City officials held a town hall meeting Thursday night at the Mt. Juliet Police Department to present the proposed property tax increase to the public.
According to officials, the proposed increase would be from 16.64 cents per $100 of assessed property value. It would affect all land, commercial and residential properties within city limits.
Two plans were discussed: raising the property tax to 39 cents, with the entirety going toward the Mt. Juliet Fire Department, or raising it to 59 cents and splitting the funds between fire protection and infrastructure.
For a $150,000 residential structure, the 39 cent increase would increase that property’s tax from $62 per year to $146. For a $300,000 home, it would increase from $125 to $293. With the 59 cent increase, a $150,000 home would go up $221 per year and a $300,000 home would go up to $443.
The increase to 59 cents would still use 39 cents of the other plan for fire protection, but the additional 20 cents would go toward city infrastructure.
One reason an increase has been proposed is to help fund construction and operation of a fire station in north Mt. Juliet. The area does not have nearby city fire protection and is serviced by the central station, located behind City Hall.
The response time for incidents north of the city are higher compared to those in the central and south districts, which do have fires stations. Fire Chief Jamie Luffman also said the total number of incidents in the north are increasing.
In addition to operational and construction costs, officials said the tax increase will attempt to close the existing budget deficit of $450,000.
Deputy Public Works Director Andy Barlow told those in attendance how the additional 20 cents would be used to help fund public works projects around the city. According to Barlow, the estimated cost for the various projects is around $200 million.
After the meeting, Mayor Ed Hagerty handed out flyers with opposing views of the proposed increase.
“There is not a revenue problem, there is a spending problem,” the flyer read. “The proposed property tax increase is from .16 to .59, a proposed increase of almost 4 times.”
Hagerty referenced a spread sheet prepared by Vice Mayor James Maness years ago before the city imposed the original 20 cent property tax and before the implementation of the fire department. The spread sheet projected the revenue and expenses of the new department.
In the numbers gathered by Maness, the projected expense for the fire department was $1.3 million for last year, but the department spent $2.6 million. The department spent $1.9 million of that on payroll for around 24 employees.
The flyer also listed reasons of how the fire department exceeded projections in spending, such as four new fire trucks, two outfitted pickup trucks for part-time employees, and unused equipment that is now out of date.
Hagerty’s flyer suggested other options for funding the fire department such as reduced spending and an increased sales tax, which would be voted on by a referendum on a ballot.
In the last election, Wilson County had a referendum for a proposed sales tax increase from 9.25 to 9.75. The majority of the county voted against the increase.
More town hall meetings will be held at later dates. District 4 Commissioner Brian Abston will hold a meeting May 6 in his district at Providence Church.
The Board of Commissioners will revisit the proposed property tax increase at the May 13 meeting, and the second reading is scheduled for June.