The property rate in Collegedale will increase 12 percent in the coming year. The rate will rise from $1.3897 to $1.55 per $100 of the assessed value of a property.
On Monday night, the commission room was filled with residents concerned about the increase and two took the opportunity to speak in opposition.
Mayor Morty Lloyd said that the city has been hit hard by inflation with materials such as gas, diesel, concrete, asphalt and office supplies. The question is how to offset the costs with the available revenues without reducing city services, he said. Each commissioner expressed that they are sensitive to the residents and sympathized with them knowing that inflation is affecting them the same way it is affecting the city, in particular retirees on a fixed income.
Items in the budget that were questioned included a new security position. The person hired for it would write safety policies, do inspections and make sure the work environment is safe for employees. Those services have been done in the past without it being a separate job, said Vice Mayor Tim Johnson and Commissioner Katie Lamb. Opposition was also expressed about the purchase of six new police vehicles, raises for employees and what was described as very generous incentives for employee retention in addition to pay increases.
Four years ago the city took out a $4 million bond and today almost $3 million has not been used. Suggestions were to offset some expenses in the budget using that money instead of using taxes. Plans, however, have been made to use that money for building a parking lot.
City Manager Wayon Hines said a solution could be to take $600,000 from savings. He told the commissioners that the city is doing all it can to compete with private industries and maintain the workforce in a tight and competitive labor market. He said the average 20-year-old stays at a job that they like for 30 months. They stay under two years for jobs that they do not like. The cost to find, hire and train a new employee typically amounts to half of their salary, he said, and Collegedale is trying to minimize those costs.
There was conversation about postponing the second and final vote on the new budget to have additional time to make changes, but state law specifies that cities must pass a new budget by June 30 because the fiscal year begins July1, City Attorney Sam Elliott told the commissioners. There was not enough time to amend the proposed budget and have two additional votes including the required time to advertise and inform the public. Commissioner Sadler asked what the point is of holding a public meeting at the second and final reading, if the tax rate had already been decided with no time to change it. Vice Mayor Johnson replied that timing could be changed for next year.
The vice mayor said his vote would be based on the large number of people who talked to him about opposing such a large increase in taxes. That led him to abstain from voting for the 2023-2024 budget. Commissioners Debbie Baker, Katie Lamb and Mayor Lloyd voted to approve the budget as proposed and Commissioner Tonya Sadler voted against.
Rezoning 5.6 acres at 9422 Lee Highway from Industrial to Shopping Center Commercial was approved on the second and final vote. Rezoning the property had been recommended by the city’s planning commission. Real estate developer Barry Payne said that a nationally branded coffee shop is interested in the location that will be an extension of Cambridge Square.
Police Chief Jack Sapp was given authorization to acquire a new K9 officer. One of the city’s K9 handlers resigned and had a prior agreement that he could buy the dog he had been trained with. The city will purchase a new drug detection canine from Southern Coast K9, Inc. for $12,700. That includes $9,500 for the trained dog and $3,200 for four weeks of training for the handler with the dog. This will come from the 2022 – 2023 budget.
A memo of understanding was also approved for the Tennessee Integrated Criminal Justice Program. It allows the Collegedale Police to use the criminal portal of this program which Collegedale has had access to for the past several years. The purchase of equipment to outfit three police department Dodge Durangos was also approved at the cost of $43,830.
The public works department will be getting a new tractor that will primarily be used to pull a bushhog for cutting large fields and rights-of-ways. And the bid of $38,662 was accepted to repair a back hoe used to pack garbage.
The Collegedale Library is managed day to day by a contractor, Library Systems Services. The contract with that company to operate the library from July 1, 2023-June 30, 2024 was renewed for $495,800.
Commissioner Baker said it is cheaper to use that company than for the city to manage the library itself. They invest to maintain equipment and buy books that the city did not do, she said. “This company has expert librarians and has done a fabulous job,” she said.
Approval was also given to update the municipal code related to water and sewers. The codes were changed to reflect how things are actually done today versus in 1977 when it was originally written, said Attorney Elliott.