Property taxes will be going up in the Town of Greeneville next fiscal year.
The Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Tuesday to pay for a Greeneville City Schools HVAC and Lighting project by raising taxes by an amount to be determined at a later date.
The measure passed on a vote of 4-1.
Alderwoman Kristin Girton voted no on the proposal.
The tax increase will not occur immediately. It will have to be voted on at a future meeting.
Greeneville City Schools’ Superintendent Steve Starnes and Assistant Director of Schools for Administration Beverly Miller presented the HVAC project to the board.
The first phase of the project will cost $7.7 million in total.
Greeneville City Schools will contribute $4.6 million, while the Town of Greenville will contribute $3.3 million.
The town’s contribution will take the form of a $1 million cash contribution and $2.3 million in debt service
The replacement of the HVAC system at Greeneville Middle School was emphasized by Miller as the most pressing part of the project.
“If we aren’t able to do something at GMS we are going to find ourselves in dire straits,” Miller said. “It is not a matter of if, but when. When will we get a call one morning that the system has failed and we can’t have school.”
Town board members agreed the HVAC system is an immediate need.
“It seems like our politicians have kicked stuff down the road for so long that we have to deal with them now, locally and at the state level,” Aldermen Cal Doty said.
The aldermen that agreed to the tax increase did not do so enthusiastically.
“Nobody wants to pay more taxes. I don’t want to pay more taxes, but it’s something we may have to do,” Aldermen Scott Bullington said. “You can’t have school if you don’t have heat and you don’t have light.”
“This is sort of a situation where you’re danged if you do and danged if you don’t. It is not a good situation but we have this project that has to be done,” Mayor WT Daniels said.
Daniels said that he believed that the last time taxes were raised was in 2016, also to help fund GCS.
Cuts to town employees’ pay or cutting out employee positions were raised as possibilities to fund the project by City Administrator Todd Smith, but were not received well by the board.
“I will not support cutting any employees, or cutting anyone’s pay,” Aldermen Tim Teague said.
The property tax rate increase could happen at any point before July 1 according to Smith.
The tax increase could come before the board when it approves its budget for the next fiscal year in the summer, or it could occur before then in the form of a standalone item.
Either way, the increase will have to have to come before the board twice for two readings and a public hearing.
A request by GCS for an additional $275,000 to help pay for half of the cost to replace the Greeneville High School football field turf was denied by the board.
Teague moved that the board approve the funding allocation, but no other board member seconded the motion. Therefore, the request did not come to a full vote.
Miller said that the turf had a 10-year warranty and it was 12 years old, having been installed in 2010.
GHS Head Football Coach Eddie Spradlen told the board the field is becoming unsafe and overly compacted, making the surface hard.
“It’s almost like playing on concrete in spots,” Spradlen said.
Some members of the board said they felt GCS should have budgeted for replacing the field over the years since system officials knew it had a 10 year warranty.
Starnes said that could be looked at in the future and that GCS does something similar to that for scheduled bus purchases.
Girton also pointed out that she wanted the request to go through the annual budget-making process.
Bullington noted the town is currently in the process of coming up with funding for the insurance benefits of its employees.
“Unfortunately, your timing is just bad. The insurance for our employees has to be worked out first, before we allocate money to any other requests,” Bullington said. “We have hundreds of employees hanging on, waiting to see what their insurance ends up looking like. We have to deal with that first. That’s the bottom line.”
The board approved a resolution that encourages the Tennessee Department of Transportation to build a four-lane road on the current site of the Newport Highway instead of a super two-lane road.
“Hopefully this resolution will get someone’s attention in Nashville,” Daniels said.
The board tabled consideration of selling approximately 35 acres of town-owned land at Hardin Industrial Park to an adjacent property owner. Baord members said they want to ensure the the land could not be an asset to the town before they commit to selling the property.
The board also gave final approval after a second reading and public hearing to a request to rezone property along West Vann Road.
The property was split-zoned, with part of the property being zoned low-density residential and part medium-density residential. The property will now be zoned medium-density residential.
The property owner has plans to develop a 16-lot subdivision, according to Greeneville Planning Director Randy Davenport.
The board also celebrated the retirement of Kenny Carter from the Greeneville Police Department.
Carter served the department for 22 years.
“Kenny has done anything and everything you could ask. He has taken care of this community for years. We will miss him very much,” Greeneville Police Chief Tim Ward said.
Daniels also announced the town had been awarded a $944,000 grant to fund the replacement and additions of sidewalks on Main Street.