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Norris will hold hearing today (July 29) on proposed tax rate

Norris City Council will hold a virtual public hearing at 6 p.m. today (Wednesday, July 29) on an ordinance to set the city property tax rate for fiscal 2021 at $1.54.

Following the hearing, the council is scheduled to meet in called session at 6:15 to vote on second and final reading of the ordinance to set the tax rate.

The new tax rate is lower than the fiscal 2020 rate of $1.78 per $100 of property valuation, but most residents won’t see much difference in their actual tax bills. The new rate is lower to reflect a countywide property reappraisal earlier this year that raised most property values, said City Manager Scott Hackler.

Because state law requires that property reappraisals be essentially “revenue neutral,” that means the city must not profit simply from higher appraisals by carrying over the current $1.78 tax rate, he said.

“The new rate will be an average to make sure the re-appraisals are revenue-neutral, but some people could be paying more overall, and some perhaps less,” Hackler said. “Most would remain about the same.”

That doesn’t mean the city can’t raise taxes, but it must do so by ordinance and must hold a hearing for public comment before final passage of the ordinance. In this case, the city chose to maintain the same level of taxation, rather than raising it.

That’s not the case everywhere in the county. The city of Rocky Top, for instance, plans to maintain its $2 tax rate from last year, which will bring in more money by virtue of the new, higher property appraisals.

Norris did not need to raise its taxes this year, Hackler said.

Because appeals were still pending in June over Anderson County’s five-year property re-appraisal this spring, the state was late in providing counties and municipalities with certified tax rates that would keep their property taxes “revenue neutral.”

For that reason, Norris will extend this year’s property tax payment deadline to Oct. 1 from the usual Sept. 1. Property tax bills will not go out until the council approves the ordinance this week and it gets a final OK from the state, Hackler said.

The Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which calls for $1.866 million in spending, took effect July 1 without a tax rate included, which was the first time in the current council members’ memories that a budget was passed without the property tax.

Councilmembers approved the new tax rate on first reading during their virtual monthly meeting on July 13.

Also at that meeting, the council approved on second reading an ordinance raising the monthly residential trash pickup fee to $15 from the current $14.25. That followed a public hearing a few minutes before the virtual meeting.

Council members also approved a five-year extension of the contract with Waste Connections to pick up residential trash, maintaining the back-door pickup service that currently is provided. There was some discussion about moving trash pickup to curbside service to save money, but the council decided to keep the current back-door arrangement.

The city has been holding meetings and public hearings electronically since April because of COVID-19 restrictions.