- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—OAK RIDGE — City Council in a 5-2 vote on first reading during Monday’s special session voted to keep the Oak Ridge property tax rate unchanged when the new tax-neutral certified rate is factored into the equation.

The vote to adopt a $2.52 per $100 assessed value tax rate came after numerous workshops and revisions to the city’s budget.

Council members had earlier let it be known they were against a tax hike, especially since Anderson and Roane counties, along with three Anderson County cities, had increased their levies.

Council members Trina Baughn and Rick Chinn made an 11th-hour effort to trim the tax rate by two cents, but they were the only members of the panel to vote in favor of that move.

A key breakthrough in budget talks came when Chinn proposed increasing the amount that residents pay for residential trash pickup. At present, city residents pay $7 a month for that service, and the city is picking up the tab for the remaining $7 monthly cost.

“I think we need to do what the rest of Tennessee’s cities do,” Chinn said. “Let the users pay the fees.”

His move to double that monthly charge failed, but a compromise motion, to boost the charge to $10.50 a month, was approved in another 5-2 vote.

That shifting of costs freed up some $335,000 off the city’s accounting ledger, which in turn opened the way for Vice Mayor Ellen Smith’s measure to add $266,000 to a capital projects fund for both city roadwork and school building repairs.

Council members during the meeting bemoaned the city’s worsening street conditions, and Smith acknowledged that the additional money would only be a “drop in the budget with respect to the capital needs of the city.”

Other moves to keep the keep the tax rate unchanged included trimming the school system’s request for additional funding by about half, to $325,000.

Still, that funding level is equivalent to a 2 percent pay raise for school teachers and noncertified staff. School officials had sought 3 percent rates.

The new budget also includes funding for 2 percent rates for city employees. Next up: second reading of the financial blueprint for the fiscal year that started July 1. That meeting is set for next Monday.

While the current fiscal year tax rate is $2.39, the latest reappraisal showed an unprecedented decrease in land and building values of 4 percent on average. The certified property tax rate — the revenue-neutral rate needed to generate the same amount of funds — had to increase by 13 cents.


(c)2015 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.)

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