Property values in Walker County increased an average of 30 percent this year with the most recent reassessment. Because assessed values are what property taxes are based on, homeowners in Lookout Mountain, Ga. have seen large increases on their tax bills for 2023. To help lessen the impact, the city of Lookout Mountain, Ga. is planning to reduce the tax rate to 6.5 mills, on its portion of property taxes. That would result in a 3.57 percent net increase, or $32,350, in dollars for the city. In July, the 2023-2024 budget was passed with no tax increase, however the large group of residents who came to the first public hearing on the tax increase were told that the increase is now needed due to inflation. “The city’s job is to provide services you pay for police, fire and public works, and to deliver them as efficiently as possible. There is no fluff in the budget this year,” said Mayor David Bennett.
Property taxes in the town are determined by three entities, the city, Walker County and the Walker County Schools Board of Education. Each sets their own millage rate based on property assessments. The city and county combined represent 20 percent of the total. Walker County Schools represents the largest amount, 80 percent of the property taxes that are collected. Both the city and county are planning to reduce their millage rates, but the city’s is actually a small piece of the total, said the mayor. The schools, the largest part, are not lowering their rate. The mayor told the crowd that the city of Lookout Mountain has no way to change the school board’s rate, except to go to public meetings and participate in the process when the budget is being discussed. Those were held in August and the school board’s tax rate was set on Aug. 21, so it is too late this year. Another way residents can attempt to lower taxes is to challenge the assessment with the Walker County assessor’s office, however that was done in April and is no longer an option for this year.
Two more public hearings will take place at city hall regarding Lookout Mountain’s portion of the property tax increase. They will be held on Thursday, Sept. 21, at 8 a.m. and that evening at 6 p.m.
There is an opening on the school board for the representative from Lookout Mountain, Georgia. That person must live in the zone to run for the seat who would advocate for Fairyland School and the city.
The public works department is planning ahead for the approaching leaf season. Kevin Leckenby, council liaison with the public works department, asks residents to get leaves from their yards out to the street as early as possible so they can be collected to avoid building up big piles. He said once large leaf piles get wet it becomes labor intensive to move them. He said a new email about right-of-way maintenance will be going out as a follow-up to one sent out in the spring. The letters will be sent to residents who have not been maintaining their right-of-way, which is the responsibility of the property owner and not the city.
Southeast Connections continues to install gas lines and has progressed to the section of Scenic Highway around Our Lady of the Mount Catholic Church. A few repair issues to gas lines previously installed remain on Pied Piper and Gnome Trail, that are awaiting a remedy.
A significant amount of time in the shop has been spent on the city’s fleet of vehicles. The leaf truck, brush truck and garbage truck have all needed major repairs. City Manager Kenny Lee singled out Public Works Director Daniel Cates for his expertise and for saving the city a lot of money by making the repairs to the vehicles in house.
It is hoped that cell phone coverage will be back to normal levels around the mountain once the communications equipment is put back onto the water tower in Tennessee. That work has been scheduled during September and the first of October. Tennessee American Water will return to begin disinfecting and refilling the first tank that has been rehabilitated followed by repeating the process on the second tank. The next day that the dumpster will be available at the public works department is Saturday, Oct. 7.
After listening to residents who live on Princess Trail and analyzing information collected by the speed signs after stop signs failed to slow down cars, the city has decided that further action is needed. The city manager has solicited information about putting two speed bumps on the road. Before settling on that solution, he will take a look at other options for speed calming devices before the council makes a decision at the October meeting.
The biggest fundraiser of the year for Fairyland School, took place on Aug. 26 that raised a lot of money and was a great kick-off to the new school year, said Council member Caroline Williams. She said people were very generous and she would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming community support. The next fundraiser will be the Great Pumpkin Chase, in October. City Manager Lee added that there is always a lot of raising money and support for the schools on the mountain coming from the community. The most recent was The Hive Hustle, organized by Kate Fuller Proceeds from that event will be used to support all the schools on the mountain.
Director of the city’s sewer board Wes Hasden said three proposals have been received for rehabilitating the current sewer pump. The board expects to have a recommendation for a consulting engineer for the project in October.
Mayor Bennett said that the towns of Lookout Mountain, Georgia and Tennessee have been reviewing their mutual aid agreement for fire and police. Under that arrangement both departments respond when there is an event or emergency, and he said the vast majority of them are false alarms. To increase efficiency, the towns will move to an automatic aid agreement. With this, the first to respond will verify there is an actual emergency, after which the other department will be called.