Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 30, 2010 State Certified Tax Rate for Hamblen County Is $1.86, NOT $1.85 as Found in the June 21st Tax Resolution


You really have to watch your local officials and tax rates in property re-appraisal years---like 2010.

Why? I was serving on commission during the last re-appraisal in 2005. We received the new state certified tax rate in our packets just a couple of days before a budget meeting.  Fortunately, I was familiar with the budget and tax rates. That's why it didn't take long for me to spot an error in the certified tax rate in our packets.

I reported the error to the Assessor who contacted the state. End result: the "new" state certified tax rate for 2005 was changed, REDUCING the tax rate for Hamblen Countians by around 10 or 11 cents. The state and/or locals probably rarely make a mistake on the certified tax rate. [Or maybe mistakes slip by because no one ever verifies the numbers.]  When I was on Commission, I tried to check and verify as much as I possibly could. By checking the certified tax rate in 2005 and getting it cut before any scheduled votes, I was able to save the taxpayers over $1 Million dollars in property taxes.

This year (2010) is also a re-appraisal year.  Commission Chair Stancil Ford has been pushing and pushing to get everything--including setting a new tax rate--wrapped up by June 30.  To help push things along, Stancil even moved the regular June 24 commission meeting to June 21 for a first vote on the new tax rate and budget. One of the documents above is the tax rate resolution that was prepared for the June 21 meeting that would have set the tax rate at $1.85 (countywide + garbage). [This post has been revised to correct a typo and show the uncertified rate proposed on 6/21 as 1.85]

At the beginning of the June 21st meeting, however, before any votes were taken, I reminded the Commission that because this is a re-appraisal year,  they could not vote on a tax rate--or a budget that depends on that tax rate--until the state certified tax rate is received.  Click here. Not only was there no certified tax rate ready on June 21st, but since there was no certified tax rate, no one could have checked the certified tax rate.

At the end of the 6/21 meeting, when the $1.85 tax rate resolution and budget came up, it was admitted that the certified tax rate had not been received and must be received before a tax rate and budget are passed.  No vote was taken.  A vote will probably be taken today at 5:00 PM in the Chancery Courtroom in the old part of the Courthouse.

How important is it that the commission heeded the warning not to vote on a tax rate or any other tax rate until the certified rate is received? 

Well, the state certified tax rate for Hamblen County--that arrived on June 28--is $1.86!  Had the commission voted on the tax rate resolution that was prepared and in their packets on June 21, they would have been violating state law that they wait for the certified tax rate before voting on a tax rate and budget and then they would have been stuck with $1.85 (taxpayers probably wish that had happened!) or they would have had to vote again and "explain" why they rushed the first rate through and are raising the rate to $1.86.  [Two of the documents above give the new new county basic rate ($1.65) and the sanitation rate ($0.21) for a total certified rate of $1.86.]

Haste makes waste. Trust but verify. You might save the taxpayers a boatload of money or save the commission from having to do multiple votes to finally get it right.

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