Ken Lee’s Property Tax Analysis
By Ken Lee
2023 Budget and Tax stuff
Each year the Blount County (BC) administration proposes the annual budget (the fiscal year is July – June) and the tax rate necessary to fulfill the budget. The proposed budget and tax rate are released in May for informational purposes which allows the County Commission (and the public) the chance to review before the Commission votes on the items in the June Commission meeting.
This year there is also a property reappraisal effort by the County Assessor. The state of Tennessee provides the County, in years of reappraisal, with a certified tax rate, which maintains the County tax revenue the same as the previous year. As property values rise, the BC administration should propose a lower tax rate both to keep budgets in check, but also to avoid undue pressure on homeowners to pay additional property taxes.
|Reappraisal in 2015||Reappraisal in 2019||Reappraisal in 2023|
|Tax Rate – prior year||2.15||2.47||2.47|
|Adopted Tax Rate||2.47||2.47||???|
|Percentage Higher (adopted over certified)||16%||9.6%||???|
In both of the last two reappraisal periods (2015 and 2019), the BC administration recommended, and the Commission approved, a tax rate significantly higher than the certified rate. As you can see, in 2015, the certified rate was very close to the prior year tax rate, which implies that property values did not dramatically appreciate. Yet the elected officials raised taxes 16%. In 2019, property values went up about 10% and elected officials raised taxes about 10%. This year property values went up an average of about 60% county-wide.
The budget for 2023-2024 is in the May 2023 Budget Committee agenda for the meeting on May 9, 2023. At the moment, there is no valid information present.
- There is a draft County appropriation, which is exactly the same as last year – so it is an inaccurate estimate
- For example, BC school budget was 106M last year, and they have already asked for 124M this year – a 17% increase. But those data are not shown.
- There is a proposed resolution, signed by the Commissioners, to approve a tax rate higher than the certified rate of 1.5932.
- There is a Tax Levy resolution draft which does not show that property tax allocation to each fund.
- What will the Budget Committee vote on at the May 9 meeting (in two days)? None of the documents are current or show valid estimates. Is it expected that the Budget Committee members blindly accept whatever the administration puts forth, without sufficient time to review, comment, push back, and negotiate?
- Is there any effort made by the Commission to push back on budget items, school appropriations, or tax rate calculations? The Commission is presented with a one-year snapshot view of the budget. How are they supposed to understand trends, patterns, and changes in line items year over year? There has NEVER been a request from the Commission for the administration to show multi-year data. And, certainly the public does not see it. The administration does not offer such a view.
- History shows that the administration and Commission simply agree, without much discussion, on tax rates and budgets. Why is this? Who is holding who accountable? When, if ever, are questions allowed or asked on why budget items are what they are?