Norris sets budget, but not its tax rate

Norris council members approved a city budget of $1.866 million Monday night for the new fiscal year beginning July 1, but without setting a property tax rate.

Because of appeals still pending over Anderson County’s five-year property re-appraisal this spring, the state of Tennessee has not yet given the city a certified tax rate that keeps the city’s property tax “revenue neutral.” That’s required with many property values going up with the new appraisals, said City Manager Scotty Hackler.

“We won’t be able to set the tax rate until we get it from the state,” Hackler said.

So for the first time in current council members’ memories, the budget as passed will go into effect without including the tax rate, which will now require a separate ordinance that must be passed on two readings, with a public hearing in between, Hackler said.

Most residents won’t see an increase in their actual tax bills, though, because the city must not profit simply from higher appraisals by carrying over the current $1.78 tax rate, he said.

“The new rate will be an average to make sure the re-appraisals are revenue-neutral, but some people could be paying more overall, and some perhaps less,” Hackler said. Most would remain about the same.

The earliest the City Council could consider a tax rate ordinance would be at the next council meeting, July 13, with a hearing and second reading following at least a week later, under state law, he said.

As a result, the council Monday night voted to have the first reading of the budget ordinance with the new certified tax rate during the July 13 meeting, then hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. July 29, with a special council meeting following at 6:15 for the second reading.

But in reality, the city won’t be able to begin the ordinance process to set the tax rate until it receives the certified rate from the state, Hackler said, adding that the rate won’t be provided until all of the re-appraisal appeals are decided. Most of those appeals are for commercial properties, he said.

The council also approved on first reading an ordinance raising the monthly residential trash pickup fee to $15 from the current $14.32. There still must be a public hearing and a second reading for that to take effect, Hackler said.

Council members also approved a five-year extension of the contract with Waste Connections to pick up residential trash, maintaining the back-door pickup service that currently is provided. There was some discussion about moving trash pickup to curbside service to save money, but the council decided to keep the current back-door arrangement.

The next council meeting is scheduled for July 13, but it’s not known yet whether it will be held at City Hall or whether the city will continue holding meetings electronically, as it has done the past three months because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Hackler said Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order allowing local governments to meet electronically is now scheduled to end June 30, but that it could be extended. Some council members might like to have the option to attend meetings electronically if allowed, he added.