A workshop likely to be scheduled in the coming weeks will allow Greeneville officials to gather with Greene County and other municipal leaders to review existing partnerships and discuss responsibilities and future needs.
The Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday directed that the workshop be scheduled as soon as possible as it weighs its response to a 16-cent increase in the Greene County property tax rate only for landowners inside town limits.
“Needless to say, I am not too happy about that,” Mayor W.T. Daniels said about the tax increase during the board’s meeting Tuesday. “I would like to suggest and recommend that we set up a workshop and talk about the structure of within our relationships with the county and other municipalities. I think it will be good to get a better understanding of what our responsibilities are. It is important to get together in a workshop atmosphere to discuss these particulars.”
Many joint ventures between Greeneville and Greene County go back many years and may need to be revisited, Daniels said.
Partnerships include Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services, Greene County 911, Greeneville-Greene County Public Library and the Greene County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, among others.
Other decades-old joint ventures have been abandoned in recent years, with the Town of Greeneville assuming sole oversight of what is now Greeneville Municipal Airport and pulling out of its partnership with Greene County for custodianship over Kinser Park, situated on federal Tennessee Valley Authority land. A third-party manager operates the park, with the county government providing oversight.
Invitations to the discussions are also expected to be extended to municipal leaders from the towns of Mosheim and Baileyton and City of Tusculum.
“It will good to have a workshop to better define our roles and relationships,” Alderman Scott Bullington said, agreeing about the need for a work session. Adjustments to partnership agreements may be needed, as conditions have changed, he said.
Alderman Jeff Taylor said it would be an opportunity to talk about Greeneville’s and Greene County’s visions for the future.
“What is the county’s business plan in relation to its relationship with the Town of Greeneville?” he asked. “What is it that the county needs from us? The city and county have changed and the community has changed. It will be good to do this before budget time and not when there may be a shortfall someone is facing. It is best for the governments to come together and better understand what the cities and county want for their citizens. It is the right thing to do.”
The town has already taken one step in response to the property tax increase imposed by the Greene County Commission in June.
On Monday, the town submitted an invoice to the Greene County Mayor’s Office requesting $2.84 million from the county. It contends that amount is the town’s share of the county’s education debt service, now that the property tax has been increased.
That amount is based on the current outstanding Greene County School System debt service, $8.8 million, multiplied by the Greeneville School System’s average student daily attendance percentage of .323. The invoice seeks payment of the funds by Aug. 1, and asks that all checks be made payable to Greeneville City Schools.
County officials have said that they are doing “due diligence” and seeking governmental and legal counsel as to whether the commission’s actions regarding the property tax rate are correct.
The commission’s June 17 decision to equalize property tax rates for landowners inside and outside of Greeneville limits was split by a vote of 12 in favor and 9 against. Equal “inside” and “outside” rates have not been levied locally in at least four decades.
With the single tax rate, Greene County’s property tax rate for Greeneville property owners increased about 16 cents from the previous year. Those outside corporate limits did not see an increase, as the “outside” for the previous fiscal year was $2.0145.
The rationale for the two rates, historically, was that since the town had its own school system, Greeneville property owners should not be taxed for county schools’ capital projects.
However, in the county’s 2019-20 budget, the county debt service is designated to be paid through a portion of the local option sales tax, rather than from property tax.
Whether the town’s school system should be provided a share of the what the county has borrowed for school bonds is now a source of contention between the two local governments.
Greene County has looked to the professionals at the University of Tennessee’s County Technical Advisory Service. Meanwhile, the town has been conferring with UT’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service, said Alderman Buddy Hawk.
“There seems to be a disagreement over some funding,” he said. “It is the judgment of these folks on the position both should take. We have dealt with this before, and I like the viewpoint of the city rather than the county. We might be in a better position.”
In talks with MTAS, City Administrator Todd Smith said the town was told that it did have a strong position.
There is not an argument about whether the county can use the sales tax. The source of contention is whether — now that the property tax has been set an equal level — does the county have to share the debt service, Smith said.
“I don’t know if that exact question has been asked to CTAS,” he said.
Hawk said that there had been discussion of whether revenues would have to be shared when the county was considering a school bond a few years ago, but nothing changed then.
