Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd has asked his colleagues to waive $772,764 in reappraisal billing to the county's 10 cities.
That amount is half of the county assessor's costs in fiscal 2017 for performing appraisal work for the 2017 reappraisal, which occurs every four years. Municipalities must pay half the property reappraisal costs, according to a state law passed in 1989.
The law also allows county commissions to waive the fee. Although Hamilton County has never asked its cities for the money before now, no formal agreement exists.
Today, Hamilton County Property Assessor Marty Haynes and leaders from just about every city except Chattanooga spoke to commissioners about the issue.
"It's taking a breath to look at the law that's been, in this county, ignored for almost three generations," Boyd said of the proposed waiver.
The county commission, the mayor and the municipalities need further discussion as to whether the commission will waive reappraisal fees due for the 2021 reappraisal, Boyd said.
A number of commissioners said they favored a long-term solution instead of having to revisit the issue in four years.
Several mayors repeated stances they have taken since learning of the reappraisal billing in December. They described the unbudgeted expense, due June 30, as an unexpected and unfair burden. Some invoked the spectre of raising property taxes to pay for it.
"We were really taken aback when heard about this proposed charge," Lookout Mayor Carol Mutter said. "It certainly was not in our budget. The only recourse we would have - particularly in Lookout, which is a small town that does not have substantial sales tax revenue - our only recourse would be to raise property taxes."
Haynes said he has little choice but to follow the law and he only learned the assessor's office had been out of compliance with the 27-year-old law shortly after he took office in September.
If the county commission decides the county should continue shouldering the reappraisal burden without support from the cities, the law has still been upheld, he said.
The county commission will vote on the reappraisal waiver proposal on Feb. 1.