published Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

The Dark Side: Annexation bill would deprive city of revenue

Republican and freshman state lawmaker Mike Carter, of Ooltewah, found a way to make headlines last week with his all-you-can-eat anti-annexation bill.

Rep. Carter says he brought the bill because of Chattanooga officials' previous efforts to amend its state-required growth plan in order to — in Carter's words — "cherry pick" affluent suburbs.

He calls the bill "Ryan's buffet rule" after the all-you-can-eat restaurant chain, and says it would require cities to "clean" their "plates" by annexing everything in their current urban growth plans before seeking to amend them.

What it really amounts to is giving counties all the buffet deserts: The good roads into town for the jobs here, the amenities of good shopping malls, theaters, parks and the riverwalks; and the police protection along the way. The trouble is that cities — and their taxpayers — are paying most of the bill.

Let's use a hypothetical citizen — we'll call him Joe Signal — who lives in an unincorporated portion of Hamilton County on Signal Mountain but works in the city.

At least five days a week, Joe drives to and from Chattanooga to earn a paycheck, and on weekends he heads to Hamilton Place mall for dinner and a movie, or to Coolidge Park to take his kids to the carousel.

Along the way, he drives on city roads, over city bridges, sits on city benches, and shops in stores and restaurants that were developed with city-paid perks and infrastructure. And while he's shopping or working, he's protected by Chattanooga police. His drive in town is orderly thanks to the traffic lights and signs — paid for by the city.

But Joe Signal's bill each year for property tax on his $250,000 home suburban home is $1,728, and it all goes to Hamilton County. True, he pays 4.5 cents on every dollar in sales tax when he eats and shops in the city [half of that is the county's sales tax], but that should average only about $140 a year for the city, based on estimates from the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based, nonpartisan tax research organization.

Meanwhile another hypothetical citizen, we'll call him Joe Hixson, has a similar life, but he lives within the Chattanooga city limits and pays both the county's $2.76 per $100 assessed tax rate and the city's nearly $2.31 rate — for a combined tax rate of just over $5.07.

Joe Hixson pays $3,171 in property taxes on his $250,000 home — nearly double that of Joe Signal. And, of course, he pays sales tax, too.

No one likes to pay taxes, and at first blush Carter's bill might sound appealing to many who bridle at the thought of paying more or being annexed. But, unpopular as they are, taxes are the only — underscore "only" — source of revenue goverments of any stripe have. Even permit fees that in reality are use taxes.

If a city like Chattanooga can't continue to annex urban growth areas that grow up on its borders because residents there rely on city roads, infrastructure, services and jobs, then that city can't thrive — let alone sustain the demands of maintenance and every-growing populations.

Carter's bill, while probably well-intentioned, has a dark side.

Basically it would prohibit annexations of communities outside of its 15-year-old growth plan if Chattanooga already had decided against annexing another area on the plan where there now is no community and no reason to extend services. Yes, the city could go through a time-consuming process to remove the no-growth area by rewriting the plan, but only with agreements from all the other governments locally. Getting those agreements took years the first time around.

Carter's bill also would block cities from annexing property held by owners who wish to come into the city — a retiring farmer, for instance, who wants to increase the value of his land by obtaining services like water and sewers to entice developers.

While we're all clamoring for better services and public money savings, we should be careful what we wish for.

Chattanooga is the machine that feeds us, employs us, entertains us, protects us. It's time we understand that we use its services and reap its benefits even if we don't live in it and pay taxes in it.

13
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aae1049 said...

Great work State Representative Mike Carter. Very good legislation.

February 27, 2013 at 8:35 a.m.
lightkeeper said...

Terrible work State Representative Mike Carter. Very bad legislation for a Metro area thats trying to grow and sustain all of its citizens. Chattanooga Metro seems to always get held back by these conservative hillbillys while other Metro areas don't allow themselves to be caught up in these outdated conservative ways of thinking like the ones that live around Chattanooga. When will it be realized that when you try to hold Chattanooga back your slitting your own throat? or does that make too much sense.

February 27, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.
betweenthelines said...

This is a funny article, given the anonymous editor lives in Sequatchie county. Not sure why the editor won't put his name on his articles?

February 27, 2013 at 10:56 a.m.
bjennings55 said...

1) The Carter bill returns to affected residents the right to vote on whether or not to be annexed. That right was removed by the state legislature in the late 1990s. 2) Chattanooga’s budget and debt problems did not come about by suburban residents not paying “their fair share” through sales and use taxes. They resulted from poor planning and bad policy decisions by previous administrations that negotiated unsustainable city pensions and kicked necessary infrastructure improvements down the road. 3) Joe Signal also drives on state and county roads (they are not all city roads, Harry). He operates a business in Chattanooga that pays his employees, some of whom live in Chattanooga, a fair wage. He pays federal taxes, which have provided infrastructure improvements to such state and local projects as the Olgiati Bridge improvements and EPB’s fiber optic business. I’d say Joe is doing his part. 4) It’s awfully presumptuous of city residents to ask county residents to do more without giving them a voice in the first place. The county provides important services for all its residents, too, including the public schools and county infrastructure (such as the landfill). It’s hardly a one-way street.

