Soddy Daisy Commissioners Pass 35-Cent Property Tax Increase; Plan To Hire Chief, 4 Firefighters To Augment Volunteer Force

Friday, June 21, 2013 - by Gail Perry

The Soddy Daisy City Commission on Thursday night passed a 35-cent property tax increase.

Commissioners said for many years the tax rate stayed at 68 cents per $100 of the assessed property value. Three years ago,  the rate was raised to $1 per $100 of the property value where it now remains. Commissioners at the time said that increase would be sufficient for only a short while.

“Not one person in this room wants to raise taxes, but if we want a city and services to be proud of, we’ll have to have an increase” said Mayor Janice Cagle. 

Mayor Rick Nunley said his property taxes would go up less than a carton of cigarettes, which has a cost of around $52. On a $100,000 home, the increase would be less than $10 per month, it was stated.

The city is expecting an increase in revenue, said City Manager Hardie Stulce, and commercial sites are being developed which will broaden the tax base. But he said the increase in population requires an increase in the police department and the city court must be subsidized. Infrastructure in the city continues to disintegrate with attention needed for maintaining the city hall, paving streets and road signals as well maintenance for the city’s vehicles.

The city has applied for and received $6 million in grants for road repairs, said Mr. Stulce. As that money becomes available in the next several years, the city is obligated to a match of  80/20. "That money is just not here," said Mr. Stulce. He asked if the rate should be increased, or should the city leave the money on the table.

Another large cost will be changes made to the fire department. Soddy Daisy currently has an insurance rating for Class 3, with a 100 percent volunteer fire department. The number of volunteers has declined and the drop-out rate is high. A fire that occurs during the day presents the worst problem, since people work and are not available to fight a fine, or else arrive slowly. Commissioners want to staff the department with four firefighters and a chief to work full time during the day shift. Responsibilities of these jobs would include equipment maintenance and making inspections. They would be supplemental to the volunteer fire department, and would cost around $400,000.  

Officials said citizens of Soddy Daisy would benefit from maintaining the ISO fire rating of Class 3. As an example, a home valued at $100,000 would have an insurance premium of $690 per year with the Class 3 rating. Class 6 would cost $760 yearly, and Class 9 would be $910 per year. Vice 

The city manager cited other expenses the city incurs and how they are funded to justify the property tax increase. He said it takes 100 percent of property taxes to maintain the Police Department alone. Everything else is paid from other sources such as sales taxes. The county is paid 50 percent of collected sales taxes, said Mr. Stulce. Last month the total amounted to $268,000, but only $134,000 was kept by Soddy Daisy.  For emergency situations, a city the size of Soddy Daisy should have around $2 million in reserve, but currently has only around $500,000, he said.

During the citizens’ participation portion of the meeting, the executive director of Ivy Academy, Angie Markum, told commissioners that the charter school is in the process of applying for grants in an effort to build a brick and mortar building and get out of trailers. She asked for and will receive a letter from the local government that says the school will receive support from the city.

Alan and Mike Park own five and a half acres in the Soddy Industrial Park. In an effort to fill up the space and earn money while doing it, Alan Park asked for a conditional zoning permit which would allow him to construct carport-like structures that motor homes and large equipment could be kept in. These would be located behind his other warehouse storage buildings. He was given permission to build on the condition that buffers such as a privacy fence be put in place before the work begins.

Next Thursday at 6 p.m., a condemnation hearing will be held at city hall for buildings not compliant with the city ordinances. That will be followed by a special called meeting of the commissioners where a second reading of the budget will be held and adopted.

The next regularly scheduled commission meeting has been cancelled since it falls on the 4th of July holiday. There will be one commission meeting in July, which will be Thursday, the 18th.

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