County commissions don't always agree, but several members of the Budget Committee appear to be on the same page that it's not if the county will need to raise property taxes, but by how much in the upcoming budget.
The idea of raising property taxes has been a dark cloud on the horizon for months now, but capital projects such as expansion with the school system, possible health insurance rate increases and growth in all districts may mean the revenues will have to increase to pay for them.
But it was not all bad news, as Finance Director Aaron Maynard said the amount of revenue a one-penny increase in property tax has gone up due to recent reappraisals.
During May's meeting, he informed commissioners that a one-cent increase would generate approximately $310,000 in revenue. During this month's meeting, he said a one-penny increase would generate approximately $370,000.
Wilson rate lower than neighbors
Maynard pointed out that Wilson County's property tax rate is lower than similar neighboring counties, at $2.16 Maynard said, compared to $2.48 for Rutherford, $2.50 for Sumner, $2.31 for Williamson and $2.97 for Montgomery County.
He added that many of those counties have recently applied large tax hikes: Davidson up 50 cents, Rutherford up more than 30 cents and a 42-cent hike in Sumner County in recent years.
However, County Mayor Randall Hutto said he had a conversation with Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson who warned that the adjusted tax rate after a reappraisal may not bring in as much as revenue as projected.
"Anderson says the certified tax rate doesn't bring in as much a year or two after a reappraisal," Hutto told the Budget Committee. He said he would hate to have to raise taxes just to get revenues back to the level they were before reappraisals.
'Taking care of employees first'
As commissioners prepare for the dirty work of the budget, department heads are being asked to submit their needs for budget considerations. Many have already submitted them, while more departments are still expected.
District 15 Commissioner Mike Justice said he wanted to "take care of the employees first" before they consider the needs of each department. Specifically, he is speaking of increasing the pay for county employees to compete with neighboring counties.
"Every year, it seems we say we are going to take care of the employees, and every year it seems it gets cut because we don't have anything left," Justice said. "I want to do it backwards this year. I want to take care of the employees first."
Justice added that for some positions, the difference in pay are drastic.
"Some of the things I've seen are shameful, to go 15-20 miles and make $8 more an hour.
"Four out of the six employees who left recently said they loved working in Wilson County, but they couldn't afford to stay. We have got to quit losing good employees. We are paying to train them, then they are leaving. It's killing us," he said, rubbing his brow.
Follow-up meetings set
To continue budget discussions, committee members set the following dates:
June 20, 4 p.m.- Education Committee meeting to discuss schools budget
June 20, 7 p.m.- Regular-scheduled County Commission meeting
June 23, 28 5 p.m.- Budget Committee department needs hearings
July 7, 7 p.m.- Regular-scheduled Budget Committee meeting
July 12, 14, 18, 5 p.m.- Budget Committee meetings to discuss department needs
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