A budget and a property tax rate-increase passed the County Commission on Monday after a knock-down drag-out day of debate.
The budget passed and a property tax rate to fund it passed 13-8.
The marathon meeting, which started at 9 a.m. and adjourned a little before 4 p.m., included the passage of a $515.1 million county budget for the coming year and set the property tax rate at $2.15 per $100 of value.
The total expenditures for 2016-17 bests last year’s budget by nearly $42 million, while the tax rate represents about an 18 percent increase in actual money paid over last year.
“When going through the budget process, you are looking at all the expenditures, because that is what you base it on, not on revenue, and the majority of the commission said,’We don’t want to do it, we don’t like to do it, but we have to raise taxes to meet our obligations,” county mayor Rogers Anderson said.
The 2016 reappraisal assessed total property value in the county at about $11 billion, up from from about $9 billion in 2010- the time of the last appraisal.
The state requires counties to set their tax rate after each appraisal at a level that creates no net increase in dollars paid per property. So, while the tax rate in 2015 was $2.31, to pay the same dollars in taxes in 2016, based on the new appraisal, the rate would have to be $1.81. This is called the certified rate.
If a county wants to set taxes higher than the certified rate, they need to pass a special resolution- and the Commission did that Monday.
To be clear, it is only a gross increase, not a rate increase: while a property owner may pay more total taxes, their property also is worth more, as assessed, than it was last year.
“As budget chair I have worked to put this budget together and support it in its entirety,” Tommy Little, commissioner district, said.
However, the critics on the commission have called the tax rate passed to fund this budget, flatly, the largest single tax increase in Williamson County history.
The commissioners voting against the tax rate were largely the same who voted down the budget: Kathy Danner- District 4, Jeff Ford- District 6, Todd Kaestner- District 9, Gregg Lawrence- District 4, Sherri Clark- District 9, Brandon Ryan- District 11, Barbara Sturgeon, and Ricky Jones- District 1.
-Correction- an earlier version of this post did not have Brandon Ryan or Barb Sturgeon’s names on this list.
“I think it is way too much of an increase,” Kaestner said. “There are maybe three people on this commission who looked at the numbers in any kind of detail. We are giving wage increases of 4, 5 percent which is more than you see in the private sector. People use as an argument they love our employees, well, so do I but 5 percent last year and 4 percent last year is a 9 percent increase in the time I think private sector wages went up 1.5 or 2 percent.”
“Also we need to look at the school department,”he added. “And what is the cost per kid, and nobody does that. We kicked the can down ther road. But 18 percent? That is probably the biggest tax increase in the history of the county.”
Other commissioners echoed his sentient.
“This was one of the biggest tax increases in Williamson County history, and I felt like we needed to go back and find some areas of the budget where we could make some cuts,” said Lawrence.