published Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Public sentiment runs cold on proposed 33 percent tax hike


by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

Sherry Gravitt

David Cathro is dying of prostate cancer. He rents a room in a small yelllow house in North Chattanooga. Half of his small monthly pension goes to pay medical bills.

Each year, he and other renters scrap together what they can to pay the $2,300 property tax bill, he said.

But a proposed 33 percent property tax hike may be too much for him to bear, he said.

"It's a terrible thing to pay," Mr. Cathro said Wednesday, a day after Mayor Ron Littlefield proposed hiking property taxes by 64 cents.

The increase would boost the city's tax rate from $1.94 per $100 of assessed value to $2.57 per $100 of assessed value.

Mr. Littlefield and his administration unveiled the tax increase proposal Tuesday at a special called City Council meeting. The added revenue would pay for more police officers and firefighters, raises for city employees and programming for parks and recreation related to tackling gang problems, officials said.

Richard Beeland, spokesman for the mayor, said Wednesday the administration knows tax hikes never are popular.

"I don't think there's ever a good time to have a tax increase," he said. "Unfortunately, it's time. We haven't had a tax increase since 2001. We're overdue."

Sherry Gravitt, who owns Encore Consignment Boutique off Hixson Pike, said she is "totally against" a tax hike. She and her husband, Steve Gravitt, own a house in Chattanooga.

"We're already taxed and taxed," she said. "Especially small businesses. We're kind of beaten down with taxes right now."

She said she fears some people may move out of Chattanooga or look elsewhere after hearing about the city's proposed tax rate increase. Mr. Gravitt, who stood next to her in the shop, just shook his head about the tax increase.

OTHER CITY TAX RATES

If the City Council approves Mayor Ron Littlefield's recommended tax increase, Chattanooga's property tax rate would be the fourth highest among cities in the state. Tax rates per $100 of assessed property are:

City Tax Rate

* Nashville/Davidson $4.13*

* Memphis $3.20

* Oak Ridge $2.77

* Chattanooga $2.57 proposed

* Knoxville $2.46

* Bristol $2.19

* Kingsport $1.94

* Clarksville $1.24

* Metropolitan government

Source: Chattanooga

"It's ridiculous," he said. "That much?"

Under the proposed tax rate, the owner of a $200,000 residence now paying $970 in city taxes would pay $1,290. Someone owning a $300,000 home would see the city portion of his tax bill go from $1,455 to $1,935.

Gregory Tate, who lives in Brainerd, was taking his dog, Scotty, on a walk Wednesday morning. He said even though it's a big increase in taxes, the hike might be needed.

"I know it's been awhile since we've had a tax increase," he said. "It's a necessary evil."

Mr. Tate said it's necessary to increase police and fire protection, and he agrees with the mayor's moves to annex. He said he wished the city could annex the entire county to make taxes more fair.

He also thinks that the cost of living is more than fair in Chattanooga, compared to other cities, he said.

"If anyone goes anywhere else to live, they'll find out it's a bargain to live in Chattanooga," Mr. Tate said. "Nobody likes to pay more taxes, but we've got a bargain."

Jane Ensign, a resident of Young Avenue, was busy working in her yard Wednesday. She rents a house, and she and her husband, Jim, also own a house in Chattanooga they are trying to sell. If the tax hike takes effect before they sell their home, they could pay more on it as it sits empty, they said.

They also could face paying more money on rent, Mrs. Ensign said.

"I realize we're going to have to raise some taxes," she said. "It just seems like it's a whopping raise."

Click here to vote in our daily poll: Will the property tax hike be a hardship on you?

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Mayor asks for 64-cent property tax increase

Article: City faces tax hike to close fund gap

Article: Agencies request more funding

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
slr3 said...

We need elected officials who can manage our government like we manage our households and small businesses. The ones we now have are good at spending our money but are not managers. They dream up programs and send us the bill. People are tired of this and are not going to take it anymore.

May 20, 2010 at 4:21 a.m.
chriss said...

I take great exception to the "raises for city employees" as part of this tax increase. I haven't received a raise in 2 years, neither has my husband. Most of my family and friends have had their hours cut or lost their jobs altogether. How about all the city employees, including Mr. Littlefield and his administration take a pay cut and see how that works out for lowering the tax increase?

May 20, 2010 at 12:19 p.m.
Oz said...

The private sector has not given raises to employees for the last two years and they are still cutting jobs. Why should the government be any different?

May 20, 2010 at 12:31 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

There needs to be a recall election for mayor Littlefied. He clearly is out of touch with the public will. Examples: He pushes through annexation of areas against those area's will, then later says there needs to be a tax increase to pay for these added costs. In addition, oversteps legal bounds with the police chief situation. Hasn't Chattanooga had enough with this guy?

May 20, 2010 at 11:10 p.m.
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