|Commission nixes $5.6 million tax hike|
|Friday, July 20, 2012|
The full County Commission nixed a proposed 14-cent property tax hike in a 17-6 vote with one abstention. Comm. Paul Decker brought the motion with 10 cents (approximately $4 million) going to schools and four cents (approximately $1.6 million) going to the county general fund. Comms. Decker, Mike Guthrie, David Kimbrough, Trisha LeMarbre, Baker Ring and Shawn Utley voted in favor of the hike. Comm. Paige Brown abstained.
Preceding the voting was a presentation by Dr. Art Laffer about the economic effects of tax rates. Both sides pointed to Laffer’s remarks in debate. Laffer’s supply-side curve shows the point of efficiency at which a tax rate will generate maximal revenue. Laffer noted that the highest rate was lowered and the lowest rate was raised as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986.Kimbrough cited Laffer’s remarks about making sure that “the last dollar you spend outweighs the hurt” of those from whom it was taken. Kimbrough said at the local level it was gray and not all in black and white. He supported more dollars for education.
Comm. Jim Vaughn said that the key is growth and alluded to Laffer’s low-tax concept as a way to attract rooftops and more commerce. A low-tax environment would draw more taxes to the county.
Vaughn challenged figures presented as part of the school board budget. He said his research from the state Board of Education showed that per-pupil spending was the second highest in the area, second only to Davidson County. He cited the rejection of a wheel tax hike in March as a sign that voters do not want more taxes.
Ring said when he was in California he supported Proposition 13 that Laffer referred to and advocated to limit property taxes. He said some said they were proud of having the lowest property tax in the area. He added: “I would be proud of having the best education. Education has to be funded.”
Comm. Moe Taylor summarized in a nutshell what Laffer said: “You don’t grow government, you grow business.”
Comm. Mike Guthrie urged the need to compare comparable systems and stated that Sumner was way behind. He challenged those who used the wheel tax referendum as a sign of lack of support for a tax. Some families have four cars and it would cost them $100 and they preferred a property tax. On a $230,000 house, the 14-cent hike would only be about $81.
Comm. Jerry Stone backed up Vaughn’s research on state figures. He said state figures showed Sumner with $8,480 per student and Williamson at $8,082. Davidson was at $11,080 and he indicated no one wanted to be like them. “It’s not necessarily how much money you spend,” he said. “All the stories you hear that we are way down on the totem pole – that’s not fact.”
An effort by Comm. Paul Goode to defer setting the tax rate was defeated 15-9. A motion by Comm. Chris Hughes to pull five cents from the capital projects fund was defeated 17-7. Comm. Jerry Stone said of Hughes’ motion, “This is a backdoor attempt to raise taxes.” Hughes responded: “This is not a tax increase.”
The tax rate was eventually set at the same level of $2.0208 as before in a 17-7 vote. Comms. Brown, Goode, Hughes, Kimbrough, LeMarbre, Ring and Satterfield voted no.
The county budget less the Sheriff’s budget and funding for not-for-profits were group approved 18-6. Those voting no were Comms. Brown, Goode, Hughes, Kimbrough, Ring, and Satterfield. The budget requires $2.8 million to be pulled from reserves with the money being replaced throughout the year.
The Sheriff’s budget was approved 20-3 with Comms. Goode, Hughes and Kimbrough voting no. Comm. Joe Matthews abstained because of a direct conflict.
The county budgeted general fund totals $46,762,029 and includes a one percent pay increase. It also includes $79,000 for the addition of a Juvenile Court Referee effective Oct. 1. “I am very pleased by the County Commission decision in this matter. I certainly hope that we will be able to serve the children and families in Sumner County,” stated David Howard afterward. Howard is currently a part-time referee one day a week. He anticipates winding down his private practice at Carter and Howard. Both Mike Carter and Howard attended the meeting.
The commission is awaiting action by the School Board on their budget which was returned to them last week by Budget Committee.
In other action
Commissioners approved unanimously a measure for Trustee Marty Nelson to allow elderly and low income taxpayers to receive a credit when property taxes are paid. With two votes not cast, commissioners unanimously approved a measure to allow the trustee to round taxes to the nearest dollar. In a 21-2 vote, the commission declined to increase the local option sales tax from 2.25 cents to 2.75, leaving the door open for Portland’s referendum.
Commissioners elected five members to the Committee on Committees. Current members Comms. Billy Geminden, LeMarbre, Jo Skidmore, Stone and Taylor put themselves up for a full floor vote. All five fended off a floor challenge nomination for David Satterfield.
The vote for four members to the 2012 Finance Committee to implement the new Private Act went smoother and more quickly with Comms. Frank Freels, Steve Graves, Kirk Moser and Bob Pospisil being elected by voice vote. They will join the three ex officio members consisting of the county executive, director of schools, and road superintendent.
Next month will be the election of standing committees.
By Jesse Hughes