By CLIFF HIGHTOWER
On Friday, several members of the Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen said they were willing to have a discussion about a property tax increase.
Mayor Rick Graham said Friday the thought had already been in his mind.
“I was planning to get the budget balanced first, then have a discussion of a property tax increase that would be 100 percent dedicated to our many road projects, and other capital improvements projects,” Graham said in a statement.
The board is now digesting the possibility of a property tax increase after Alderman Matt Fitterer proposed it on Thursday in an open letter to the public. Fitterer suggested the city needs to raise property taxes by 15 cents. He said this increase would help keep firefighters and police officers from leaving and fund the widening of U.S. Highway 31.
The board approved on first reading the 2017-2018 fiscal year budget two weeks ago and is currently in the finalization process. The board will meet Monday for a regularly scheduled workshop then will have a special-called meeting on June 13. A vote on second reading and approval will then take place on June 19.
The city has not had a property tax increase since 2006 and additional money is now needed to keep up with inflation and growth, Fitterer said.
Graham said in his statement the city’s current budget and sales tax is enough to sustain current levels and to grow personnel. He said if any additional revenues are brought in, they need to be solely dedicated to capital improvement projects and, specifically, roads.
“I believe our citizens are willing to pay more if it is used for our roads,” he said.
Alderman Chad Whittenburg said Friday that he wants to see how the budget pans out.
“First, and foremost, I’d like to see a balanced budget and see what’s required for additional revenue,” he said.
Whittenburg said it is inevitable at some point to raise taxes.
“As it relates to the property tax question, whether it’s now or further in the future, this is something we will have to face,” he said.
Alderman Kevin Gavigan said Friday that he was elected on the premise of improving infrastructure to the city. He acknowledged that Fitterer’s proposal has laid out an “opportunity for Spring Hill to make significant strides” toward those improvements.
“However, I would prefer to also have this discussion around an increase of impact fees from new development,” Gavigan said. “To me, increasing impact fees would more clearly benefit both priorities of limiting explosive growth and enhancing infrastructure.”
Gavigan said he will listen to the constituents in his ward to come up with his answer.
“If my Ward 3 folks give me a proverbial thumbs up, I’ll support it,” he said.
Cliff Hightower can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @CliffHightower.