The Signal Mountain Council voted to increase property taxes by 20.434 percent on second and final reading on Monday night. This makes the tax rate $1.8866 for every $100 of assessed value of a property. For a median price home in the town of $250,000, this will mean an increase of $200.07.
Moves to reduce the budget to the get to this rate included eliminating an unfilled position of recreation coordinator and holding off on pay raises for department heads.
It does include a five percent salary increase to other employees of the town, and $268,439 for paving, which will leave additional paving to be done the following year. And because the council decided to retain ownership of the water company, new water meters and the related software is included for capital projects.
At the public hearing on the budget ordinance prior to the vote, just one resident, Anne Haygood, spoke. She said she saw no alternative except to raise taxes in order to maintain the standard of services that people are accustomed to and increasing salaries five percent to be competitive in order to keep employees. The vote to adopt the budget on final reading was three for and one against. Vice Mayor Amy Speek said that her vote would have nothing to do with not giving raises. She said the town’s employees were very deserving of the increase, but that her negative vote was because there were other ways to meet the budget than with the large tax increase.
She also questioned Mayor Dan Landrum about taxes in the future. “Your vote would be to not raise taxes next year?” She asked. "Not unless a tree fell on every building the city owns," he answered. "I just wanted to get it on the record," said Vice Mayor Speek.
The seat that was vacated when Robert Spalding left the council, had three applicants - Cheryl Graham, Mellissa Cantrell and Peter Harrison. Monday night the majority of the commissioners voted to fill the vacancy with Cheryl Graham. A formal resolution to appoint Cheryl Graham to the town council followed the vote. She will be sworn in at the next council meeting.
To be compliant with a federal mandate, the town of Signal Mountain is in the process of making ADA (Americans with Disabilities) upgrades. Resolutions passed Monday night were part of that process. The city is looking at accessibility at all the facilities it is responsible for and plans on making the needed upgrades over time. Sidewalks that were restored recently in Olde Town were built to meet the new standards, and a wheelchair lift has been installed at the MACC during recent renovations. Access to playgrounds and ball fields will also be made more accessible.
Sam Guin was designated as the Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator for the town. Another resolution that passed established a grievance procedure relating to compliance with the ADA act and a third approved a public statement of Signal Mountain’s practices and policies for meeting ADA requirements. Evaluation of the transition plan has to be complete by the end of the year or the town will face penalties from the federal government.
Discussion took place about when the council work session should take place and what will be allowed versus what is allowed at regular council meetings. Previously, citizens were not allowed to speak at the work session. The city’s charter, however, says people can talk at all meetings, said Town Attorney Harry Cash. Whether to meet during the day or in the evenings is also under discussion. More people could come if there are night meetings, but day meetings would be better for the staff who have worked all day, said the vice mayor. More discussions will follow.
A new monument is almost complete at Coolidge Park with a stone wall and plaque to explain why Charles Coolidge was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The project was completed with donations and at no cost to the town. A dedication ceremony has been planned for Aug. 10 at 11 a.m., which will coordinate with the 98th birthday of Mr. Coolidge. He is the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient.