The Murfreesboro City Council on Wednesday approved a 34-cent property tax increase on first reading, setting the stage for final approval Thursday night along with a number of budget cuts to make.
If that rate is finalized Thursday night, the city’s tax rate would increase from $0.9494 per $100 assessed value to $1.2894 per $100 assessed value, a 35.8 percent increase. The Thursday meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
The residential garbage collection fee will increase by $2.50 per can per month on July 1. It currently is $5 per can per month, so the new bill will be $7.50. The city had considered a $5 increase.
The council approved the new tax rate after a grueling meeting that lasted approximately 3.5 hours and involved a number of stalemates on how to proceed in approving a budget and tax rate. The original tax increase they considered was 37 cents.
Members of the council had thrown out different numbers for approval, ranging from the 37 cents to as low as 31 cents or 25 cents.
City Manager Craig Tindall said after the meeting that the lower garbage fee and tax rate will mean a cut of about $250,000 to the budget. Members of the council had expressed a desire to make cuts from spending rather than the general fund balance, or the city’s savings account. The council asked Tindall to bring them a list of proposed cuts Thursday.
The 34-cent increase was approved on a vote of 5-1. Vice Mayor Madelyn Scales Harris voted no, while Rick LaLance had to leave prior to the final vote.
Scales Harris told the city staff they did a “fabulous job” on the budget and her vote was not a reflection on them. She said she disagreed with statements made by council members about voting simply on what the city manager presents to them.
“That’s why we have a council,” she said.
Five budget amendments also were made to the FY 2020 budget.
Prior to all the amendments, the council was considering a FY 2020 budget of $647 million, according to budget documents. That includes $188.8 million budgeted in General Fund and the rest in other funds, including Murfreesboro City Schools ($87 million), Water Resources Department ($55.4 million), and Electric Department ($175.4 million). The $188.8 million includes an unassigned fund balance of $51.4 million, and budgeted supplemental expenditures for FY 20 of $3.9 million.
The proposed 37-cent property tax rate of 1.3194 cents was 31 percent lower than the rate was in 1999, according to the budget. City Schools operating expenses and debt service equates to 23.3 percent of projected property tax revenues.