ELIZABETHTON — City residents will be paying more property taxes next year, but should start seeing more streets being repaved.
In the final reading and public hearing Thursday night on the 2013-14 fiscal year budget ordinance, the Elizabethton City Council reversed course and agreed to a 4-cent increase in the property tax rate. The rate will go from $1.78 per $100 of assessed value this year to $1.82 next year. Council members were told that would generate $96,000 in additional revenue. The council decided that additional revenue will go to the Street Department to get more streets repaved next year.
Last month during the first reading on the budget ordinance, the council voted to retain the $1.78 tax rate.
The motion to increase the tax rate by 4 cents was made by Jeff Treadway, who said “my position is we need to stop the hemorrhaging and go in another direction on some of our infrastructure problems.”
Mayor Curt Alexander agreed. He said during the time that Sam LaPorte was mayor the council established a policy of repaving 10 percent of the city streets each year, so that all streets were repaved within each 10 years. He said that policy fell by the wayside during the past several years when the national economy was bad. He said repaving was always the first item to be cut.
City Manager Jerome Kitchens said it was an easy cut because there was noting noticeable in the first few years, but the accumulated affect is now noticeable.
“The situation is not going to get any better,” Treadway said.
The question was raised on what impact an additional $96,000 would have. Alexander said it would not be a lot, “but we are taking small steps in the right direction, effectively paving streets where its needed.”
The council approved Treadway’s motion and the property tax increase by a 6-1 vote. Nancy Alsup was the only member voting against the motions.
Street and Sanitation Director Danny Hilbert said his department already has a prioritized list of streets to be repaved.
“We are ready to begin whenever the city manager tells us to go to work,” Hilbert said.
In other matters, the city deferred several decisions affecting the Electric Department. These included a plan that would establish a utilities board to govern the city’s electric, water and sewer systems and a proposal to use a $3.48 million windfall from the Tennessee Valley Authority to make a one-time lump sum payment to a retirement plan for Electric Department employees.
Alexander expressed opposition to using the entire fund for the pension plan, which is now closed and affects only 97 employees. Utilities Director Johann Coetzee said the purpose was to reduce liability for the ratepayers.
The windfall came from a metering error that caused the city to be overcharged by TVA for several years. Kitchens said the error was caught by TVA auditors.