Soddy Daisy Approves 34-Cent Property Tax Increase On 1st Reading

  • Thursday, May 23, 2024
  • Gail Perry

The Soddy Daisy Commission has voted to approve the proposed 2025 budget and set the property tax rate at $1.45 for every $100 of assessed value - a 34-cent increase. The rate has been $1.11 since the last assessment in 2021. At that time, the city had the option and chose to keep the rate at the level before the 2021 assessment so that it remained at $1.11. Now with inflation and with the growth taking place in the city, more revenue is needed to maintain services at the level that residents want and to retain employees in an ever-competitive market. For several years, department heads have been doing multiple jobs, officials said.

Each commissioner expressed the difficulty of making the decision during a time when the rising costs of everything is affecting their constituents, but they all recognized the need. The commissioners held three 3-hour workshops to discuss a tax increase, where the public was invited as the budget was being developed. The only item they considered removing during those talks was improvements to increase parking at Holly Park. Property owners in Soddy Daisy were also given an opportunity to talk about the proposed budget at the commission meeting on May 16, and offered suggestions such as postponing an increase until after the next reappraisal when values would naturally increase or splitting the increased rate so it would not come all at once.

Commissioner Gene Shipley questioned the immediate need for items in the budget under capital outlays, improvements and the addition of new employees, and suggested alternatives. Reasons for keeping each in the budget were given. Vice Mayor Jim Coleman agreed with Commissioner Shipley, saying he had a lot of calls from people he represents and proposed spreading out the increase. He said he had no problem with what is wanted but did not want it all to be done now. Both commissioners said they would vote for some increase, because some of the requests are essential, such as repairing bridges, adding three full-time firefighters and additional public works employees and equipment, but not the entire request for 34 cents.

Commissioner Mark Penney said that he had not had a lot of push-back from residents. He said when he ran for commissioner, everybody wanted Soddy Daisy to get better and he has ideas to accomplish that. But he said, “You have to have the right tools to do the job effectively.” He said the commission needs to do things that lead to progress and he wants the city staff to be empowered. “I trust the leaders and department heads and the city manager. We have to roll into the new century.”

City Manager Burt Johnson reminded the commissioners that establishing a cap for property tax rate increases has been under consideration by the state of Tennessee. That proposal failed to pass this year, but there is no guarantee that it will not be revived. . It would mean cities would be limited in the rates they set in the future and could limit Soddy Daisy’s ability to compete with other cities in the county, if the tax rate could not be adjusted to where it needed to be.

Examples of how the full property tax increase would impact tax bills for homes include a property valued at $225,000 which would mean a tax bill for $816 per year, an increase of $188. A home valued at $400,000 would have an increase of $334 per year and would mean a total of $1,450 in taxes. And a house with the value of $500,000 would pay $1,813, a $418 per year increase.

For every penny increase, Soddy Daisy will receive $3,500. For a 10-cent increase, the city would receive an additional $35,000. For the 34-cent increase that was approved, it means an additional $1.1 million for Soddy Daisy.

In comparison to other cities in Hamilton County, Soddy Daisy, even with the 34-cent tax increase, will have the lowest rate of any of the other cities except East Ridge. However, that city has a separate sanitation fee for garbage and trash pick-up. Sanitation fees are built into the city services covered by property taxes in Soddy Daisy. Soddy Daisy is the largest of the cities in the county in square miles except for the city of Chattanooga, and Soddy Daisy has the third largest population of 13,070.

Some highlights of capital outlays and improvements in the city that are included in the new budget are bathrooms and repairs to the concession stand at the girls' fields at North Park, New lights and poles at the South Park and pavilion improvements at all the city parks. The fire department will get a new engine, radios and door access controls at all three stations. The administrative department will get new software to increase efficiencies. And the police department will get four new patrol vehicles.

The vote to accept the budget as written and to set the tax rate at $1.45 was three to two, with Commissioner Shipley and Vice Mayor Coleman voting No.

The budget and rate will not become final until the second reading and vote at the commission meeting on May 30. Mayor Steve Everett said that citizens will be allowed to speak regarding the budget at that meeting

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