Tuesday, July 06, 2010

July 6, 2010 City Prepares to Increase the Tax Rate ($0.98) Adopted Less Than 2 Weeks Ago to the Maximum Certified Rate of $1.05

Above is the state certified tax rate $1.0571 that was received by the City of Morristown on June 28, eleven days after City Administrator Tony Cox pushed a budget with a tax rate of $0.98 through the Morristown City Council with a  6-1 vote on second reading. Councilmember Gene Brooks was the only "no" vote. 
Now Cox has said "oops" and he wants to hold a special meeting to increase the $0.98 tax rate that he just pushed through to $1.05.

PUBLIC NOTICE (Local "news"paper, July 4, 2010)

The City of Morristown, Tennessee will hold a "Special Called" City Council Meeting on Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 4:00 pm in the City Council Chambers of City Center, 100 West First North Street. The purpose of the meeting will be for amending Ordinance No. 3393 -Fiscal Year 2011 Budget by levying a property tax rate of $1.05 per $100 on assessed valuation of all real and personal property.

Anthony W. Cox
City Administrator

Haste makes waste.  So Cox and Company want a tax rate do-over!

This has been an interesting budget year for the city. Finances are in chaos. Laws are broken by the City. A budget gets zoomed through. Garbage pick-up services used to be part of the regular city budget paid for with tax money.  This year, however, the Mayor and five councilmembers (Garrett, Jinks, McGuffin, Rooney, and Senter) have decided that all the tax increases of past years aren't enough to pay for years of financial mismanagement at the City Center and years of Mayoral and Council failure to ask questions, failure to provide financial oversight, and failure to even read the City audits!

Mayor Barile and Council raised property taxes about 3 years ago. Later they did a "pick-your-poison" sales tax referendum.  Then sewer fees were raised last year and again this year. Now, Cox and Company (Mayor Barile, Garrett, Jinks, McGuffin, Rooney, and Senter) have decided to start a brand new garbage fee ($10/month) to pay for the budget that they passed. This new garbage fee will hit and hurt elderly and low-income/fixed income residents harder than anyone else. 

But all is not gloom and doom at the City Center.  Despite the desperate financial situation at the city and the start of garbage fees on residents, City Administrator Tony Cox, Mayor Barile, and five of the six councilmembers have managed to ADD $100,000 to the council's budget and $30,000 to the Administrator's budget along with increased "travel" money in both the Council's and Administrator's budgets. Maybe these "special" monies can be used for a nifty weekend retreat for the Mayor and Councilmembers in some cozy house overlooking the lake or in a hotel outside of Hamblen County.

[Yes, discussion of a Council "retreat" is on the work session agenda this afternoon following the regular council meeting at 4:00 PM. This was brought up by Administrator Tony Cox weeks ago for team building and vision unity. With the financial mess the City is in, the Administrator, Mayor Barile, and Councilmembers don't need to "retreat" anywhere. They need to stay right here in Morristown where the problems are.]

Now what does the new budget have for the citizens and taxpayers of Morristown?  No retreat! No goodies! No travel! Just a new garbage fee of $10/month.  After all, the extra $130,000 and extra travel money for the Administrator and Mayor and Councilmembers and all the City Center perks and car allowances have to be paid by someone.  And this $10/month fee will increase to about $18/month when the garbage fund is fully supported by "garbage fees" instead of continuing to be a service funded through property and other taxes.

This may be a rare, one-of-a-kind vote in Morristown with a tax rate being amended just two weeks after it passed!  But you can bet that there won't be an amendment to cut out the special new funds that are in the council's and Administrator's budgets.

But never fear, the "six" who were solid in June for a $0.98 tax rate and who voted to balance the city's budget on the backs of the residents with a brand spanking new $10/month garbage fee---while putting an extra $100,000 in the council's budget and an extra $30,000 in the Administrator's budget and extra travel dollars in both the council's AND Administrator's budgets---will be just as solid for increasing the tax rate in July to $1.05. 

The Mayor and Councilmembers couldn't wait for the certified tax rate. City Administrator Tony Cox couldn't wait for the certified tax rate. Budget Director Brian Janish couldn't wait for the certified tax rate. Well, since the tax rate they passed in June ($0.98) is not over the certified tax rate of $1.05, maybe the "six" should just give property owners a break and let their hasty $0.98 tax rate stand. Nah, that won't happen.

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