WAVERLY (AP) — A half-dozen Tennessee counties saw real properties values decrease with reappraisals this year, including Humphreys, a rural county about an hour west of Nashville with only about 19,000 residents.
Humphreys County Executive Jessie Wallace told WPLN-FM (http://bit.ly/nZfnMq ) that the loss of the Tennessee Valley Authority's New Johnsonville steam plant is contributing to the problem.
"They're (TVA) beginning to force our people out, to these other plants, and we're starting to see people move away, and nobody moving back in," Wallace said.
To make the county's $35 million budget, voters agreed last week to increase the sales tax in Humphreys to the state maximum. The change was controversial, not only because of the increase, but because it changed the distribution of the money between the county and its three cities, with Waverly, New Johnsonville and McEwen losing a quarter-cent of each dollar spent within their borders.
The county commission also passed a 32-cent property tax increase this week, after going 17 years without one. Wallace said the increase was necessary because of the recession.
"We're spending more," he said. "Our expenditures are exceeding our revenues. And we're being forced to dip into our fund balances at an unhealthy level. At a level that we are no longer able to sustain."
Tennessee counties reappraise their tax base every four to six years. Twenty went through the process this year and the other counties that saw property values decline were DeKalb, Jackson, Meigs, Sevier and Wilson.
The regular reappraisal program is required by state law and is designed to be revenue-neutral. That means when property values go up, the tax rate is automatically reduced so taxpayers owe the same amount they paid the previous year.
If property values go down, the tax rate automatically goes up.
In Tennessee, property taxes go solely to local governments.
Information from: WPLN-FM, http://www.wpln.org/