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Collegedale Commissioner Ethan White stands next to a sign for The Commons on Friday, March 30, 2018, in Collegedale, Tenn.

Paying the tax man

The 31% property tax increase, approved by a 5-0 vote, is the first for city operations since 2008.

The new property tax rate of $1.65 per $100 of assessed value will increase property taxes by $147 annually or $12.25 a month on a $150,000 home. Property taxes on a $300,000 home will increase $293 annually or $24.42 a month.

The commission also approved the $11,630,994 operating budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which includes $1.3 million in new revenue from property tax increase.

To read more about the budget particulars, visit timesfreepress.com.

Sam Shorrosh moved from Chattanooga to Collegedale about two years ago, yet he said he heard about the city's tax hike proposal from his in-laws in Chattanooga, who read about it in the Times Free Press.

Shorrosh and other citizens used the public comment time at the June 17 Collegedale Commission meeting to voice concerns about what they saw as a lack of information shared throughout the community.

Before commissioners' vote on the budget and included tax increase, Shorrosh suggested to the board that a postcard mailing describing the proposal be sent out and a public meeting be held for citizens to ask questions.

The problem with a mailing, said Vice Mayor Tim Johnson, is the fact that Collegedale does not have its own ZIP code.

"It would have to go out basically to the entire 37363 [ZIP code], which would be very costly to the city," he explained, adding that there have been multiple attempts through the United States Postal Service to change the ZIP code but all have been turned down.

While the 39-cent tax hike passed at the meeting, Shorrosh maintained that, "Something did not get communicated properly to the community."

To establish a new ZIP code, a city must appeal to the United States Postal Service's ZIP Code Boundary Review Process. The USPS evaluates whether a reshaping of the zone is necessary, according to the Congressional Research Service. If the request is denied, another possible way to get a new ZIP code is through the U.S. Congress, which in January 2019 was able to establish nine new ZIP codes throughout Florida and New York.

But community member Matthew Sadler pointed to another method. He said during the meeting that he was "disturbed" by the lack of publicly available information on the city's website. Sadler compared Collegedale's website to Red Bank's. There, he was able to find Red Bank's entire proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year among other information, he said.

"The only thing I've seen on [Collegedale's] website has been essentially what's been published in the newspaper, which is a very high-level overview," said Sadler.

In response to the concerns voiced, Commissioner Ethan White suggested starting monthly or bimonthly town hall meetings.

"We can do it in your neighborhood or here [at city hall]," he told the roughly 25 citizens who turned out for the vote and public hearing. "I'm willing to do that if you're willing to attend."

In the past, he said, the city has tried to host town halls but only a "handful" of people attended, which became "counterproductive."

"If you want to be more informed ... I think that's a good way to have the opportunity to ask questions and present concerns on y'all's schedule or make it easier than meeting on just Monday nights," said White.

Email Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com.

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