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Norris OKs tax rate; city looks to replace totaled police cruiser

The Norris Police Department’s Ford Explorer cruiser is pulled onto the tow vehicle following an accident on Saturday night, July 31, at Reservoir, Red Hill and Lambdin roads in Andersonville. The city said the Explorer was most likely totaled. No one was injured in the crash. (photo:Emma Jayne Williams )
Norris City Council members approved the city’s fiscal year 2021 property tax rate of $1.54 per $100 valuation during a called meeting last Wednesday night (July 29).

The unanimous vote came after a short public hearing, during which there was no opposition voiced to the new tax rate. The hearing and the meeting were conducted electronically because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also last week, Norris lost its newest police cruiser – a Ford Explorer that was purchased last fall – when it was totaled in an accident late Saturday at the three-way intersection of Reservoir, Red Hill and Lambdin roads in Andersonville.

There were no injuries in the accident, in which a pickup truck apparently crossed the centerline and hit the police vehicle nearly head-on as the cruiser was coming down the hill from Norris.

City Manager Scott Hackler said Monday that the cruiser most likely was a total loss, and the city has resumed using a recently retired Ram pickup along with the Police Department’s older Ford Crown Victoria cruiser that was donated to the city by the Clinton Police Department.

Norris bought the Explorer late last year from the state of Missouri’s surplus vehicle program, where it had been used as a Missouri State Police cruiser.

“We would like to get another one [Explorer] if we can,” Hackler said Monday. “We had just recently gotten a trailer hitch put on the Explorer.”

It was intended to replace the remaining Ram pickup cruiser, and the city chose the Explorer because it had four-wheel drive – which would make it suitable for patrol on the unpaved roads in the Norris Watershed area.

In the meantime, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department on Monday gave the city two surplus Crown Victoria police cruisers, both already equipped with police radios, sirens and emergency lights, Hackler said.

The city will have at least one of those care striped and marked for use as a police cruiser within the next few weeks, but might use the other one for the Fire Department, the city manager said.

The new tax rate will support the city’s fiscal 2021 budget of $1.866 million. The approved rate is lower than the fiscal 2020 rate of $1.78, but most residents won’t see much difference in their actual tax bills. The new rate is lower to reflect a countywide property reappraisal earlier this year that raised most property values, Hackler said.

Because state law requires that property reappraisals be essentially “revenue neutral,” that means 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.”

He said the new tax bills will go out “sometime this month, will be payable in September, and will become delinquent on Oct. 1.”

Because appeals were still pending in June over Anderson County’s five-year property re-appraisal this spring, the state was late in providing counties and municipalities with certified tax rates that would keep their property taxes “revenue neutral.”

The new fiscal year budget took effect July 1 without a tax rate included, which was the first time in the current council members’ memories that a budget was passed without also setting a property tax rate.

Councilmembers approved the new tax rate on first reading during their virtual monthly meeting on July 13.