Chattanooga’s new city budget includes a record-setting $5 million to improve roads, pay raises for police officers, and a property tax freeze for senior citizens. During a roll call vote Tuesday evening, every City Council representative voted for it—except one.
Councilman Chip Henderson, chair of the Budget & Finance Committee, said people in his district (District 1, which includes Hixson, Mountain Creek and Lookout Valley) were concerned the 2018 city budget would raise their property tax bills.
“The folks that I've talked to in District 1 were very clear,” he said. “They did not want me to support a tax increase.”
The property tax rate would actually go down slightly compared to last year, but many Chattanoogans would owe more anyway, because their homes’ appraised values have risen.
Henderson said the city’s property tax freeze wouldn’t apply to most of the constituents he spoke with.
“They were really kind of ambivalent to it, I would say. A lot of it didn’t affect them, because of the low [income] threshold it has.”
That threshold is around $39,000 a year—that’s the maximum income limit for seniors 65 and older to qualify for the freeze.
But Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod says, for her community, the tax freeze is definitely going to help. She represents District 9, which includes east Chattanooga, Eastdale and Glenwood. She says it’s a poverty-stricken area for many residents, and many seniors live there.
“So I think about the Foxwood Heights community,” she said after Tuesday night’s council meeting. “We have a lot of retirees in that community, and so that tax freeze most definitely will help. When development comes into that area, the price of their property will remain the same.”
Henderson also said his “no” vote was interesting, in light of the fact that the budget funds a top item on his wish list.
“Of all the budgets to vote ‘no’ on,” he said, “I have been advocating for the five million dollars in paving since I was elected four and a half years ago now.”
Tuesday’s City Council vote was the first of two. Next week, there will be a public hearing, and then a final vote during the next council meeting.