleyco.net. Click on the listing of your choice under the “departments” link.