Nineteen Rutherford County residents shared their thoughts about a proposed property tax increase with the County Commission’s Budget and Finance Committee last Monday, and three days later the committee proposed slightly lowering the tax hike.
The residents made their comments last week at a public hearing of the County Commission’s Budget and Finance Committee. The tax hike was initially proposed at an amount of 9.5 percent, or 20 cents on the current rate of $2.0994 per $100 assessed value. The new tax hike being proposed is 19.5 cents. (That number could change this week.)
Half a penny decrease
The change happened during a meeting last Thursday by the commission’s Budget and Finance Committee, said Commissioner Robert Stevens, a member of the committee. The committee voted 4-3 to take a half-cent of the property tax from the highway fund to put into the ambulance fund. The reason is that the highway fund will have $16 million at the end of the fiscal year.
“It’s hard for me to ask somebody to pay more in taxes knowing that portion is just going to sit in a bank account,” Stevens said of the surplus highway fund.
Stevens said he asked how much the county contributes to the state’s consolidated retirement system for each employee. Commissioners discovered that the county is paying slightly more than is required. They asked the county finance director to study how much that can be reduced.
Stevens said the initial 20-cent proposed increase is just that — a proposal that possibly could be reduced by the time the full commission votes on the budget and tax rate. The budget committee met Monday this week to make a final recommendation to the commission, which will vote on the budget and tax rate this Wednesday at 9 a.m.
Any property tax increase in the county would be borne by City of Murfreesboro property owners. The City Council on June 13 raised its property tax rate by 34 cents per $100 assessed value.
Several of the citizen comments made last Monday follow below.
Citizens speak out
One resident, Greg Harvey of Big Springs Road, said his family has owned its property for two centuries. Developers pay the county $1,500 in a development fee for each lot, he said. But if one were to find a house for $150,000, he said, that would be 1 percent.
“Development is not paying its share,” Harvey said.
Developers in other communities are paying higher fees, he said.
Ross List, a retired disabled military veteran, said he returned to Murfreesboro after 20 years’ service to raise a family. In retirement, his salary was cut by one-third, he said. He and his wife, who has a master’s degree in education, have worked second jobs to afford to live in Blackman. He is not saying a property tax is not needed, but said the county and City of Murfreesboro are punishing residents with property tax increases for their mismanagement and they are living beyond their means.
One resident said the county should consider a wheel tax so it does not punish owners of large tracts of land.
Another speaker, Shirley Mowery, told the commissioners, “You’re really letting your citizens down, and frankly, I’m ashamed of you all,” drawing applause from the audience.