By LISA WHALEY
As of Monday night, it is official. The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Sept. 9 to approve the town’s 2019/2020 budget which includes a property tax rate at $1.20 per $100 of assessed value and a 3 percent raise for town employees.
The property tax change, from $1.13 set by the state to $1.20, had been approved at the Sept. 5 called BMA meeting as a way to compensate for revenue loss due to the recent state adjustment on local property value assessments and the subsequent challenges from property owners. Estimated revenue loss for the town earlier in the month was set at more than $23,000 and was expected to rise.
Last year’s property tax rate was $1.305.
“We can’t take a financial loss because of reappraisal” Mayor Chuck Vest explained at the time. After Monday’s vote, Vest stressed that the new rate was intended to help the town maintain its lean budget and prepare for any further, not pick up additional revenue.
Still, the newly approved budget nearly hit another delay when Alderwoman Virginia Causey raised questions about the town’s already approved compensation plan, which held two position changes that she believed warranted further discussion.
“I have no problem with the 3 percent,” she said. But she believed any other changes should be made at one time to ensure fairness to all employees.”
Vest promised that the board would continue to look closely at any future employee changes, but was concerned that a further delay on the 2019/2020 budget, which is supposed to be in place by June 30, 2019, would be too much of a hardship for the town.
“I didn’t want to see the entire budget delayed another month,” he said.
Water and Sewer rates will stay the same for 2019/2020, and while garbage pickup rates will also remain at their current rate, the board did approve an increase to the one-time garbage signup fee of $40 to $50.
In other business, the BMA passed on second reading a Weeds, Overgrown and Dirty Lots amendment that would allow the town to more efficiently deal with unsightly neighborhood areas of contention, especially those under the ownership of out-of-town companies and individuals. The new amendment .
“Our biggest problem is repeat offenders,” according to Town Administrator Bob Browning. “And that is where we get the most criticism.” The town will begin posting the violation in the yard of the non-compliant property owner, Browning said, so that the public will be aware that action is being taken. The town will also now have the option of hiring a contractor to clean up the property and be able to add the new assessment onto that year’s property tax.