County mayor proposes hold on millage rate, essentially raising property taxes

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger announces new projects for the county that will include a tax hike Tuesday morning on the steps of the Hamilton County Courthouse.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger this morning called on the Hamilton County Commission to maintain the current millage rate, a de facto tax increase for residents.

In a news release, Coppinger said retention of the rate taxpayers now pay on their property assessments will provide needed funding for economic development, education, public safety and infrastructure.

At a news conference outside the Hamilton County Courthouse, the mayor said the recently approved balanced budget for fiscal year 2018 does not contain a property tax increase. That makes it the tenth consecutive year Hamilton County property owners have not seen a tax increase on their property.

Coppinger called on the County Commission to maintain its current property tax millage rate at $2.7652, saying, "Tomorrow, I will present two resolutions to the County Commission relating to the millage rate: The first will be to reduce the county's millage rate to the certified tax rate of $2.4976. This resolution is a result of the every-four-year property reappraisal process and is required by the State of Tennessee. The second resolution will be to reset the millage rate back to $2.7652. This will be an increase of 26.76 cents."

Under recent reappraisals, Hamilton County residents could see an average 9 percent property tax increase.

He said retaining the current millage rate will generate additional revenue of $25.5 million. That money would be directed to several areas, including a regional sewage treatment plant in the northeastern section of Hamilton County.

"This regional sewage treatment plant, at a capital cost of approximately $45 million, would allow Hamilton County to expand our sewer system to meet the needs for growth in the northeastern section of Hamilton County," he said in the release.

The plant would also allow the WWTA to direct the sewers to the new plant and avoid an estimated $43 million of treatment fees and unnecessary construction of storage tanks, Coppinger said.

Coppinger said that, since the passage of the budget, several opportunities have developed that will require more funding. These opportunities include four major areas: economic development, education, public safety and infrastructure.

The mayor also projected some of the new revenue would be specifically directed toward public safety by addressing overcrowding concerns at the Hamilton County Jail.

"The additional revenues will be used toward funding the required debt service to upgrade the Silverdale service areas, such as kitchen, laundry, etc., and to add additional beds at Silverdale," he said.

On education, Coppinger said he has met a number of times with new schools superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson, and they agree they need to start meeting some of the school system's building needs immediately.

"A significant amount of the additional revenues will be used toward building 1 or 2 new schools, expanding capacity at schools in high-growth areas and addressing some of the most pressing capital needs at several schools with new roofs or major roofing repairs, energy efficient windows and renovation of athletic tracks and athletic facilities." The mayor ended his education remarks by saying the specific projects will be determined by the Board of Education.

"I have discussed these opportunities with several of the County Commissioners over the last few weeks, and I believe now is the best time for us, along with the school system, our business leaders, our economic development team, and the community to meet these needs," he said.

A public meeting to discuss the need to exceed the certified tax rate is scheduled for Sept. 6 at 8:30 a.m. in the County Commission meeting room.