Here's my takeaway from today's public hearing regarding the property tax increase. During the public comment period, the first person to speak was former Mayor Jon Kinsey. In essence, this was his message,
"I pay half a million dollars a year in property taxes. I support the increase. Please vote yes to increase taxes."
But this is what was really left unsaid by the former mayor:
"I don't mind if you increase taxes on the masses and the little guy, small business and little old ladies. Just be sure to give me my crony tax breaks when I come asking for them. By the way, thanks for the big tax break a couple years ago for my Chattanooga Choo Choo project."
And so, the City Council and County Commission both voted to increase property taxes this week. (Both bodies only had one vote against the increase, Chip Henderson and Tim Boyd.)
Claiming it was to cover a shortfall, these elected officials so quickly forget that it was they who caused the shortfall, if it truly exists. Their frivolous granting of tax breaks for big business and favored individuals has cost the community $20 million in lost revenue in just one year. And according to Helen Burns Sharp at Accountability for Taxpayer Money, the total of these tax breaks via the PILOT program could be as high as $400 million over 30 years.
So, the real reason for the tax increase, is not because our rates were too low, but rather that your elected officials have done such a poor job in applying those tax rates consistently and fairly to big business. They would rather raise taxes on the little guy, than look big business in the eye and say "Hey, pay your fair share."
So when you write your check next year for your property tax increase, just thank guys like former Mayor Kinsey, the Chamber of Commerce, and, of course, your elected officials. They don't care about the little guy. Their votes over these many years affirm this.
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I humbly disagree. Andy Berke is just another big money, good ole boy mayor of Chattanooga in a long line of the sort.
I completely blame him and the City Council for the gridlock in downtown during every rush hour.
Now they will raise property taxes to pay for all of the PILOTs that were handed out to developers from this town and beyond.
We are blocked in by the three bridges.
Great work, Andy and City Council.