The Collegedale Board of Commissioners on Monday unanimously passed a 31% property tax increase after hearing from concerned residents about the lack of information provided by the city during the process.
The commission approved a 39-cent property tax increase by a 5-0 vote. It also approved the $11,630,994 operating budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which includes $1.3 million in new revenue from the property tax increase. The tax increase 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.
"We were here a couple of weeks ago and there were concerns about the budget," said Lorretta Gould, president of the Greenbriar Cove residents association. "Today, we see no change to that, and I think that's very disappointing. I was hoping we could consider a few things and tweak it a bit, especially on top of what may be added from Hamilton County. It's quite a blow."
Hamilton County is scheduled to vote on a 34-cent property tax increase on June 26, and the combination of a Collegedale and county property tax increase was mentioned by each speaker who addressed the commission.
"We heard from the community that the biggest concern they have is that they want to hear more from us," Commissioner Ethan White said. "A lot of people just want to know where their money goes. We did everything we could for 10 years to not raise taxes, but we are at the crossroads where we needed a tax increase."
Collegedale joins Signal Mountain and Lookout Mountain in raising taxes. Soddy-Daisy, Red Bank, East Ridge and Lakesite did not raise taxes this year.
City Manager Ted Rogers said Collegedale's tax rate will keep the city in the middle in comparison to other municipalities in Hamilton County.
"It's more money out of my pocket, too," Vice Mayor Tim Johnson said. "Our city manager has done a good job of helping us be thoughtful and purposeful in how we spend our money."
Collegedale projects to finish the current fiscal year with a balance of $8,171,886 in general fund reserves, with that number expected to grow to $9,604,984 by June 30, 2020. Rogers said more than half of the fund balance was designated for specific projects with the remaining funds being enough to cover 40-45% of the city's operating budget.
"It's a good, healthy fund balance," Rogers said.
The budget funds $1.34 million in capital projects, including a new roof for city hall, eight new police cars and a new dump trunk. The proposed spending plan increases the paving budget by 63% and includes a 6% raise for employees, 3% of which is retroactive to last year.
In other action, the commission approved a $2.1 million upgrade for the city's sewer system to install a larger pipe along the edge of Veterans Park that will improve the flow to the city's pump station and reduce sewer overflows. Collegedale is the only small city in Hamilton County with its own sewer system.
The commission also approved spending $38,000 to purchase a privately owned hangar at the Collegedale Municipal Airport. Hangar fees are the largest source of revenue for the airport and officials said the hangar will generate about $12,000 in additional fees in the upcoming year.
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