HENDERSONVILLE, Tennessee – Rutherford County Mayor Joe Carr presented the 2023 Property Taxpayers Protection Act to the Sumner County Constitutional Republicans, during the group’s regularly scheduled meeting Saturday at the Shackle Island Fire Rescue Hall in Hendersonville.
The Sumner County Constitutional Republicans is a five-year old organization that formed in order to recruit and train God-fearing, action-based conservatives to run for local office, its Chairman Kurt Riley told The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy.
Carr was accompanied at the SCCR by Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt – both of whom were former state representatives with overlapping terms. The two are a part of a larger group of conservative county mayors elected in 2022, like Sumner County’s John Isbell, who introduced Carr to the 80 or more attendees in the standing-room-only meeting room.
Isbell said in his introduction, after meeting with Carr earlier in the week to hear about the proposal, “I was impressed with the approach he has taken on this, the piece of legislation that will be carried. I think it’s going to do good things. I think when you hear what he has to say,” not wanting to steal Carr’s thunder, “I think it’s going to level the playing field for counties and cities.”
“It’s nothing against cities. It’s nothing against builders. Nothing against real estate agents. It’s about leveling the playing field and giving counties the resources they need to fund services that the citizens want. And that’s what this piece of legislation is about, and that’s why I’m supporting it. And, that’s why I want Joe Carr to give you the details on what it is and get your support on it as well.”
Carr started off by saying that as a legislator, he didn’t understand the challenges that communities face like mayors, commissioners, and school board members do with the serious inequality that exists with how the Tennessee General Assembly allowed cities to fund for growth and counties to fund for that same growth.
The serious inequality was brought about the 2006 County Powers Relief Act, codified as 67-4-2901 to 2913.
The Act was a response to counties requesting the Tennessee legislature for the private acts necessary for a county to implement an impact fee, a financial tool available to cities through the passage of an ordinance by a simple majority vote by the council.
Back in the early 2000s, when some counties were already experiencing significant growth, the General Assembly didn’t like the idea of going on record voting for impact fees, explained Carr, which could result in the next mail piece calling it out and preventing re-election.
In 2006, a lot of legislators complained to then House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, a west Tennessee Democrat who served in that position longer than anyone else in Tennessee history, that they needed one solution, and one solution only to divest the state legislature of ever having to ratify these private acts again.
The Act specifically targeted the counties’ ability to ensure that new developments in the communities pay for the services that they necessarily require for expansion to service that new development, Carr explained.
The ability that counties had prior to the 2006 Act, Carr said, made sense.
“As a constitutional republican conservative,” Carr said he believes if you want it, within reason, you should have it, “but you should pay for it.”
“You shouldn’t make the farmer or the older couple who has been in your community across the county in a low-growth part of the county subsidize your subdivision, your growth by raising their property taxes when they get no benefit whatsoever from that development. To me, that’s patently unfair. That’s socialism,” Carr emphasized.
Through the 2006 Act, counties lost their ability to fund schools, roads, fire, EMS and other services not included in new development but required of the counties to provide.
The only remaining option available to counties, Carr said, is property taxes, added Sumner County Commissioner Jeremy Mansfield, who ran on responsible growth for his first term in 2018.
The other option allowed in state law is an adequate facilities tax, limited to $1 per square foot with increases not to exceed 10 percent every four years, “which doesn’t even keep up with inflation,” said Carr.
Through a back and forth between Carr and Mansfield, it was revealed that there are several requirements of a county before an impact fee could be implemented.
One is a threshold of a two-thirds majority vote on two separate readings of the county commission. A second is a third-party study of the needs put on the county by the development.
The study will include also include the amount of funding required to provide the identified services and whether those services, like schools, are provided within the cities or only within the unincorporated areas of the county.
All three mayors emphasized that the 2023 Property Taxpayers Protection Act will address the current disparity and inequality and provide a level playing field between cities and counties in the financial tools available to both jurisdictions. The proposal will have no negative impact on cities, but will provide parity and fairness to counties.
Carr also mentioned that the implementation by counties is optional, and that county commissioners and mayors will self-determine the exercising of the option.
Carr wrapped up by saying he was speaking on behalf of all three mayors in saying that more than anything, votes are needed in the Tennessee General Assembly. As such, Carr encouraged attendees to “Engage respectfully, courteously but with resolve your legislative delegation.”
Isbell indicated that there would be a draft resolution for county commissions to pass to request a county’s legislative delegation to support the proposal.
About two weeks ago, the Rutherford County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution by a vote of 18 to 3 requesting the county’s legislative delegation to support any bills presented in the 2023 session to amend the 2006 County Powers Relief Act, The Tennessee Star reported.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Star News Network, where she covers stories for The Tennessee Star.
Photo “Joe Carr” by Joe Carr for Tennessee. Background Photo “Rutherford County Courthouse” by BrentandMariLynn. CC BY 2.0.