ELIZABETHTON — The Elizabethton City Council will be going into uncharted waters tonight when it deliberates on the first property tax rate increase in 19 years.
Previous discussions in workshops and votes taken during last month’s meeting indicate there is a general consensus among the council members that there must be an increase, but there is sharp division on how much.
Some members, such as Nancy Alsup and Sam Shipley, have argued for a more than a 40-cent increase under the new state certified tax rate. They have both argued that the rate will just have to be increased again next year if it is not set high enough. Shipley and Alsup said during the workshop sessions that they hope taxes will not have to be raised two years in a row.
Others such as Mayor Curt Alexander and Richard Tester are not willing to go higher than a 22-cent increase. The city’s certified rate is $1.56 per $100 of assessed value.
“We are still all over the board,” Alexander said of the current position of council members.
Alexander said he would prefer no increase in the property tax rate at all. He said the city will enjoy the freeing up of more than $600,000 that has been used for picking up garbage.
That money will become available if the council approves the second reading of an ordinance that would place a $10 per month fee per household for garbage collection. There will be a public hearing on the matter before the second and final vote is taken.
The council also will hold a public hearing and second reading on another increase in fees — an increase in the Water Capital Improvement Fee on the water bills of Elizabethton Water Department customers. The increase will raise the monthly fee from $4 to $10.
One other fee increase that has once been voted down — to raise the electric service charge for customers of the Elizabethton Electric System by $5 per month — is back on the agenda.
The increase is intended to replenish cash reserves of the utility that were depleted during the damage caused during a heavy snowstorm in 2009. The utility in seeking the additional reserves to help ensure adequate cash is on hand to cover the monthly purchase of electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority.