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City tax rate unchanged in committee
Ryle Chastain headshot.jpg
Ryle Chastain

The city Finance Committee is recommending no property tax increase for 2020-21.

Committee members met Tuesday and approved the city’s property tax rate to remain $1.84. After property reappraisal, the rate was adjusted from last year’s $2.08. The new rate was determined to bring the same amount of revenue for the city.

“The question before us is do we go for a small tax increase or any tax increase?” asked Alderman Everett Brock. “Remembering that the penny brings in $25,000 and 10 cents brings in $250,000.”

After receiving proposed budget requests from departments and estimating revenues for 2020-21, the city’s General Fund will begin the fiscal year on July 1 with $4.69 million and end the year on June 30, 2021 with an estimated $3.13 million. 

The projected ending balance drew concern from Brock, who expressed a desire to add $1.5 million to the bottom line by way of increased revenue or cutting expenses.

 “I’m in favor of leaving it unchanged,” said Alderman Steve Harvey. “I don’t feel like it’s a great time to raise people’s property taxes.” 

Alderman Ryle Chastain stated, “I’m inclined to agree with Steve for now. Let’s see how we do this next year. Let’s see if we bounce back from all that’s going on right now with coronavirus and look at this for the next fiscal year.”

Currently, the budget does not include a cost of living adjustment (COLA) or step raise for city employees. 

“The only problem that I have with it is that we are doing it on the backs of our employees,” said Brock. “There’s no COLA. No step raises. That itself is around $400,000. If we get into any kind of big trouble, we are going to be in even worse shape next year. I understand where you’re coming from.”

Mayor Ben Newman offered information from a conversation he had with Warren County Property Assessor Beth Martin. While the property reappraisal is meant to be revenue neutral it isn’t always cost neutral to property owners. 

“I asked if the reevaluation affected anybody’s property taxes that they pay in and she said ‘yes it can,’” said Newman. “Some people might pay a little bit more, while some people might pay a little bit less. It depends on how their tax reappraisal came in.”

Finance Committee members’ approval of the property tax rate for 2020-21 will be sent to the full Board of Mayor and Aldermen for consideration. The board must also give approval for a consolidated budget for the upcoming fiscal year.