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Board says no tax increase

By unanimous vote Monday night, Jonesborough aldermen approved a 2015-2016 municipal budget that does not include any property tax increase.
“It’s not our money,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe reminded the board after praising them for what he saw as a positive, fiscally conservative decision.
“We’ve worked out a scenario where we could avoid a tax increase, and that is a very good thing.”
After whittling the initial budget — which called for a 19 cent property tax increase to offset nearly $250,000 in the red — down to a 5 cent increase to offset a $50,000 shortfall, Town Administrator Bob Browning and Town Recorder Abbey Miller were once again tasked at a June 29 workshop with trying to cut the budget still further.
At the July 13 meeting, Browning presented the board with two final options – one with the 5 cent tax increase and one without.
At issue was the Jonesborough Police Department’s expressed need for a new full-time investigator to help bring an increase to the department’s percentage of cases solved.
This new position was included in both versions of the budget.
In the first, which recommended a 5 cent property tax increase, sales tax revenue projections were based on a more conservative 3 percent increase, with the majority of the new salary monies coming out of the property tax increase.
In the second, based on no property tax increase, sales tax revenue was determined with a 3.5 percent increase with the majority of the money – $41, 500 – coming from the town’s red-light camera revenue as a one-time expense.
Covering a recurring budget item — the salary and benefits of the new police investigator — as a one-time expense is what concerned Browning the most about the board’s decision, with Browning recommending the property tax increase because he saw it as the most stable way to ensure the position.
The board disagreed. Wolfe pointed out that the numbers just in for the 2014-2015 sales tax season showed a sales tax increase of 5.1 percent.
In addition, Wolfe said, “The housing market is the best its been in eight years. There’s a new vibrancy. It’s a good harbinger of things to come.”
Alderman David Sell agreed, saying he had seen an increase in his business as well and felt confident moving ahead with the no-tax budget.
“If we can do it without a tax increase, I think we should do it,” Alderman Terry Countermine said.
Alderman Chuck Vest, one of the strongest board voices against an increase, also indicated his support for the measure, in addition to a recommendation that the board explore other revenue means, including the possibility of assessing a fee for National Crime Information Center services the Jonesborough Police Department provides for the Johnson City Police Department.
The new $7,805,385 budget will go immediately into affect.
The board also passed ordinances establishing water, sewer and garbage collection rates for the new fiscal year, with no increases in any rates.