The Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners had its first meeting of the new year Monday night to discuss and vote on issues affecting the community. To begin the meeting, Boy Scout Troop 2015 presenting the flag and led in the pledge.
A much-anticipated item on the agenda was a resolution to expand funding for fire protection and to commit additional funding to infrastructure and transportation improvements through a property tax increase. Sources say the proposed tax would increase from 16 cents to 59 cents, a more than 360 percent increase.
As District 3 Commissioner Art Giles was absent from the meeting, the resolution was deferred until the Feb. 11 meeting. Mayor Ed Hagerty said the commission had previously agreed that any item of great importance such as this would be deferred until the entire board was present.
Speculation about the proposed increase led to many Mt. Juliet residents voicing their frustrations online and to their commissioners.
Though many believed this was a one-time decision to raise property tax, District 1 Commissioner Ray Justice reiterated it was just the beginning of the discussion with nothing being implemented until June at the earliest when the board passes the City budget.
Justice said the City had been working under a deficit since the Wilson County Commission passed a resolution in 2011 that limited funds for fire protection in Mt. Juliet. According to Justice, this created a $2 million annual expenditure that the City was not expecting.
“The popular thing to do would be to kick this thing further down the road so everybody could get re-elected,” said Justice. “I for one, and I believe everyone [on the board], is not willing to sacrifice our principles in order to get elected. If that is the case, then none of us belong in these seats.”
Abston said the commission takes this matter seriously and that they always try to do what is best for the community, while Hagerty said he would have more to say on the topic when the board revisits the resolution.
“I’ll have a lot more to say about it on Feb. 11, but I do think there’s an argument to be made that governments should live within their means and that there’s certainly ways that that can be done,” said Hagerty. “So you’ll hear much more about that on that day, I suspect, from me and from others.”
In other business, City Manager Kenny Martin thanked the city workers and staff for all their hard work into making Mt. Juliet a great place to live. He also thanked Mt. Juliet Police for their protection, saying they are a reason Mt. Juliet was named the fifth safest city in the state, as well as being one of the Top 10 best cities to live in Tennessee.
Maness also thanked police for their response to cars speeding around stopped school buses, a major concern for parents, students, and members of the community.
A resolution to accept a performance bond instead of a letter of credit from the general contractor for Wilson County Schools for the new high school was discussed after being deferred from a November 2018 meeting.
Because Wilson County Schools has a lawsuit against the City, Hagerty made a motion to amend the resolution in that the City will accept the bond only in the lawsuit is resolved. The motion was approved 3-1 with Justice opposing. He said he didn’t want to do anything detrimental to the school board because his constituents have children currently enrolled and it would be an abuse to the people he represents.
After approving the amended resolution, the board voted 3-1, again with Justice opposing, to send it to the planning commission, which meets this Thursday. Hagerty also encouraged each commissioner to send a letter to the planning commission outside of the resolution.