February 27, 2013 at 11:15 a.m.

So what about all the folks who commute to work daily from Catoosa, Walker, Dade, Bradley, Sequatchie (like you do)? Maybe jack and Ron should setup toll booths to extract those folks fair share as they enter the city? My business is Internet-based and I have more customers in Honolulu than Chattanooga. I could lose every Chattanooga customer and not even notice it (I didn't go to the right prep school). Yes, I drive on city streets to go to dinner about three times a week to the Hamilton Place area. I spend about $100 a meal with a large family. I spent way too much during Christmas at Chattanooga merchants. I receive various services at my home from businesses within the city of Chattanooga. I can assure you Ron and Jack get way more than $140 a month from this family. I agree with everything bjennings said above. Stop being Ron Littlefield's sock puppet or this paper will be one less thing I buy from a business in the city of Chattanooga.

February 27, 2013 at 11:23 a.m.
timbo said...

Harry, so your saying that anyone who lives in the city is stupid? I agree.

The solution is to dissolve the city government and let the county take over. The reason you and others don't want to do that is you want to take city residents money and waste it on whatever "progressive" hogwash you can think of.

What you are saying is that misery loves company. You want county residents to cough up money to pay for your fun. If I recall, taxation without representations caused a little problem in 1776. I thought it was settled but evidently not.

PEOPLE SHOULD MOVE OUT OF THE CITY HARRY, JUST LIKE YOU LIVING IN SEQUATCHIE COUNTY, IF THEY DON'T LIKE THE TAXES.

What dog do you have in this fight anyway?

February 27, 2013 at 11:37 a.m.
aae1049 said...

That's right Harry Austin, you already moved out of Chattanooga before this wonderful legislation by Rep. Mike Carter. Did the 19 percent Littlefield and current city council property tax increase run ya out of town, or was the breaking point when they increased stormwater fees 191 percent during the peak of recession?

In Sequatchie Co, you don't even pay stormwater fees, and hardly any taxes. That's right, it does not effect you, so why care.

From the rest of us that live in Chattanooga,

It's not your problem, is it.

February 27, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

Thank you Mike Carter. Someone needs to bring an end to cities being able to annex without the consent of those affected. Chattanooga is an especially bad actor, grasping for tax base to pay for mismanagement in the city.

February 27, 2013 at 6:41 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

If Mayor Ron Littlefield and his "rubber stamp city council" (i.e. Jack Benson, Pam Ladd, Manny Rico, Andrae McGary, etc.) had their way, they would probably try to annex (if they could) north Georgia, North Alabama, and possibly parts of North Carolina to get the extra tax base to make up for their incompetent decisions and mismanagement of Chattanooga. Further, annexation safeguards need to be put into law at the state level because cities will continue to go out on "land grabs" despite the objections of the citizens they are annexing. Everyone knows (despite the city officials denials), these cities are annexing for the tax base (especially the cherry picking) which is illegal under Tennessee state law. The entire Chattanooga city council needs to be voted out. Ron Littlefield could not get voted dog catcher after the past 4 years and anyone who would hire him would be a fool.

February 27, 2013 at 7:39 p.m.
betweenthelines said...

Friends of Hamilton posted a historical annexation map for the City of Chattanooga. You can see how in recent years it's been a land grab for taxes.

http://friendsofhamilton.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/city-of-chattanooga-annexationhistory-highres.pdf

February 27, 2013 at 10:37 p.m.
fairmon said...

Abolish the city government and merge the essential functions with the county managed by the county mayor and commissioners. Put that option on the ballot. City government approval rating compares to that of congress. They have earned their reputation.

February 28, 2013 at 4:29 a.m.
lightkeeper said...

IT'S AMAZING HOW THE CONSERVATIVES IN THIS COUNTY ARE SO AGAINST GROWTH WHEN GROWTH IS WHAT GENERATES MONEY. I'VE NEVER BEEN TO ANY METRO AREA AND HEARD SUCH OUTLANDISH HOGWASH. WHO CARES ABOUT RON LITTLEFIELD OR LAND GRABS, THATS NOT WHAT ITS ABOUT. IT'S ABOUT MAKING THIS METRO AREA THE BEST METRO AREA TO ATTRACT BUSINESS AND JOBS SO WHEN CAN COMPETE WITH THE OTHER METRO CITIES AROUND US. ALL THIS NEGATIVITY IS NOT MOVING US FOREWARD, ITS JUST CAUSING US TO SLIP FARTHER AND FARTHER BEHIND. THIS IS A METRO COUNTY AND ITS NOTHING YOY CAN DO ABOUT IT BUT MOVE, AND I WISH A LOT OF YOU NEGATIVE REGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE HILLBILLYS WOULD DO JUST THAT...MOVE!

February 28, 2013 at 5:02 p.m.
lightkeeper said...

There was a complication with the editing of my opinion with the TFP. Thought I would mention it first before some nit picker had some stupid remark !...Thank You

February 28, 2013 at 5:37 p.m.
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