Thursday, May 31, 2012
The Red Bank City Commission received little opposition from residents attending a special-called meeting intended to gather public input on the city’s budget for the coming year. Mayor Monty Millard asked citizens for their opinion on a proposed 25-cent property tax increase as well as a hike in garbage fees.
Interim City Manager John Alexander said the last property tax increase, which was 4 percent, occurred in 2004. With the proposed 25-cent increase, he said a home assessed at $150,000 would pay $94 more in property taxes.
He said the big-ticket budget item is paving the city’s streets, including main roads such as Dayton Boulevard as well as 55-60 side streets.
“We think it’ll encourage property values to go up,” he said of improvements made to the roads, adding that he hopes the new middle school will also draw young families to the area.
A decline in the city’s population is causing its share of state sales tax dollars to decrease in the coming year, another reason the property tax increase was proposed. Millard said a lack of census participation by residents is partly to blame for the perceived decrease in population.
Among the city’s other planned expenditures are resurfacing the tennis courts, adding a full-time codes enforcement officer, purchasing a leaf machine and maintenance work on City Hall such as replacing the roof and fixing numerous leaks, according to Alexander.
Officials budgeted $50,000 to raze abandoned homes, which with asbestos removal averages around $10,000 apiece to tear down, said Alexander. Red Bank will also purchase three new police cars and a new fire truck.
With the discontinuation of Tennessee American Water’s agreement with the city to bill garbage services for area municipalities, Vice-Mayor John Roberts said the responsibility of collecting fees will belong to the city starting Oct. 31.
Officials propose to collect the fees in-house, but expressed some concern about how to deal with unpaid fees.
“This is trial-and-error,” said Millard. “We’ve never been down this road before.”
He said residents who do not pay the $48 quarterly fee will receive a notice and likely have their trash can taken away until the fee is paid.
Maxine McKenzie, among the one-fifth of Red Bank residents whose garbage fees are currently being collected by Hixson Utility District as opposed TAW, asked officials if that utility planned to stop billing garbage fees as well.
Millard responded Hixson would continue to bill those residents it already serves, though fees will be raised $4 per month from the previous $12 fee. Everyone in Red Bank will be charged the same amount for services, he said.
Resident David Hafley asked city commissioners why they needed to increase fees if the city was saving the $16,000 it otherwise would have paid TAW for billing services.
Alexander said the city’s goal is to break even, as it was forced to spend $46,000 from the general fund on garbage service last year.
Hafley also questioned the city’s decision to pave such a large number of roads in one year.
“It seems a two- or three-year program would be a more reasonable approach,” he said, adding he was pleased with the city’s addition of a dedicated codes enforcement officer.
The budget is not yet definite and must still pass a vote of city commissioners on first and second reading. The next meeting will be held at City Hall Tuesday, June 5 at 7 p.m.