published Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Soddy-Daisy to hike property tax

Soddy-Daisy officials plan to raise property taxes by about 27 percent next month, but their tax rate still will be lower than those in neighboring towns.

Even with a 21 cent increase to $1 per $100 of assessed value, Soddy-Daisy property taxes will be 10 cents below Red Bank’s rate and 12 cents below East Ridge’s current tax.

Soddy-Daisy Mayor Jim Adams said the increase will add $750,000 to the current-year general fund budget of about $7 million. This will help fund transportation maintenance, buy the public works department two trucks and a backhoe, and rebuild a capital fund largely depleted during the recession.

“It’s the only alternative right now. We looked at a lot of other things,” Adams said. “The things that we would look at are things that people wouldn’t want to see cut.”

Park, field and playground maintenance and community events such as the town’s Fourth of July fireworks display would be some of the first services cut, Adams said.

“There’s things that make a community attractive for people to live in,” he said. “It takes more than police cars and fire engines.”

Soddy-Daisy’s budget will be balanced with the tax increase, according to Adams.

East Ridge also is looking at revenue sources such as a property tax increase to up its $10.3 million current-year budget and reach a similar balance.

“We’ve already significantly reduced spending, but revenues are down and projected to stay that way for next year. That leaves a working deficit to provide the level of services that we have now,” East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble said. “What really needs to be done is we need to close this $600,000 deficit.”

Still, Gobble said his city is in “good shape financially,” with debts at levels in ranges the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service deems acceptable.

Red Bank officials, rather than raise property taxes, decided to dip into savings and cut some services and projects officials feel are needed but possible to postpone.

“Anything that we didn’t feel like was an absolute necessity we have either figured out a more efficient way to do it or made some cuts,” Red Bank Mayor Monty Millard said.

The biggest savings came when the City Council cut a new City Hall building. The project was budgeted for $100,000 — the city’s current-year budget is just over $5.1 million — and is much needed, according to Millard.

But shovels won’t hit the ground unless the city can find some new revenue streams in coming years, he said.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to attract more businesses to Red Bank and increase our sales tax revenue rather than put the burden on our property owners,” he said. “We’ve been making some progress, but it’s slow. I’m just glad we were able to come to an agreement.”

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