By LISA WHALEY
Jonesborough Board of Mayor & Aldermen are considering a 5-cent property tax increase to offset a shortfall resulting from 2019’s Washington County tax reappraisal.
The BMA voted at the Thursday morning called meeting to consider readjusting the town’s property tax rate, which last year was 1.305 and this year was set by the state at $1.1328, to accommodate the change.
“We can’t take a financial loss because of reappraisal,” Mayor Chuck Vest told the board. “Our burden is to fix it, so we will fix it.”
At issue is the current challenges going on in Washington County from property owners who believe the 2019 property appraisals were much too high. A Washington County appeal assessment committee has been given the authority to hold hearings and make adjustments, according to Browning. Hearings are held in 15 minute intervals.
“They listen to what you say and they tell you within 45 days or so of their decision,” explained Alderman Virginia Causey, who was one of the Washington County property owners to challenge her assessment this year.
The problem arises because the tax rate — based on that new assessment on Washington County property — comes out in early June, while challenges are accepted to September, Browning said. That means the tax revenue number town staff have to work with in establishing the budget can change remarkably as properties are reassessed.
“I’m sure nobody appeals for their property tax to go up,” Browning pointed out.
According to Town Recorder Abby Miller, revenue was down $23,000 as of Friday and reassessments were still going on.
In anticipation of making the tax rate adjustment, the board approved the $1.13 rate, with plans to make the change to $1.20 at the next BMA meeting, set for Sept. 9. Current law requires the town to advertise the change for 10 days prior to the meeting.
Vest stressed that while some may call the plan an increase, it’s simply the town working to meet the needs of its citizens.
“The state with this rate. . .. and then when you go through a reappraisal process, you can come out in the negative,” Vest said. “And it’s really left us, the municipalities, to find that balance.
“We can’t provide less services for our growing population, so to make our town whole we probably need to be in the $1.20,” he said.
Vest believes the town is still maintaining a good balance by pairing a lean budget with appropriate needs provided.
“In my eyes, the rate is going down and the property tax the town receives will be the same,” he said, citing last year’s rate of $1.31.
In other business, the town voted to maintain most other town rates but to increase the garbage collection establishment rate by $10, from a $40 one-time fee to $50. The garbage pickup rate would remain the same.