published Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Red Bank, Lookout Mountain ready for tax increases

  • photo
    Red Bank commissioner Floy Pierce speaks during a city council meeting in this file photo.
    Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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BY THE NUMBERS

RED BANK

Current tax: $1.10 per $100 of assessed property value, or $275 for a home appraised at $100,000.

Tax increase: 25 cents

New tax (if passed): $1.35 per $100 of assessed property value, or $337 for a home appraised at $100,000.

LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN

Current tax: $1.47 per $100 of assessed property value, or $367 for a home appraised at $100,000.

Tax increase: 20 cents

New tax (if passed): $1.67 per $100 of assessed property value, or $417 for a home appraised at $100,000.

WHAT'S NEXT

• Red Bank will have the final vote on its budget and tax increases today at 7 p.m. at Red Bank City Hall, 3117 Dayton Blvd.

• Lookout Mountain will have its final budget vote on July 24.

At least two Hamilton County cities are on the verge of passing tax hikes as budget season draws to a head this month.

Red Bank will vote tonight on a 25 cent property tax increase, while Lookout Mountain, Tenn., is poised to approve a 20 cent property tax bump in July.

"We've put it off to the point where we can't put it off anymore," said Lookout Mountain consultant Dwight Montague.

He added that the town had not had a tax increase for eight years and, in that time, operating expenses have increased 20 percent.

Red Bank also has foregone a tax hike since 2004. Though city leaders say most of the additional revenue will be steered toward $2 million in secondary road-paving projects, it also will help foot 2 percent across-the-board pay raises for city employees.

Lookout Mountain plans to give a 3 percent raise to its employees in the new budget, one year after granting a 2 percent raise.

Both town commissions have had only one vote each against the proposed tax increases -- Commissioner Ansley Moses in Lookout Mountain and Commissioner Floy Pierce in Red Bank.

Pierce has said that the new rate is too high, while Moses has said that any major projects should be funded from the city's reserves.

On top of its tax increase, Red Bank is looking to pass a $4 hike in its monthly garbage fee, from $12 to $16, or from $144 to $192 per year.

The billing will replace the garbage fees that have, until now, been added automatically to residents' water bills. Tennessee American Water, which has been handling the billing service, is halting it this year, forcing Red Bank to find a contingency plan for collecting its garbage service fees.

Lookout Mountain's exact property tax rate is hinging on how well residents do in the stock market this year, Montague said. The town brings in 20 percent of its annual revenue from what residents pay in the state's Hall income tax, which taxes dividends from stocks and interest from bonds and notes.

Those numbers will be finalized sometime within the next month, said Montague

"If the Hall tax numbers come in higher, we may lower the rate. If they're lower, we may have to raise property taxes even more," Montague said. "We'll have to see."

Lookout Mountain also is planning to spend about $200,000 on repairs to its park tennis courts and pavilion and to buy several new public works vehicles.

On top of its paving projects, Red Bank is planning more than $30,000 worth of repairs to City Hall. It also plans to restore leaf-vacuuming services and a full-time codes officer.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at 423-757-6673 or kharrison@timesfreepress.com.

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