Loudon County officials have estimated that the certified
property tax rate could see an increase in the next fiscal year to compensate for a historic
decrease in assessed property values during the latest four-year reappraisal.
data from Property Assessor Mike Campbell, of the 33,000 parcels that were assessed in Loudon
County, about two-thirds declined in value, while 7,400 increased. As a result, the county tax rate
may see an increase from the current value of 1.7869 to 1.8946 per $100 of assessed
"The valuation for the county came down, and the rate went up to basically be tax
revenue neutral," Campbell said. "If you're sending $30 million to fund the county government and
you have a devaluation of properties within the county, then the rate has to go up to cover that $30
Campbell cautioned that the new tax rate was only a preliminary figure and could
change. The preliminary county common tax rate is 1.5357.
Lenoir City residents only pay the
county common rate and do not pay into the education debt service fund. City of Loudon residents pay
common rate plus the education debt rate of 0.3589.
Commissioner Don Miller, who is on the
budget committee, said this was the first time since he has lived in Loudon County that property
values saw an average decline in value.
"What's going to be confusing this year is the first
time in the 20 years I've lived here - and maybe the first time forever - the average assessed value
has actually gone down," Miller said. "Every other four years it's always gone up, and when it goes
up we lower the property tax rate to get the same amount of revenue."
The property assessor's
office will have more concrete tax rate figures once new software reanalyzes the data. The
preliminary tax rates were calculated by Campbell's office as a way to assist county commissioners
in making some budget estimates as they work on the next fiscal year funding
Commissioner Steve Harrelson, who sits on the budget committee, said on the surface, a
higher property tax rate may look like an increase, but the tax rate is just an adjustment to make
up for a decrease in property values to maintain the current level of funding for county
"It's been more of a trend for Loudon County the last several years that the
property values increased," Harrelson said. "We've been pretty lucky in having a progressive county
as far as a lot of growth."
Miller said by state law the county has to adjust the property
tax rate to maintain the same level of funding given any fluctuations in property
"Some people may think, 'Well, because the property tax rate went up my taxes are
going up. The county increased their taxes'," Miller said. "Well, we didn't. We just reset the
property tax rate so that we don't get any increase at all or decrease in total
County and school officials are continuing to consider future school construction
for Loudon High School and facilities at the north end of the county, and a study is currently under
way to consider the feasibility of renovating the current jail or building a new one.
budget committee is currently in the process of hearing requests from the various county
Miller said from the onset of the budget process that his objective has been to
keep county revenues the same this next fiscal year.
"That's one of my goals - not only to
hold tax revenues constant this year but also try to do it next year too, which is going to be a
more difficult thing to do, but I think we need to think when we do this year's budget, we need to
look beyond this year," he said. "We need to think about the future - more about what's going to
happen the next year and maybe even the year after that."
Commissioner Earlena Maples said
she was confident county officials would take steps to ensure taxes are not raised for property
"I'm sure the budget committee and the county commission will do everything in their
power to keep from increasing the taxes no matter what has come before them," she
Maples said any future construction expenses could potentially be funded from the
retirement of debt.
"I would hope that we wouldn't again have to increase taxes that we could
maybe get some of it paid off and work that money into something else instead of having to just
continually borrow and get deeper and deeper in debt," Maples said.
A couple of significant
sources of tax revenue remain in limbo, as Tate & Lyle and Kimberly-Clark are still appealing
previous appraisals. During a reappraisal in 2009, Tate & Lyle's value was established at $73
million. After an appeal, the value was reduced to $60 million. The company has requested the value
be dropped to $10 million for taxing purposes.
Based on the 2011 tax rate, Campbell
previously estimated that the company's tax bill would be $1.6 million based on $60 million of
assessed value, compared with a bill of $281,560 under the $10 million assessment.
Olsen, Tate & Lyle vice president of community and government affairs, said the company
maintains its position on what it feels is a "fair evaluation."
"Our interest is paying our
fair share of taxes for the community, and we recognize that the local taxing bodies have a need of
revenue to continue to provide services for the community, and we look forward to balancing the
local taxing body's needs with our own needs (and) being competitive in a very tough global
economy," Olsen said.
Campbell said his office is still working with Tate & Lyle's tax
agent to reach a consensus.
"We're trying to find what the discrepancies are on why we have
differences of opinions of value," Campbell said.
Harrelson said after the jail study was
complete, the county would have better sense of the costs associated with addressing inmate
"I know it's not our want to increase everybody's taxes and bring in more
revenue," Harrelson said. "I would think our goal would be just to keep our revenues as is, and
we'll just have to look at that and adjust accordingly. I know a lot of people when you get in this
situation although you're keeping everything the same a lot of people will perceive it as a tax
increase when it's really not."