Beware, Johnson City taxpayers. The state General Assembly is currently rushing to pass legislation that could ultimately result in an increase to your city property tax bill. Last week, the state House of Representatives passed a bill that lets property owners decide if they want to be annexed into established municipal growth boundaries.
The legislation now goes to the state Senate, where it’s expected to receive strong support. Even so, it’s just not good public policy.
The annexation law went through a thorough update in the late 1990s to establish urban growth boundaries for all municipalities and counties in Tennessee. These boundaries allow a municipality to grow its residential and commercial base, which in turn grows the municipality’s property and sales tax base. Annexation is the tool used to accomplish this task. Shackling towns and cities to a referendum would be counterproductive.
In short, every Johnson City resident should be alarmed by this proposed change to the existing annexation law. By not allowing a city to grow and expand its property tax base, state lawmakers who support this bill (including the bill’s primary sponsor, state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough) are potentially placing an additional tax burden on the shoulders of that city’s residents.
There is a reason Johnson City taxpayers have not seen a property tax increase in more than a decade, and that reason is linked solidly to the current annexation law, which makes sense beyond the fiscal considerations. Johnson City should be at the forefront of how important gateways to the city are developed. It must protect these boundaries, particularly those in the growing Gray area.
The city has a fire station near the Gray Fossil Site. It is there to serve those areas already inside the city’s limits near the Bobby Hicks Highway and Interstate Highway 26. The city also has plans to develop nearby Keefauver Farm as a municipal park.
This is where Johnson City is growing. As such, the city has a duty to see that the development is orderly and sound. Failure to do so could be costly to the city’s taxpayers down the road.
And again, this is the point we urge every Johnson City resident to take to heart: Not allowing cities to grow as they should will place a greater burden on existing city taxpayers.