By ALEXANDER WILLIS
A public hearing has been scheduled next month for a proposed Williamson County property tax rate increase, which, if ultimately passed in July, would be the first increase the county has seen in over ten years.
First introduced by the board for Williamson County Schools, the proposed tax increase would see the current county rate of $2.15 per $100 of assessed value increase by 5 percent, coming to $2.26. This tax rate is separate from each city’s own tax rate, which is set by the respective municipality.
To be voted on July 8 by the County Commission, the proposal passed second reading last Thursday by the county’s Budget Committee, with members saying the increase was needed to help fund the school system’s operating budget, which includes things like salaries for teachers, administrative staff and board of education employees.
“The rest of the county’s budget was fine in terms of the current property tax rate,” said Budget Committee Chair Steve Smith. “The Board of Education budget, as presented, required additional pennies on the property tax rate to cover the shortfall in their operating budget to the pen of 11 cents.”
Smith continued to clarify that in terms of funding the actual construction of new schools, the county was in good shape thanks to things like the sales tax increase referendum passed last year, as well as the county’s impact fee passed in 2016 by the County Commission.
Regarding the impact fee, which saw various developers of Middle Tennessee file a lawsuit against the county in 2017, Smith said that the lawsuit had no bearing on the proposed tax increase proposed by the school board, as revenue generated from the fee are restricted to the construction of new schools and school additions, rather than the school’s operating budget.
“Nobody likes increasing taxes,” Smith said. “But by the same token, we have an obligation to educate the kids in the county and do it to the best of our abilities.”
Looking at the county tax rates for the past ten years, the rate has not seen an increase since at least 2008, technically decreasing in 2016 after the county’s reappraisal of property values. By state law, municipalities are required to reappraise property values every four to six years, and adjust the tax rate accordingly so that the revenue generated is the same as before the reappraisal. In other words, as property values increase over time, governments are required to adjust the rate as to generate the same revenue as the previous recorded property values.
The public hearing on the proposed county-wide tax increase is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on June 11 at the Administrative Complex, located at 1320 West Main Street, Franklin, TN 37064. The meeting is open to the public, and will have ample opportunity for public comment. The County Commission will vote on the proposal on July 8.