The tax increase approved by the county has kept his phone ringing, Hawk added.
“I don’t think in all my years as an alderman that I have gotten as many calls and comments from folks as I have about the tax increase” he said.
Alderman Keith Paxton said he has also received many calls from citizens with concerns about the tax hike and possible further increases in the future if the county decides to build new schools.
The Greene County Board of Education has approved a facilities plan that calls for the construction of two new high schools — one in 2025 and another in 2035.
It will be good to have the workshop to see what the county is considering about future school projects and funding, Paxton said.
“Are they going to raise the city taxes to pay for county schools?” he asked. “We need to see if they are starting a pattern of raising taxes. That would be terrible for the city tax base.”
The town has its own infrastructure and schools to maintain, and future county tax increases could make that difficult, Paxton said.
That infrastructure, Daniels said, was built and is maintained by the town so that businesses and industries can operate in the community and generate sales tax.
Comments insinuating that the town is the sole benefactor of sales tax revenue are not true, as the county gets a share, Daniels said.
“But, the town also has to provide the infrastructure for growth as well as police and fire protection,” Daniels said, adding that those expenses cannot all be covered by sales tax revenue.
The 16-cent increase is a significant amount, Daniels said.
“All I am asking is to give me a reason why,” he said. “If you are going to raise taxes, give me a reason why.”
Daniels said one action to consider would be asking the county to provide funds for school resource officers as one way of compensating the town and its taxpayers for the increase.
Final preparations are underway for the Town of Greeneville’s seventh annual American Downtown Fourth of July celebration.
This year’s celebration will include the town’s first nighttime parade, and most festivities, including a diverse musical lineup, are moving to the newly completed amphitheater at the center of Walters State Community College’s Niswonger Center, town officials said.
Festivities begin at 2 p.m. Thursday with “4th of July Dash for DI” 5K race to benefit the educational program Destination Imagination. Live music will kick off, along with the opening of the kids zone and food vendors, at 3 p.m.
After a day of music, food and fun events, the American Downtown Fourth of July parade will begin at 9:15 p.m. A fireworks display at Greeneville High School will follow, a town news release said.
Organizers have been working closely with WSCC officials preparing the amphitheater to welcome the entire community and visitors for a day full of fun celebration, Amy Rose, the town’s public relations manager, said.
“We think this will be the perfect place to celebrate ‘American Downtown,’” Rose said. “There’s plenty of space for everyone to bring their chairs and listen to some great music, enjoy some delicious food, and cool off in the breezeway at the kids zone.”
The Computer Pros Kids Zone will be hopping with inflatables, computer games, interactive stations and other activities, the release said. Games include “Fortnite,” a racing simulator and a flight simulator, and there will be more fun with water balloons, bubbles, a coloring station, toy golf and bowling, bucket ball, ring toss and “Pin the Hat on the President” activities.
“American Downtown” is one of several events in 2019 celebrating the 150th anniversary of President Andrew Johnson’s return from Washington D.C.
Grand Marshals of the parade are Tim Massey and Caroline Blanks as re-enactors portraying Johnson and his daughter, Martha Johnson Patterson. During her father’s administration, Martha served as the White House hostess due to the illness of her mother, Eliza McCardle Johnson. Martha also directed the restoration of the White House, explained Massey, a well-known re-enactor, columnist and historian.
The theme of the Andrew Johnson Bank Parade is “There’s No Place Like Home,” a phrase reportedly used by Johnson when he returned to Greeneville.
The parade is scheduled to launch at sunset, or around 9:15 p.m., organizers said.
The route is the same as last year: From Towne Square Shopping Center, the procession will turn right onto Summer Street, left onto Main Street, right onto Tusculum Boulevard, and end at Greeneville High School.
Lineup will begin at 8:15 p.m. at Towne Square Shopping Center. Judging will be held at 8:45 p.m. with three monetary prizes: $100 for first place, $50 for second place, and $25 for third place. Entries being judged must be in the designated lineup area no later than 8:45 p.m., the release said.
Entries are asked to enter Towne Square Shopping Center from Irish Street, near Monterrey Mexican Restaurant.
