But Farmer points out the unfairness of the present system.
“The residents of the City of Lebanon pay Wilson County taxes, just like everyone else who lives in our county,” Farmer said. “They are entitled to receive an equitable share of those taxes to fund essential services, just like the other communities in the county receive.”
Ward 4 Councilor Joe Hayes said he wouldn’t have much trouble supporting such a resolution, but he was concerned about possible loss of life.
“City taxpayers pay for all that equipment and then pay county taxes, too,” he said. “And right now finances are especially rough, but I don’t think we should stop if someone’s life is in danger. If it’s a situation with a big fire, say an apartment building and people’s lives are in danger, we could go, but not every little thing, like brush fires.”
Craighead agrees. “When the consequences could be loss of life, even a child’s life, I couldn’t tell them not to help.”
But Farmer noted that Lebanon citizens pay twice, once for their own fire service and once for the county, which includes Mt. Juliet.
“The citizens of Lebanon are funding their fire service with $3 million in city tax dollars,” Farmer said. “Whereas the citizens of Mt. Juliet are not funding their fire services with their city tax dollars, it is being funded by tax funds from the county, which includes taxes paid by the residents of Lebanon. That is simply not fair.
“As the county increases taxes over time, whether through impact fees or property taxes, the tax inequity for fire service between Lebanon residents and Mt. Juliet residents will increase as well,” Farmer said.
Mt. Juliet City Manager Randy Robertson said Tuesday that this is another example of the two cities not communicating as he’s “never been written, petitioned or approached by anyone in Lebanon about this.”
“This is another assumption that we know what they (Lebanon leaders) are talking about,” Robertson said. “My principle concern here is that this would be a great opportunity for us to talk. I’m not aware of any inequities in the tax structure, and the City of Lebanon has never sent me a bill for any fire services, ever.”
Farmer added, “As a result of a Resolution passed by the Lebanon City Council in February this year, the City had a special committee to meet with Wilson County officials and discuss the present tax inequity. Unfortunately, we have not been successful in resolving this issue.”
Farmer said, “Like many local governments, Lebanon has a serious challenge funding our budget, which includes our fire department. We cannot afford the inequities in the current system. If we cannot resolve this issue, then we need to eliminate the expense to the citizens of Lebanon of providing free fire protection to Mt. Juliet residents.”
Robertson chalked this up to an election talking point and said that Mt. Juliet’s tax dollars look the same as other municipalities in Wilson County, and “it was Lebanon’s decision to create their own fire department.”
“Mr. Farmer’s running for election in Lebanon,” Robertson stated. “To my knowledge, in my 11-month tenure at the City of Mt. Juliet, Lebanon has never done anything for the City of Mt. Juliet that I’m aware of, and our tax money looks the same as Lebanon’s, as Watertown’s, as it relates to WEMA. West Wilson County has more of a tax basis for what I’ve seen, and the citizens of Mt. Juliet pay taxes to the county just like Lebanon.” Craighead points out that he sees a fundamental difference between his view of government and that of his opponent, William Farmer.“I know the people feel the injustice in the county taxes, but I believe in working for cooperation and not throwing out ultimatums,” Craighead said. “Ultimatums only make it harder to get cooperation. They leave a bad taste in your mouth. That’s not what I think government is for. Government is here to serve not to fight each other.”
Editor’s Note: Tomi L. Wiley, managing editor of The Chronicle of Mt. Juliet, contributed to this article.