At a special-called meeting on Thursday, March 2, county commissioners discussed potential scenarios for tax increases for the fiscal year 23-24.
Assessor of Property Matthew Lewis opened the preliminary budget discussion by describing how Johnson County is currently undergoing an index study mandated by the state and explained that property is reappraised every five years. The ratios are calculated two years after an appraisal and one year before a reappraisal.
According to Lewis, the ratio comes out to be either more or less than one, with one indicating no change, either negative or positive. A ratio of less than one signifies change.
Lewis stressed that the ratio number won’t alter the value of the real property between appraisals but could change the value of personal property and public utilities.
Although the actual ratio number from the Tennessee State Board of Equalization won’t be released until April, Director of Accounts Russell Robinson predicted that this year’s number would be less than one.
Robinson presented three different scenarios in which the tax dollar could be increased by 18, 20, or 22 cents. This would bring the tax dollar to $1.98, $2.01, and $2.03, respectively.
“This is not the information that I wanted to see,” said Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter. “There hasn’t been a tax increase in seven years, but it’s here now.”
According to Robinson, the county’s expenses are beginning to exceed the current budget. The county is expanding its budget for public services, as the Fire Department, Rescue Squad, and EMS have asked for additional support.
Other factors that contribute to a potential tax increase include inflation on the cost of custodial supplies, insurance, utilities, an upcoming presidential preference primary election, and maintaining the transfer station—which, Robinson explained, is operating at a deficit.
Robinson suggested that raising the sales tax to an even percentage could translate to more money for the county. The current sales tax is 8.5%, but the county’s local option tax is 1.5 percent.
This means that the state keeps 7 percent of the money generated from the sales tax, and the county gets 1.5 percent.
Since off-dollar transactions are rounded up at the register, Robinson argued that the county is missing out on money because the state isn’t obligated to send anything over 1.5 percent back to the county. Prior to 2020, Robinson estimated that the half-percent local option tax has resulted in roughly $500,000 lost in revenue.
As the preliminary budget discussion came to a close, Robinson asked the new commissioners to help relay the information to their constituents. “We need to do our job as legislators to educate the public,” Robinson said. “We do not need to be in ‘28 or ‘29, raising 30 cents on the tax rate.”
After the budget discussion, the commissioners went into an executive discussion regarding the Inmate Medical Contract Addendum at the Johnson County jail. Following the session, the contract addendum was approved.
The county commissioners will meet again in a public session on March 16 at 6 p.m.