By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
It took a pair of special sessions to get it all done, but the city of Grayson approved new property tax rates, approved the creation of a voluntary payroll deduction program for a benevolent fund, and awarded asphalt bids.
They also, however, voted to table their previously promised support for additional library staff – effectively ending a promised match from the county to fund the position for the Grayson branch before it could be awarded.
The council met in their first special session last Tuesday, October 4, where they accepted and opened bids for asphalt and resurfacing from three different contractors – Blacktop Industries, Mountain Enterprises, and Standafer Builders. While the Standafer bid – at $217,700 – was far and away the highest, the estimates from Blacktop Industries, at just around $134,000, and from Mountain, at just over $137,000, were closer. While the Mountain bid is a few thousand higher, they also broke out their milling cost as a flat fee. If the job ends up requiring less asphalt than estimated, or the city ends up needing more asphalt for the listed projects or others, their asphalt fee per ton is actually lower, area manager Ryan Barker explained during the second special session, on Thursday.
That special session was called, in part, because of concerns about one listed street that councilman Willis Johnson believed might not be in the city’s system. Johnson said to his knowledge Southgate Court had been a private drive, and he wasn’t aware if it had been brought into the city’s system yet. Though the street department said they had performed other seasonal maintenance on the street, Johnson’s questions led council to table the issue until the proper ownership of the street could be determined, and the estimates – if necessary – could be updated.
Between Tuesday and Thursday, when council held their second special session, it was determined that Southgate Court was in the city road system.
With that information in hand, and concerns about Blacktop Industries’ ability to start right away and complete work before next spring, council moved to award the bid to Mountain Enterprises, with Johnson making the motion and councilman Terry Stamper providing the second.
Streets listed for resurfacing include; Willow Street, East Maple Street, Poplar Heights, Holcomb Street, National Avenue, Southgate Court, Rupert Lane, Court Street, Womack Road, and Fourth Street.
Council also moved on Thursday to approve the creation of an account for voluntary payroll deductions to use for covering remembrance expenses for employees who pass, or who experience a death in their immediate family. Cost to participate in the voluntary program is $5 per month, deducted from one paycheck each month, and held in a special bank account until needed.
On Tuesday council also moved to set their property tax rates following a hearing that was required to set any rates other than the compensating rate.
The rate set by council on all real property, at $0.187 per $100 of valuation, is still a lower rate than last year’s $0.194 per $100, but despite that it’s expected to bring in almost $18,000 more for the city ($17,943) compared to the previous year. City clerk Duane Suttles explained that the reason for the increase in revenue, even with a lower rate, was the new building projects within the city limits as well as property improvements to some existing homes and businesses. The compensating rate, which would have raised around the same amount for the city as the previous tax year, would have been nearly 0.2 lower than the old rate, but even with the increase in revenue – which necessitated the public hearing – Suttles said most city residents will have a lower tax bill.
“Unless you made improvements to your property, or the value went up,” he explained, the tax rate should be lower. If, for instance, you paid taxes on a home estimated at $75,000 last year, and this year that same house was sold to someone for $125,000, then the new value of that home is $125,000 Suttles said, and that’s what the new owner has to pay taxes on.
Council also moved on Tuesday to approve the purchase of a trailer by Emergency Management, at a cost of $7,000, for emergency sleeping stations and cot storage, and moved to adopt a resolution naming the city’s walking track park the David C. McDavid Memorial Walking Park, and to erect a plaque or other signage indicating such.
Council also, however, entertained a motion to rescind their promised support of $7,500 for an additional library staff member specifically for the Grayson branch.
While council had promised the support during their last regular meeting – after hearing about unsafe work conditions for the staff member working there – councilman Johnson, citing the city’s belief that the county alone should be responsible for library funding, made a motion to rescind their promised support, noting that he would be working a volunteer shift at the library each week and encouraging others to do the same. He also noted that the city, despite an expected influx of more than $17,000 with the new tax rate, shouldn’t be responsible for an institution they “already pay for” with county taxes.
While Johnson’s motion died for lack of a second, a motion to table discussion of the funding request until a future date did pass; but only after Mayor George Steele, who emphasized that the city had made a commitment already, noted that despite that commitment it was “not right (for the county) to throw the burden back on the cities.”
While he also did vote with his colleagues to table the motion, councilman and mayoral candidate Troy Combs commented that council had made a commitment, and that the council had “just found (more) money for the streets,” suggesting the issue had as much to do with political will as it did with the availability of funding sources.
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