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City officials split on lowering taxes
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McMinnville officials will be considering a proposed property tax rate of $1.99, a 10-cent reduction, this coming Tuesday. It could be an uphill battle for the tax decrease with some aldermen wanting to spend the $200,000 it would cost the city in other areas.
Finance Committee members met Tuesday night to discuss and recommend a tax rate to the full board. In a 2-1 vote, the recommendation will be $1.99. Voting in favor were Aldermen Ken Smith and Mike Neal, while voting against it was Alderman Ben Newman.
A 10-cent tax decrease will cost the city $200,000 a year and would mean a savings of approximately $13 on a property valued at $50,000, $18 on a $75,000 property, $25 on a $100,000 property, and $50 on a $200,000 property.
Newman made no comments during the meeting. However, he has made prior statements that the tax rate should remain the same and the $200,000 be used on continued services or capital improvement projects, such as a new police station and Park Theatre.
During the same evening, but in a Parks and Recreation Committee meeting, Alderman Rick Barnes and Mayor Jimmy Haley both said the funds for the tax decrease could be used on Park Theatre.
“That’s why we don’t need to decrease our taxes,” said Barnes. “We need to spend it on Park Theatre. We need that money. I would hate to spend $2 million on Park Theatre and it not be finished. If we cut taxes, the next group that has to raise taxes will get their ears chewed off and they will forget the tax cut in 60 days, if it takes that long.”
Haley stated, “The 10 cents would cover all this with some left over.”
The statements were made in reference to $65,000 that was placed in Park Theatre’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014-15 to complete a renovation of office space and $40,000 to purchase 250 fixed seats for the downstairs. Both items were removed from the original renovation contract in an effort to keep the cost below $2 million.
Barnes also made a comment that he knew of four votes against the budget’s proposed tax decrease.
With Smith and Neal voting in favor of the decrease in committee and Newman, Haley and Barnes openly voicing a desire to spend the $200,000 in other areas, the Southern Standard contacted Aldermen Jimmy Bonner and Billy Wood on Wednesday morning.
“I’m for the tax decrease,” said Bonner. “I think it will pass. I know Ken Smith and Mike Neal are in favor of it. Billy Wood is going to be for it, unless he’s changed his mind. I’m pretty sure it will pass.”
Wood has changed his mind, somewhat.
“Norman Rone, Charles Bogle, Bill Lively, Glen Moore, Pete Holt and Chester Womack did the taxpayers an enormous favor by paving every street in the city in the 1990s,” said Wood. “Since then, they have been largely neglected due to budget cuts. We have invested an enormous amount of time in the last several months trying to find a way to start putting streetlights back up. We think we have accomplished that. However, if we put streetlights back up and don’t continue to pave streets, all we are doing is illuminating potholes. Instead of cutting the tax rate by 10 cents, which will only amount to $25 on a $100,000 house, my proposal will be to put that $200,000 a year into Street Aid and continue paving every year.”
Wood, who has made past attempts to lower the tax rate only to be left without a second to his motion, reiterated Barnes’ statement that a tax decrease would set the next board up for a tax increase.
“I voted last year to cut the tax rate and you could have heard crickets chirp,” said Wood. “Now, with the way money has been spent and borrowed, etc., I think the only logical thing to do is not lower the tax rate. If you look at the true savings to the taxpayer, it doesn’t amount to anything. I think it would be a disservice to the next board for us to throw a potential tax increase in their lap. I think the money would be better spent on paving.”
Wood says he is going to make an attempt on Tuesday to earmark the $200,000 for street paving rather than a property tax decrease.
“If my attempt fails, I will vote in favor of the property tax decrease,” said Wood. “If I don’t, these guys will spend it on something silly.”