Increases in the property tax rate have been approved or are anticipated in budgets that have already passed in Anderson County, Clinton, Oliver Springs, Roane County, and Rocky Top.
Those increases are in addition to the increases already expected because of a drop in overall property assessments in Anderson and Roane counties. The 4 percent drop in Anderson County and 3.47 percent decline in Roane County mean the tax-neutral rate—the rate meant to bring in the same amount of revenues after a reappraisal as before—goes up.
The highest tax increase, which includes a 6-cent change in the certified tax rate after five-year reappraisals, is 40 cents. That’s in Rocky Top, where the new tax rate is $2 per $100 of assessed value.
The lowest so far is in Anderson County, where county commissioners have approved a 10-cent increase for 2 percent pay raises for school and county employees. That’s in addition to the roughly 16-cent increase in the tax-neutral, or certified, tax rate.
Oak Ridge will be the last of those half-dozen governments to consider any changes to the tax-neutral rate. In Oak Ridge, the rate has been calculated at $2.52, up 13 cents from the current $2.39.
Oak Ridge could also be the only one of those half-dozen governments that doesn’t add a tax rate increase to this year’s higher tax-neutral rate. So far, it appears that a majority of Oak Ridge City Council members could support the $2.52 rate, although two Council members, Trina Baughn and Rick Chinn, have advocated for a reduction, possibly by two cents to $2.50.
Here is information on the increases or potential increases:
After rejecting a few other proposals, Anderson County commissioners this week approved a 10-cent property tax rate increase to fund 2 percent pay raises for county employees and school teachers and staff.
The vote for the tax rate increase was 9-5-1.
Eight cents of the 10-cent increase is for Anderson County Schools, and the other two cents will cover the pay raise for county employees, with the exception of elected officials and county commissioners.
Teachers and staff had advocated for a larger 4 percent pay raise. The schools’ request, which also included money for capital projects such as roof repairs and a technology initiative that included so-called 1:1 devices, was the equivalent of a 22-cent tax rate increase.
Teachers said they haven’t had a pay raise since 2012, and they last received a bonus in 2013 and that was $200. They have said all the surrounding school districts except Campbell County pay more, and they want to be able to recruit and retain good teachers—and not be a training ground for other districts.
Voting for the 10-cent increase were Anderson County Commission Chair Robert McKamey and commissioners Mark Alderson, Robin Biloski, Jerry Creasey, Chuck Fritts, Myron Iwanski, Steve Mead, Philip Warfield, and Jerry White.
Voting against it were commissioners Steve Emert, Whitey Hitchcock, Tim Isbel, Theresa Scott, and Tracy Wandell.
Commissioner Rick Meredith abstained, and Commissioner Zach Bates was absent.
With the increase approved by Anderson County commissioners, the property tax rate will be $2.7903 in the county outside of city limits. In Oak Ridge, it will be $2.5945, and in Clinton, it will be $2.7589. The tax rate varies because of school debt obligations. The Anderson County Commission will have a public hearing on the new tax rate and will consider adopting it during a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 30, in Room 312 of the Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton.
Clinton has passed a final budget, and officials are anticipating a 14-cent increase above the certified rate. The first reading of the tax rate is this month, and the second is in August.
Expenses included in the new budget are funding for four fireman that had been covered by a FEMA grant that ended in June, two police and two fire positions, and a split position between the Clinton Police Department and Codes Enforcement.
Clinton Mayor Scott Burton cast the only dissenting vote against the budget that anticipated the tax rate increase. Other City Council members voted “yes.”
Oliver Springs has passed a 30-cent tax increase that raises the rate from $1.02 to $1.32. It covers higher health insurance expenses and also anticipates the change in the tax-neutral rate.
The change was supported by five Town Council members, with Robert Miller voting “no.”
Oliver Springs is in three counties: Anderson, Morgan, and Roane. Tax bills go out in October.
The Roane County Commission on July 13 voted 8-7 to approve a budget that is supported by a tax rate increase of 30 cents.
But there is a risk, especially for the schools, that “something could happen, and all the votes are not there to increase taxes,” Roane County Executive Ron Woody said Friday.
State officials have taken over the reappraisal process in Roane County, and county officials don’t have a certified rate from the state yet. When they get one, they’ll have to have a public hearing on it and adopt it. Woody said it could be September before the county sets a tax rate. Tax bills go out in October.
He said the budget is final, but it can be amended and anyone on the winning side of the July 13 vote could make a motion to reconsider what was a narrow win for a tax increase.
Woody said there could be an eight-cent adjustment in the certified tax rate, and the 30 cents endorsed by County Commission would be in addition to that increase.
Woody has said that:
- 20 cents of the 30-cent increase goes to school operations,
- 2 cents goes to school capital,
- 2 cents goes to ambulance operations,
- 1 cent goes to ambulance capital,
- 2 cents goes to recycling, and
- 3 cents goes to the general fund, mostly in government, including for veterans services and a contract requested by the sheriff for counseling to reduce the female jail population.
Voting for the budget were Steve Kelley of Oak Ridge, Commission Chair James Brummett of Oliver Springs, and commissioners David Bell, Bobby Collier, Randy Ellis, Carolyn Granger, Chris Johnson, and Todd Fink.
The tax rate in Rocky Top increased 34 cents on top of the 6-cent increase in the certified tax rate, City Recorder Tyler Mayes said Friday.
The vote was 3-2, with Mayor Michael Lovely and Council members Denise Casteel and Andrew Howard voting “yes” and Vice Mayor Shain Vowell and Council member Tim Sharp voting “no.”
Mayes said Council members wanted to tackle the huge need for paving in the city. Rocky Top has low property assessments, so each penny on the tax rate generates about $2,000. That compares to about $80,000 per penny in Oak Ridge and about $152,000 in Anderson County.
Most Oak Ridge residents live in Anderson County, but the western portion of the city is in Roane County. Oak Ridge officials here have been waiting for the Roane County reappraisals to be completed before adopting a new budget and setting a new tax rate.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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