Alderman Whittenburg proposes tax and fee increases to fund city improvements


Alderman Whittenburg proposes tax and fee increases to fund city improvements

PHOTO: Alderman Chad Whittenburg discusses his proposed capital improvement plan at the Spring Hill Public Library on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.

By ALEXANDER WILLIS

Alderman Chad Whittenburg proposed an increase on a number of different tax rates and fees during a special called meeting Tuesday night at the Spring Hill Public Library.

This five-step proposal includes raising the adequate facilities tax, traffic impact fee, water and sewer reserve fees, and the water and sewer rates that Spring Hill residents pay. The proposal also includes adjusting the property tax. This capital improvement plan was proposed in lieu of Whittenburg’s original proposal of a 40-cent property tax rate increase.

This 10-year capital improvement plan would raise roughly $7.2 million a year in revenues for the city, or roughly $75 million over a 10 year period, according to Whittenburg.

Whittenburg began the meeting by saying he’s taking his proposed 40-cent property tax increase “off the table,” but said he would present an alternative plan to generate funds for the cities’ numerous infrastructure projects.

“We have a funding issue,” Whittenburg said. “We have hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of projects, many of them road projects. Obviously the road and infrastructure projects are needed, and they’re needed yesterday – and we do not have the money to fund it.”

City administrator Victor Lay began the presentation by sharing details about current and future development projects in the city. The Port Royal Road roundabout has an estimated cost of $1.2 million. The widening of Buckner Lane has a projected cost of $9.1 million, and the Spring Hill Public Library renovations come in at a projected $6.8 million.

“A lot of people are saying in their comments [to] ‘spend within our means,’ [or] ‘balance the budget.’ We work very hard every year to balance the budget,” Whittenburg said. “We have about a $22 million dollar general fund. We could wipe out the entire general fund and do away with everything, and it still doesn’t come close to getting what we need in infrastructure. To say ‘spend within your means’ and ‘use what we’ve got…’ it’s not there.”

The first step, Whittenburg explained, was adjusting the property tax to its current equalized rate. While the property tax rate would remain the same, the property values in Spring Hill would be updated, or equalized, and the property owners would pay a property tax rate based on that updated assessed value.

Since Spring Hill properties have been increasing in value over past years, most residents would see a slight increase in property tax. This would be significantly less the originally proposed 40-cent increase.

The second step involved raising the water and sewer rates by 20 percent for Spring Hill residents. This proposed increase would roll out gradually, increasing the rates by five percent each year over a five-year period. Whittenburg pointed out that the average water usage in homes of Spring Hill was 5,000 gallons a month; accounting for this average, the average water bill would only see an increase of roughly $2.30 a month.

The other three steps in the proposal were raising traffic impact fees, adequate facilities tax fees, and water and sewer development fees. These taxes and fees are mostly exclusive to property developers.

Traffic impact fees are fees imposed by local governments on developers of new development projects. These fees are requested in order to fund the required infrastructure required to accommodate the development project, such as roads, parks and sidewalks.  Whittenburg proposed that the traffic impact fees be increased by 200 percent for residential areas.

Home developer John Maher voiced his opposition of the proposal during the meeting, saying “We’re not solving the problem until everybody pays their share.”

“[In] Franklin right now [or] Brentwood, no high school [or] college graduate can come back to their hometown and buy a home,” Maher said. “That’s what you’re going to have in Spring Hill. The least amount that I can provide a house [for] right now is in the low to mid 300’s. You’re disproportionally putting it on one segment – the entry-level buyer in Spring Hill. We’re the most affordable spot in all of Williamson County. We’re disproportionally making them carry the burden, that we all know deep down, should be shared by everybody.”

This proposal will be voted on by the Board of Mayor and Alderman at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 18. The voting meeting will be held at city hall at 199 Town Center Parkway, and is open to the public.

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