State sets Sullivan County's certified tax rate about 11 cents lower than last year's rate

J. H. Osborne • Jul 30, 2017 at 3:06 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — It’s a mixed bag of potentially good news and it-could-be-worse news. The good news (maybe): Sullivan County’s certified tax rate, set by the state, is about 11 cents lower than last year’s. Also on the good front: The amount each penny of the tax rate is projected to generate in revenue is $371,5012. That’s up from the $354,985 it was projected to generate last year.

Those two changes are due to the results, first revealed publicly last week at a called meeting of the Sullivan County Commission’s Budget Committee, of the county’s 2017 countywide reassessment.

The it-could-be-worse part: The county is projected to see only $157,000 in new property tax revenue due to actual growth rather than increased valuation of property from the reassessment process.

If the commission wants to consider a tax rate higher than the state-certified rate of $2.4652 (per $100 of assessed value), it must advertise it as a tax increase — even if it is equal to or below the $2.5754 (per $100 of assessed value) property owners within the county (including in the cites) paid last year.

The Budget Committee agreed to meet again Monday evening, immediately following a special called meeting of the full Sullivan County Commission that’s meant to see a new property assessor appointed.

After that, members agreed, their next meeting will be Aug. 9.

The committee is trying to develop a county budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Most of the budget process was completed weeks ago. But two things were cited as reasons completion of the budget slowed down: the wait for results of the countywide reassessment (an event that happens every four years); and a hopeful conclusion of Sheriff Wayne Anderson’s lawsuit seeking additional funding from the county.

Mediation between Anderson and County Mayor Richard Venable led to that $6.6 million suit being settled for about $2 million (that’s about 5.4 cents’ worth of property tax, based on the new $371,000 estimated value of each penny).

According to the reassessment results: The countywide gross assessment is more than $3.95 billion — up from about $3.74 billion last year. The meager projection of $157,051 in new property tax revenue indicates most of that $215 million worth of growth in the overall assessment is due to higher valuation of existing properties — not new construction. The 2017 assessment includes more than $82 million worth of projects that were built with tax increment financing (TIF). “New” taxes paid by those property owners is largely directed to paying off redevelopment costs.

Also at the forefront of budget discussions is how the county will pay for the $140 million bond issue the county commission approved late last year to fund school building projects in the county, Kingsport and Bristol (cities share in school funding because city residents also pay county property taxes). At the time, that was estimated to equal about nine cents on the property tax rate.