I've really got to tip my hat to our County Commissioners and Mayor. They're about to enter into what some call potential political suicide and that takes guts. Especially when you're up for re-election. If you caved into threats and fear, then you wouldn't get anything done. And quite frankly, it probably has a lot to do with why we're in the shape we are.
Our county has some serious needs, just as I wrote in an opinion article four months ago.
If you don't recall, here are some highlights:
- Ridiculous amount of grand juries have recommended that something must be done about County Jail/Workhouse. And apparently the state gets a little funny when 3rd world countries treat prisoners better than the county does.
- Dilapidated schools, leaking roofs, sewage back ups, just to name a few. Honestly, isn't it kind of ridiculous to expect high test scores from kids with buckets in the classroom? Kids at Soddy Daisy High School can't hold track meets. Hixson High School doesn't have that problem, nor does Red Bank High School. District 1 has six schools in it that I can think of and it doesn't have a usable track. That's just not acceptable.
- Mowbray VFD is operating out of a mold-infested building. What is interesting about that is it's not just the volunteers at risk, it's a polling location. That's right, folks, you're breathing that stuff when you vote.
So, needless to say, I was absolutely tickled last night to hear Commissioner Fairbanks say he supported putting the millage rate back to where it originally was prior to the property assessment. He thoroughly explained to those in attendance what all the additional funds are to pay for. Funding school projects (not just a blank check though.) A new firehall on Mowbray Mountain. The new track at Soddy Daisy (to be used by all in the northern part of the county.) A sewage upgrade in the Birchwood area and a county workhouse expansion to keep the state off our back. As well as many other projects. He also spoke of a property tax relief supplement in conjunction to the state's property tax freeze, which has a major loophole.
Again, I also want to reiterate my sincere gratitude to Mayor Coppinger. If you're going to borrow money, now is absolutely the best time. Interest rates will never be as low as they are now. So, by taking out a 10-year bond, he's saving taxpayers a tremendous amount in interest.
Now, I'm sure some politicians are fiscal hawks and will be totally against this. I must admit the thought of this increase makes me cringe. But then again, so do repair bills on my home and auto. I think it would only be fair to look at the messenger bringing the message of opposition and ask these questions.
A: Does or did their kids attend private school or public school?
B: Who all gave political contributions to said politician, and where do those donors' children attend school?
This is me, with a child in private school, saying this folks. We must treat our students, teachers, and volunteer fire departments better if we expect more out of them.
District 1 resident
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When most of us have an unexpected financial difficulty, we tighten our belts, cut expenses elsewhere, and push through. The county government on Wednesday decided it is above such things - Mayor Coppinger thinks it is better to pick the pockets of his constituents than to budget the county's available dollars effectively.
We as a group need to remember this next year during the primaries and vote for a county mayor who understands the meaning of fiscal responsibility. Remember as well the eight commissioners (all except Tim Boyd of District 8) who helped take food off our tables to fund more government.
If we stand together on election day, their replacements will think twice before robbing Peter to pay Paul.
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It's easy to raise property taxes. Most people have no idea how much they pay every year. Like income tax and gasoline tax, it's just part of what is taken out whenever the gross payment is made. In January 2018 your mortgage company will raise your house payment to cover the higher property tax back to January 2017. Someone will say, wow, my house payment went up a hundred dollars a month. Was it the tax increase? Oh, I don't know, it just went up. Well, since it's for education, as usual, it's ok.
If you rent and think you don't pay property taxes, your in a double hidden status. You actually pay more than a homeowner because rental property is taxed at 40 percent of appraised value instead of 25 percent for homeowners.
If everybody had to mail a property tax to the courthouse every month, I think the general population might wake up to the real cost of running the city, county and state governments.
But Mayor Coppinger, we wouldn't mind a hidden tax increase so much if we also had a salary of $3,000.00+ per week.
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I not only attended today's County Commission meeting, but spoke as well. Others like Mark West also spoke and made note of some of the well connected folks in the audience that voiced support for a property tax increase on the rest of us, after having been granted tax relief for themselves in the past through the PILOT program.
