Lookout Mountain, Tn., Residents Facing 5% Rise In Property Taxes As Hall Tax Vanishes

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 - by Gail Perry

Homeowners in Lookout Mountain, Tn. will see a five percent increase in property taxes in 2020. Samantha VanAlstyne, assistant treasurer who created the budget along with past town consultant Dwight Montague, said that to replace income which will be lost starting in 2021 when the Hall state income tax ends, increases in property taxes are being made slowly. The town expects to receive $350,000 in 2019 from the Hall Tax.

Some items included in the 2020-2021 budget include new radios for the police and fire departments. The obsolete analogue ones being used now cannot be repaired and will be replaced by digital radios. Officials are looking for a grant to help pay for them. There will be a two percent cost of living pay increase for employees with the exception of the police and fire departments who instead have opted to participate in the TCRS Bridge retirement program. This will allow someone with 25 years of service to retire at age 55 with a significant bump in retirement benefits until they reach 62. A new police vehicle is also planned for in the budget. Commissioner of Public Works Jack Schriner warned that a major public works expenditure will be coming in 2021 for a new garbage truck.

Commissioner Don Stinnett determined the relative value of what each of the 752 homes in Lookout Mountain, Tn. are spending for services from each of the town’s departments. He took the operating budget of each without including any capital expenditures, PTA contributions or money received from State Street Aid, and figured that on the average, each household spends $2,000 a year, or $167 monthly for police and fire services. Each homeowner spends $1277 per year, or $106 monthly for public works services and $403 per year is spent for education, which comes to $33 monthly per household. Parks and recreation facilities and programs are $228 per year, or $19 per month. He said “That’s a pretty good deal.” 

Services in Lookout Mountain are second to none, said Mayor Walker Jones. It is an extremely safe community, the school has small classes, the sports fields are always filled with people and public works keeps the city in great shape, he said. "People appreciate and love the services that we have up here," he said,

“It’s worth every penny.” Mr. Montague said. “It is worth pointing out that our tax rate is 15 percent lower than Chattanooga’s and there is no comparison to what we have here.”

Statistics from the police and fire departments show that during April, police patrolled 5,144 miles, answered 242 calls, responded to nine burglar alarms, all false, three assist citizen calls and 22 calls to 911. Officers made 99 traffic stops and gave 18 parking citations. There were five auto accidents with no injuries in April. One arrest was made for an outstanding warrant. Eight suspicious persons/vehicles or activities were investigated. There were 14 medial calls made in Tennessee and none in Georgia. There were also four false fire alarms. 

The start of the baseball and softball season and a parade to mark the occasion was delayed for two weeks because of rain, said Commissioner of Parks and Playgrounds Brooke Pippenger. The Love Lookout movie night was also postponed due to rain until sometime in August. Commons Camp starts June 3. It will be from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. unless it is raining. The whole summer program will cost $200, or $50 per week. Children can also come for the day for $15. Registration forms are available at town hall.

The end of the 2019 school year is May 23. The school is in preparation for graduation now, Principal of Lookout Mountain Elementary Ruth White told the commissioners. Year end accomplishments include participation in the Hamilton County track meet where Lookout Mt. students brought home ribbons in almost every category. Medals were also won in the Science Olympiad competition where the school placed eighth out of 30. Graduation will be on Wednesday, May 22 with school Commissioner Stinnett speaking. The school year will wrap up with Field Day on Friday, May 17, and Awards Day on the following Monday. Students will be dismissed at 11:30 on the 23rd. Ms. White said the library will again be open for the summer. Upcoming plans from the PTA include renovations to the school including replacement of seating in the auditorium next fall. Chairs can be purchased as a donation with a dedication plaque for $250 apiece. Repainting the skating rink is also in the plans.

During the spring and summer, the public works department concentrates on keeping the streets free of brush piles and fixing potholes. Commissioner Schriner said it is important that brush piles made by homeowners are no larger than four feet wide, eight feet long and four feet high. The town will remove brush brought to the street by homeowners but if contractors do the work, they are also responsible for removing the debris. Public works employees will tackle small potholes as the first road repair project. A milling machine will be used to repair the larger ones later in the summer. Mr. Schriner said that the first round of repaving streets has been completed by a contractor and another round is planned for late summer or early fall. Restriping roads will be done in September or October, he said. The dumpster has been available to residents of both Tn. and Ga. for two extra days in April and May. It will again be at the public works facility Saturday, May 17. After this month, the regular schedule will resume with it being on the mountain on the first Saturday of each month.

Mayor Walker Jones would like to thank Lex and Sissy Tarumianz for operating the Mountain Market for the past eight years. The business is now in flux he said, because the lease renewal was not viable. There will be an absolute auction of the building, land and equipment on Saturday, June 8 at 11 a.m. The mayor also thanked The Garden Club of Lookout Mountain and public works employees for getting the fountain in working order and planting it with flowers. He also would like for residents to be aware that EPB is planning to do tree work this summer for the power lines and that the blue marks that are being made on trees all over the mountain are the trees that are being targeted. If a resident has concerns, they are urged to call EPB.

The next meeting of the Lookout Mountain, Tennessee commission is scheduled for Tuesday, June 11 at 5 p.m.  

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