published Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Cleveland, Tenn., property tax rises 6%

Janice Casteel
Janice Casteel
Photo by Randall Higgins /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Cleveland's state-certified property tax rate increased by 6 percent as a result of a state-mandated reappraisal.

City taxpayers also will pay an additional 12 percent increase to pay for more law enforcement and firefighting personnel, provide a 3.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for city employees and maintain existing levels of service.

The two increases raised the property tax rate from $1.4904 per $100 of assessed value to $1.7655. The owner of a home appraised at $100,000 now will pay $441 per year, compared with $372 previously.

The Cleveland City Council approved the increases in a 6-1 vote, with Councilman Charlie McKenzie opposing.

"It's just not the right time for an increase," said McKenzie. "Most of my district is on Social Security, and the others just can't afford it. The city is lucky to be where it's at."

The reappraisal required a 9 cent increase for the city to bring in the same level of revenues, said City Manager Janice Casteel. She said the city has no control over this matter and it was the first time she could recall that the certified rate did not decrease as a result of a reappraisal.

The rest of the increase -- 18.51 cents -- goes toward additional city needs, she said. This increase was approved by the City Council in June, again with McKenzie opposing.

The increase comes "after years of tightening our belts and doing without," Councilman Richard Banks said.

Casteel previously stated that a 4.5 cent increase -- about 25 percent of the 18.51 cent increase -- was needed just to provide the same level of service. One-third of the increase, or 6.12 cents, will go toward the city employees' cost-of-living adjustment.

Twelve additional police officers will be funded by the increase, including six new positions and six officers who were funded by federal grant money until June 30.

Two firefighters, a property maintenance official and public works equipment operator also will be hired.

In other business, the council voted 7-0 to remove county representation on the Cleveland Animal Shelter Board during any period in which Bradley County does not have an animal control contract with the city. A failure to negotiate a new animal control contract ended animal pickup and drop-off services for Bradley County residents living outside Cleveland city limits on July 1.

Without the county's contribution to the animal shelter budget, the city faces a loss of $298,000 for the shelter's operations, said Casteel. However, she said she fears that means that county residents will start dumping animals within the city, still leaving the city with the full responsibility and cost of handling those animals.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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