Participants are encouraged to use patriotic decor, dress in patriotic clothing, and follow the theme of “There’s No Place Like Home.”
With the nighttime schedule, entries also are asked to incorporate lights, but no fireworks, including sparklers, are allowed.
Entries include floats, veterans groups, specialty vehicles, pageant winners, emergency agencies, elected officials, and a large American flag carried by the Greeneville Hiking Club.
Before the parade, the final musical act on the Waste Industries Main Stage is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.
The stage schedule includes:
Other entertainment includes performances by Central Ballet at 4:30 p.m. and liturgical dancer Tiffany Yonz at 6 p.m., the release said.
One of the most entertaining parts of the annual celebration is the Top Dog Hot Dog Eating Contest, scheduled this year at 6:30 p.m., organizers said.
Competitors have five minutes to eat the provided hot dogs and buns. They are allowed to bring their own non-alcoholic beverages.
Competitors must be 18 or older, and the entry fee is $10.
The grand prize is $200, and the second-place prize is $100. Both awards are provided by Tony Jones Termite & Pest Control.
Organizers invite everyone to come hungry and enjoy a variety of menu items from the food vendors:
To register for the “4th of July Dash for D”I 5K race, visit www.eventbrite.com or register beginning at 1 p.m. on Main Street at WSCC. For more information on the race, call Matt Hensley at 423-972-7858.
Other sponsors of American Downtown are Ballad Health, Gateway Ford Lincoln Nissan, Marsh Propane, Apex Bank, Forward Air, General Morgan Inn, Greeneville Federal Bank, Greeneville Light & Power System, Greeneville Oil & Petroleum, Meco Corporation, Consumer Credit Union, Food City, Greeneville Real Estate & Auction Team, Heritage Community Bank, John Deere Power Products, Summers-Taylor, Walmart Logistics, and The Beard Guy & Friends Beard Co.
More event details are available at the “American Downtown 2019” event at www.facebook.com/TownofGreeneville or www.greenevilletn.gov.
Downtown Greeneville is a vision of red, white and blue this week, as dozens of American flags line Main Street in celebration of Independence Day.
This year Main Street: Greeneville partnered with Heritage Community Bank to provide 81 American flags for each of the available holders downtown. Heritage purchased the flags from the Greeneville Exchange Club and donated them to Main Street: Greeneville to be used throughout the year, a news release said.
“The American flag symbolizes our country’s heritage; As our name is Heritage Community Bank, we display the same heritage our country offers to the community,” a news release said. “The downtown American flag donation is a way to give back to the community who have trusted Heritage Community Bank for the past 15 years.”
The bank is also offering an American flag kit for anyone who opens an account with them, whether it be home or office, the release said.
“We are happy with the contribution that Heritage Community Bank has made to both Main Street: Greeneville and our community,” said Sarah Webster, Main Street: Greeneville board president. “We thank them for this partnership.”
Ahead of Fourth of July festivities, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office is reminding residents about the dangers associated with consumer fireworks. The SFMO urges Tennesseans to leave the fireworks to the experts this Independence Day.
“Watching a fireworks display is a fun Fourth of July tradition for many Tennesseans,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Interim Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Carter Lawrence. “To ensure you and your family have a fun and safe Independence Day, we encourage consumers to join other community members in attending public fireworks displays that are put on by licensed professionals.”
Shooting fireworks at home brings risks to lives, health, and property. According to the National Fire Protection Association, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks each Fourth of July holiday.
According to Tennessee fire data, fireworks caused 419 unintended fires that resulted in over $1 million in property damage from 2014-2018. Additionally, one civilian injury and three firefighters were injured in fireworks-related accidents during the same time period.
If you choose to shoot fireworks yourself, familiarize yourself with local fireworks laws first. Several counties and cities in the Volunteer State have ordinances and restrictions related to fireworks usage, a news release said.
Before purchasing or detonating fireworks, the SFMO urges residents to check with their local police or fire department to determine local laws about fireworks.
In addition to local laws, Tennessee has several state laws pertaining to fireworks:
If consumer fireworks are legal where you live and you decide to set them off on your own, be sure to follow these important safety tips:
For more fire safety information, visit tn.gov/fire.