Lower Tax? Drivers Relax? Property Tax Reduction, Smoother Roads in Chattanooga Budget Proposal

Aug 2, 2017

City Chief Operating Officer Maura Sullivan (left) and City Finance Officer Daisy Madison (right) give a budget presentation at the August 2, 2017 Chattanooga City Council meeting.
Credit WUTC

It was a bit of a bumpy road, creating the new budget for the city of Chattanooga. But one possible result: fewer bumpy roads.

“We are putting five million dollars into street paving,” Maura Sullivan, the city’s Chief Operating Officer, said as she and other officials presented the proposed budget during a City Council meeting Tuesday evening.

State lawmakers passed the IMPROVE Act, which increases Tennessee’s tax rate at the gas pump, giving the city new funds for road repairs. But the IMPROVE act also cuts the Hall income tax and the state's sales tax rate on food, which means less revenue for city expenses like pensions for employees and other benefits.

And those expenses that are on the rise.

“As you can probably guess,” Sullivan said, “with the cost of business going up, and revenue sources going away, it’s produced a significant budget challenge for this year.”

Here are three possible effects of the proposed budget:

A smoother ride through the city. Sullivan said the $5 million designated for street paving is “the highest amount our city has ever seen.”

A smaller property tax bill—maybe. During the Hamilton County Assessor of Property’s most recent countywide reappraisal, the average home value went up, meaning many homeowners will owe more in property taxes.

But not all. That's because the city proposes lowering the property tax rate compared to last year—the “second lowest tax rate in Chattanooga’s history since 1958,” Sullivan said.

In short:

If your house’s appraised value increased, you’ll need to budget more for your property tax bill.

If your house’s value stayed the same or decreased, you’ll pay less.

“If you have a $100,000 house,” Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said, “and your house is still worth $100,000 in the most recent property valuation, then you’re going to see your property taxes decline by about $8.”

Not a huge decrease, but preferable to an increase.

A couple of new monuments. You may know the Walnut Street Bridge as one of Chattanooga’s most popular places to walk or run. But it’s also where an historic injustice was committed—the 1906 lynching of Ed Johnson, which resulted in the only criminal trial to ever reach the Supreme Court. The proposed city budget includes funds for a memorial. Additionally, funding is included for a new monument to honor Chattanooga’s Fallen Five.

Over the next few weeks, the City Council will study and discuss the proposed budget. A vote is expected in September.