June 30, 2021
While areas are just really starting to open back up and return to some form of normalcy, Lenoir’s City Council chose to bypass the state’s property tax rate of $.08530 and keep theirs at 14 cents higher.
The initial decision to remain at this rate was introduced at the May meeting, where councilman Jim Shields indicated, “We’re not going to change the property tax rate, it’s going to stay where it’s been.” That sentiment was carried throughout the council as the original first reading was approved 4-0 even as they were still waiting on confirmed rates from the state for 2021-22.
According to Mayor Tony Aikens, the additional revenue would add about $500,000 to the city’s budget. With a new fire truck being acquired, there was a shortfall of $150,000 in addition to the department needing updated equipment. Additionally, new law enforcement personnel are needed to meet current demand, and Parks and Recreation need over $100,000.
The city’s finance director, Maggie Hunt, indicates property taxes will still be lower than nearby cities and have been continuously lower than the certified rate for over four years, even with their higher rate. With the cost of providing municipal services going up and everyday necessities costing more, a change was needed.
“We’re really stretched out,” says Don White, Police Chief. “We answer on average anywhere from 1,500 to 1,600 calls a month and still have to fill our vacation that’s required by the accrual.”
There were two city council members speaking positively about the property tax hike. Councilwoman Jennifer Wampler says, “I’m very proud of Lenoir City. We went over this with a fine-tooth comb to make sure we got everything we could out of our dollar.” As a long-term resident who really didn’t understand how things got done until becoming a councilwoman, her stance may help residents of Lenoir City feel a little better, but as families are still recouping losses from the pandemic, this may not be good news.