Higher property taxes in Wilson County won’t prompt residents to vote with their feet and move out, county commissioners say. But one resident says taxes could give outsiders pause before they decide to move in.
As reported, county commissioners may vote Monday to raise property taxes an additional 44 cents for new schools, among other things.
Several commissioners told Tennessee Watchdog many people come to Wilson from other states because of the low taxes.
Commissioner Sara Patton said if any of the people who came for a lower cost of living want to leave, then they’re welcome to do so.
“I think those people moved here because their taxes were too high where they came from, and now if they get too high for them they can just move and let someone else’s taxes go up now that they’ve done the damage,” Patton said.
“A lot of people who moved here are retired from several different states. These are people who are well-off. They’re comfortable. They’re retired and they want to live off their retirement, but they made a lot more money where they came from and now they want to live down here for a lot less money. But they make us have to pay taxes for them being here.”
But county resident Bill Haupt, who had a recent run-in with county officials over how they appraised his home, said he moved from California and considers himself middle class.
He said he already pays four times as much in property taxes in Wilson versus what he paid in California because of Proposition 13, which, according to CaliforniaTaxData.com, reduced property taxes.
“A lot of people moved here because they couldn’t afford to stay where they were, and they moved here for a lower cost of living. They didn’t come here to take advantage of the environment and to use the services and then live high on the hog,” Haupt said.
“These higher property taxes will make people think twice before they come to Wilson County when they can go to Smith County, which is next door.”
Commissioners Jeff Joines, Sonja Robinson, Diane Weathers and Gary Keith say they don’t believe higher property taxes would encourage current county residents to move away.
But Commissioner Frank Bush warned his colleagues against dismissing any and all complaints about higher taxes.
“They may not vote with their feet and move out of the county, but they will sure vote with their votes and send these commissioners out of office in two years’ time,” Bush said.
“I guarantee you that.”
As reported, many Wilson County department heads may get generous pay raises —as high as 62 percent — should commissioners raise property taxes 44 percent Monday.
Six of the 25 commissioners are county employees.
Bush also complained the county hasn’t produced a balanced budget in at least a decade, and it’s high time to rein in expenses.
Many commissioners said the county’s population will double in the next 15 years, and more money is needed to expand government services.
Several commissioners told Tennessee Watchdog no cuts are planned to offset the large property tax increase, part of the fiscal 2016-17 budget.
County Commissioner Diane Weathers, meanwhile, said the county school system, which will benefit greatly from the proposed property tax increase, has had too many cost overruns.
Commissioners will likely vote on the matter at a meeting scheduled for 7 Monday night. A public hearing, which will give taxpayers an opportunity to speak for or against the increase, is scheduled for 6.
The address is 228 East Main St. in Lebanon.
Thirteen or more of the county’s 25 commissioners must vote in favor of the increase for it to pass.
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