Sad to say, but in my opinion, as far as a real tax relief for our seniors is concerned, "the fix was in" today as Commissioner Joe Graham made a motion to table the senior tax freeze, and quicker than you could say, what?, a second was made and with the exception of three no votes from Commissioners Fairbanks, Martin, and Smedley, and that was that. Why if I didn't know better, you would think they had planned this move in advance.
What Commissioner Graham did then was to introduce a motion to instead vote in an expansion of the tax relief program to include seniors and even veterans, not mentioning of course that they had to be totally and permanently disabled due to a service connected injury, or prisoner of war. (sort of like when politicians say "it's for the children". This proposal was sprung on everyone at the last minute without it even showing up as a proposal on the "docket" today, so the public and most commissioners in my opinion were caught flat footed,with no time to research the pros and cons of commissioner Graham's substitute proposal to an actual tax freeze for seniors.
I went to the state web page later, and plugged in "differences between property tax relief and a tax freeze. Boy, in my opinion, had the commissioners and the public had the chance to research the differences before hand, the vote may have been different. And believe me they are staggering.
Tax freeze: no ceiling on property valuations for qualified seniors including all qualified veterans and others over 65.
Tax relief: on first $100,000 valuation for qualified veterans totally and permanently disabled as a result of service connected injury, prisoner of war, and others. Qualified elderly and disabled (totally and permanently disabled ) on their first $23,000 valuation only.
For both categories, anything above those rates is taxed at the current rate.
Annual filing and approval required for senior tax relief program. Permanent (no annual filing requirement) under senior tax freeze as long as no major improvements or additions are made to property or qualifications. Senior tax freezer earnings allowance ceiling $10,000 higher than with tax relief proposal.
And folks, there is much more to question in their decision to table the senior tax freeze. I begin to wonder whether tabling the senior tax freeze was more about cutting the loss of tax revenue vs Commissioner Graham's statement that the tax relief approach was better for seniors. You look up the differences yourself and make up your own mind. If you feel like I do that this was not really protecting our seniors 10 years after the General Assembly voted in a senior tax freeze authorization, then you need to call your district county commissioner, and County Mayor Jim Coppinger, and after asking them if today they even knew the differences between relief and freeze, then demand that they revisit this issue, discuss the pro's and con's, and then face the voters with what I feel would be the way representative government should work- a re vote.
It seems that good folks can loose their perspective in a lot of cases. I believe if they are honest with themselves they will agree that the way today's commission meeting was "orchestrated"wasn't their finest hour.
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Mark West spoke truths regarding the property tax increase. It was disturbing irony for a recipient of that insane PILOT program advocate for the tax increase.
I hope that our county commissioners never again consider PILOTs as a vehicle to entice development. As for me because of the needs of our county I'm glad the tax relief program was chosen over the freeze but good grief people let's come together and stop the growth of government so that we don't have to face tax increases of this magnitude.
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The entire subject of Hamilton County Property Tax is a shaggy dog story sans ending. Hamilton County is forced to raise property taxes because our flaccid state legislature can’t do simple arithmetic.
Using property tax as a means to support county services has been proven all over America to be significantly less effective than a state sales tax. You’d be paying much less in taxes.
Three decades ago, Tennessee flirted with this idea, and caved. The county can raise taxes at their whim. A sales tax they cannot. By generating more funds for the entire state, allocations to Chattanooga and Hamilton County will thrive, and property taxes can be cut by two-thirds. But the most important facet of a sales tax means residents of Tennessee keep more of their hard-fought earnings while travelers, truckers, vacationers and tourists pay a vast percentage of the generated revenue.
The problem isn’t Coppinger, Berke or any of the councils. It is chronic myopia we suffer from the hand of stone-less politicians.
Bottom Line: The institution of a state sales tax will reduce property taxation in a major fashion. All this bickering about Coppinger and his “cohorts” is the same as blaming every inconsistency in the White House on the Russians. It’s just simple arithmetic, Governor Haslam.
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Got government-run problems? Here is the two-step action plan:
- If you have two taxes, raise both.
- If that isn't enough, enact a third tax.
Cut property taxes by two thirds? You made me laugh today. Thank you, Mr. Fihn.