Kim White and Erskine Oglesby, mayoral candidates in the upcoming City of Chattanooga mayoral race, engaged in and promoted an increase in the expense of owning property and in owning and operating a business in the city’s downtown area.
In 2018, while President and CEO of the River City Company, Kim White and Erskine Oglesby as a board member of the River City Company, promoted, organized, nurtured and spearheaded, through the River City Company, what became known as the Business Improvement District (BID), now known as the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance.
In 2019 Kim White and Erskine Oglesby, who at that time was chairman of the Chattanooga City Council, brought before the City Council a proposal to impose almost $1 million additional dollars per year on the property owners in the city’s downtown area through the formation a BID. When this BID was initially proposed, all real estate located within the proposed boundaries of the BID, would be included. This included private and government owned property.
Thanks to the efforts of County Commissioner Tim Boyd the government-owned property, which was included, was taken out so that the taxpayers would not be giving tax dollars to what is a private company. The BID impacts all property, including private, religious, charitable, and non-profits.
When the BID by a resolution was first brought before the City Council, opposition was voiced by private, charitable and religious owners of real property, and the resolution was not passed when a motion was made to approve the BID failed for lack of a second. This failure did not kill the BID attempt. Because the BID failed as a resolution, Erskine Oglesby, along with two other council members, had the BID brought back up as a proposed ordinance, so the fight continued, with Kim White still promoting the BID’s passage. Keep in mind that Erskine Oglesby was, at that time, a board member of the River City Company and the chairman of the City Council. The BID eventually passed and the almost $1 million per year assessment is now imposed on the property located within the BID boundaries. This assessment has caused varying amounts of increase imposed on the properties depending on square footage and area.
Our payment to the city of Chattanooga resulted in an almost 27 percent increase on our city of Chattanooga tax statement. This increases the costs of owning and operating a business in the downtown area. The citizens of Chattanooga should not elect any person who promoted this increase. The imposed assessment/fee is included on the tax bill from the city of Chattanooga, is collected by the city, and although not technically called a tax it is due, just like property taxes by March 1, if not paid on time a lien is automatically placed on an owner’s real estate, just like delinquent property taxes and is subject to enforcement collection.
The money collected, almost $1 million per year, is then turned over to a private, self-sustaining corporation the Downtown Business Alliance (DBA), which, under state law, can pretty much spend the money on what the DBA chooses within the DBA boundaries. Don’t you see, you now have the government taking money from private property owners and giving it to a private corporation who had no hand in the earning of the money. And this was all promoted by Kim White, Erskine Oglesby and the River City Company.
One final note, after the redo of Miller Park, the City Council, as a thank you to Kim White and River City Company, voted for the taxpayers of the city of Chattanooga to give to River City $50,000 per year for 20 years; that’s $2 million of our tax dollars going to a private company.
Downtown Property Owner
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Excellent piece, Mr. Paty.
I just cannot fathom that the businesses in Chattanooga needed a third layer of property taxation. Business is taxed at so many levels, now three attachments exist for downtown property, city, county, and the tax authority of local government literally handed off to River City Company in BID. It was surprising that BID passed. Then again, no.
Many business owners were frustrated at the city’s failure to maintain downtown Chattanooga. Downtown Chattanooga was the hub of activity and maintained respectfully for many, many decades. Apparently, the current elected of Chattanooga could not maintain downtown as the elected before them. BID was not required when the natives were growing up here.
The natives tire of funding River City Company debacles, from the failed concrete on the river front they were contracted to inspect and city sued, PILOTs to friends, and perpetual political meddling by a nonprofit. You can bet, the BID will be a future management disaster, an unelected board with tax dollars is more than disturbing.
In reading your article, Mr. Paty, I was again reminded about the short memory of voters who would even consider Kim White to be mayor of Chattanooga. Then again, decades of mayors have proven that Chattanooga loves trust funders and developers, or development community to be in this particular elected office.
Then, at the end of your piece, you mention the gifting of local tax funds to River City Company. It is so easy for the elected to gift other people’s money to their favorite charity without examining the organization’s spending or financial status. Try to get financial records from these so called do gooder organizations receiving our tax funds, you cannot. I attempted to acquire public records from the Chamber of Commerce receiving $1.2 million annually in property and sales tax revenue, “Sorry honey, our records are not open to the public.” Basically, mind your own business
It sickens me to see people and families struggle to pay property taxes, only for the elected city council and county officials to gift our money to their friends at the Chamber of Commerce and River City Company. I want public dollars to go to those that really need the help, not rich in assets nonprofits.
The city and county gifted funds to a rich River City Company that did not need taxpayer funded welfare. The city council and county commission have gifted the Chamber of Commerce $1.2 million of our property and sales tax revenue annually, coupled with $900,000 in consulting fees for VW during doling out of bond money to another rich corporation.
One would believe if an organization were self-proclaimed experts in commerce, they would not require taxpayer funded welfare to support the existence of their organization. Real commerce does not require taxpayer funded welfare.
Well, back to subject. I could get lost in the ponzi model of local tax dollars to rich nonprofits.
Our tax dollars gifted to these nonprofits is offensive when you examine the nonprofit spending and cumulative assets. The Chamber of Commerce and River City Company are the richest welfare recipients in Hamilton County. It’s all fun in nonprofit world.
I guess Kim White will take a cut in pay being mayor of Chattanooga.
Thank you for the reminder, it was factual and inspiring.