By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald

Published May 14, 2014

White Bluff will have a 4.6-cent property tax rate increase if the council approves the mayor’s plan on second vote.

The increase would be the town’s first tax hike in two decades, said White Bluff Mayor Linda Hayes.

The White Bluff Council voted 4-1 to approve the first reading of a 2014-2015 budget with a 50.17-cent property tax rate, during Tuesday’s regular meeting at Town Hall. Councilperson Stephanie Murrell voted against the budget reading.

Hayes explained the rate increase will help offset “new and/or higher expense items,” including trash pick-up; the alcohol tax owed to schools; and increases in the state planner’s contract.

The current property tax rate is 45.61 cents per $100 of assessed value. The current budget cycle ends June 30.

The new budget requires a second reading, likely at the June 3 regular meeting.

“While I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished over the last several years with a conservative budget and careful planning, I am convinced that it is time for a modest tax increase to position us better for the challenges of the future,” Hayes wrote in the budget proposal.

Hayes projected that the rate increase will add $12.65 yearly to the average property owner’s bill.

Hayes said “we are now in a position where additional revenues will be required in order to maintain a comparable level of service to the taxpayers.”

Among those services, Hayes listed rural fire service/protection, trash pick-up, police protection, street lighting and paved roads.

Councilperson Oscar Martin asked why the mayor settled on the 4.6-cent increase – which is a 10 percent jump -instead of going higher.

“This is my proposal,” Hayes replied. “You’re the council. You decide what you want to do and what you want to give me to run the town.”

Vice Mayor Todd Hamilton noted, “We would all have burning crosses in our yards” if the council stretched higher.

Increased costs

The tax increase is expected to bring $23,200 more in property tax revenue for a total of $255,200, said Public Works Director Jeff Martin.

The council voted unanimously in April to approve Cumberland Disposal’s $69,960 bid for trash pick-up, a $10,500 increase over the previous contract. The town’s current 2-year contract with Cumberland Disposal, of Cumberland Furnace, expires June 30.

The town’s contract with Greater Nashville Regional Council for state planning services doubled over last year to $15,000.

“Just those two things right there account for over $18,000 of the $23,000 that the property tax increase covers,” J. Martin said.

The council increased the judge’s monthly salary from $430 to $1,000 in January.

The town owes Dickson County schools about $5,300 in retroactive mixed-drink taxes. The council is scheduled in June to consider paying off the debt with monies from the current budget. The budget proposal factors in an annual $1,200 mixed-drink tax payment to the school system.

Workers’ compensation, liability insurance and property insurance for general government collectively increased $6,200 over last year. Repair and maintenance for general government, and the fire and sewer departments went up $83,000.

Town officials budgeted for a new electronic citation system for the police department and court system; and repairs to the fire chief’s vehicle.

The police drug fund will pay for the electronic citation system. The proposal noted an $18,000 increase in the drug fund balance over last year; and projected $16,000 in revenue from drug seizures for 2014-2015. The citation software is estimated to cost $18,550.

Officials are also considering replacement of the fire department’s 33-year-old rescue truck. Fire Chief Eric Deal estimated a new or used truck to cost between $100,000-$300,000.

Street lights paid with TN funds

Town officials divided street light funding between the general fund and state street aid fund to balance the 2014-2015 budget. The town’s street lighting monies typically come from the general fund.

It’s “imperative” the town pay for street lighting from the general fund in future budgets, the mayor said.

Projected revenue, expenses

White Bluff 2014-2015 budget projections
General fund total: $1.59 million
Decrease from current 2013-2014 budget: More than $615,000