BY SARAH GREGORY
Town of Greeneville residents could end up paying three cents per $100 of assessed value more on their Greene County property taxes if an option being explored by a Greene County Commission committee moves forward -- a proposal that bothers Greeneville Mayor W.T. Daniels, he said during the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting on Tuesday.
Prior to the meeting's start, Daniels took a moment to comment on the Town's 2013-2014 budget development process.
His comments kicked off a 10-minute discussion with the board about an option being explored by the Greene County Commission's Budget and Finance Committee in shaping the county's 2013-2014 budget.
"A number of concerned citizens" have called his office to question the county committee's proposal that would add three cents to the Greene County property tax rate for residents inside the Greeneville city limits, Mayor Daniels said.
"Making a few changes can affect the inside [city limits] ratepayer, and I'm not pleased with that in any way, shape, or form," Daniels said.
"From what I understand, the county is considering taking three cents from the county property tax rate and moving it from commitment to the [Greene County] schools' indebtedness and moving it over to the county's general budget," City Administrator Todd Smith said.
"What that means -- from what I understand -- is that the city residents, the inside rate of the county property tax, will thereby increase by three cents," he explained.
"Three cents [would be] taken away from the [county Education Debt Service Fund] to the [county] General Fund, and that means three cents will be added to city residents on their county property tax," Smith said, summarizing,
"It's a bit of a property tax increase on the county property tax [for inside-Greeneville property-owners]."
The total county property tax rate paid by property-owners outside Greeneville would not change if the three cents were simply shifted from one county fund to another county fund.
(Property-owners outside Greeneville pay the entire county tax rate on each $100 of assessed value -- not the appraised value -- of their real property.
(Property-owners inside Greeneville, because they are county residents as well as Greeneville residents, pay all parts of the county property tax rate except the part of the overall rate that is allocated to the county's Education Debt Service Fund.
(Greeneville property-owners do not pay that one part of the overall county levy since that part goes entirely to pay off the county schools' indebtedness, and Greeneville, of course, operates and funds its own school system.)
TO WHAT EFFECT?
"It's not really going to affect their [the county's] budget much," Alderman Darrell Bryan said, asking what revenue would be generated from the change.
"I think the total I saw was $200,000," Smith replied.
If the three cents of the overall county property tax rate is moved from one fund to another as proposed, the additional property tax revenue from property-owners inside the city limits is expected to be $120,000, county Budget Director Mary Shelton said during meetings of the county's Budget and Finance Committee.
A total of approximately $360,000 is expected to be generated from Greene County property taxpayers both inside and outside the Greeneville city limits by reallocating three cents from the county's Education Debt Service Fund to the county's General Fund.
Most of the county government's operations are paid for through the County General Fund -- including services which benefit Greeneville residents as well as other Greene Countians, such as the Greene County Sheriff's Department, the Greene County Detention Center, and county administrative and court-related offices.
None of these county departments or offices receive funds from the Town of Greeneville.
ALL FOR COUNTY USE
Alderman Keith Paxton pointed out that a portion of the revenue raised from the part of the overall county property tax rate that is devoted to the operations of the Greene County School System goes to the Greeneville City School System.
Smith explained, however, that, in the case of the proposed shift of three cents from the county's Education Debt Service Fund to the County General Fund, the Greeneville schools would not receive any of the resulting revenue.
"If they were funding for an increase that went toward the [operations of the] county schools ... a portion of that would come back to the city school system. But this is not that scenario," Smith explained.
"Basically," Mayor Daniels said, "we are talking about funding their [the Greene County School System's] debt service, which we -- because we have our own system that we fund -- we're not obligated for that."
He added, "But by making this kind of maneuver -- if they put it over in the General Fund, we are obligated."
Daniels said it would create, in effect, a three-cent raise in county property taxes for city residents only. The county property tax rate on property outside Greeneville would neither increase nor decrease as a result of the shift.
"If you want to break it down per penny [of the property tax rate], I think each penny generates about $44,000 a year. If you're talking three cents, you're talking a little more than $120,000," Daniels said.
"The thing that bothers me about the whole process," he continued, "is that we busted our behinds here [in the city], balancing our budget without a tax increase.
"It didn't just happen. We made a lot of changes over the last three years to get to the point that we didn't have to have a tax increase this year."
"I wanted to mention that," he told the aldermen, because "I don't think we should sit here on our hands, because we are here to represent the taxpayer of the city.
"I feel like we got our house in order, and it bothers me to think that the taxpayer of the city is going to have to all of a sudden -- all of a sudden, we've got another tax increase.
"That's the way I look at it," Daniels said.