The powers that be in Murfreesboro are dead set on raising property taxes by a whopping 40% in the coming fiscal year.
In an attempt to spin the issue in their direction, someone (I'm assuming the city manager but you know what happens when you assume) decided it would be a good idea to take the issue to the social medias to explain.
PRUDENT BUDGETING— City of Murfreesboro (@cityofmborotn) June 3, 2019
City @cityofmborotn 2020 budget assures solid future fiscal footing. Expenses must balance community needs & revenue. 20 yrs of prop. tax rate declines (now 50% of 1999 rate) creates imbalance; must be addressed pic.twitter.com/VKuD38vGul
It didn't go as planned.
On Facebook and Twitter, residents are rightfully asking where their money goes and why the budget suddenly needs more money after years of stability.
"Total revenues have roughly doubled in the last 10 years. Despite a population increase of closer to 30%," resident David Criswell wrote on a confusing Facebook post. "Stop spinning this as if you've been decreasing taxes. Cause you haven't."
According to Criswell's calculations, the city's budget has gone from $90 million in 2010 to $170 million in 2018. The increase can be largely attributed to rising property values from "It City" overflow.
According to my records the city budget was $96.8 million in 2010 (not including the Murfreesboro City Schools Budget), this was during the height of the Great Recession and then City Manager Roger Haley was trying to balance falling revenues with the good of the city.
There's some interesting information on the city's website about revenues versus expenditures (that includes schools), like in 2016 the city collected more than $310 million in taxes but only spent $203 million. By 2017, expenditures topped $520 million (WTAF?) but dropped again in 2018 to $282 million. In 2019, the city brought in $324 million but only spent $253 million.
What happened in 2017 to cause such a jump in expenditures, you ask?
My best guess is capital improvements.
The city was either finishing or starting the following projects: a communications system upgrade for first responders, two new fire stations, a new police headquarters, new roads, design for a new airport terminal, and various parks-related projects.
Granted much of this was paid for with about $300 million in low-interest municipal bonds from the Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund, which accounted for 22 percent ($72 million) of budget expenditures in 2018.
That still begs the question: Why do they need extra money when they are only spending 78 percent of their budget?
Seems to me like there's plenty of money.
If you want to complain about it to the City Council, they are holding an airing of grievances at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.
Murfreesboro's taxes explained
As explained in the Murfreesboro Pulse:
"The proposed budget, if adopted in its current form, would raise the Murfreesboro property tax rate from about 94 cents per $100 of assessed value to a rate of $1.31 per $100 of assessed value, an increase of about 40 percent."
The way the city explains it: Yes, the value of property assessments have increased by 50 percent since 2009, but the tax rate has been reduced by 33 percent over that same period. That's because, in theory, assessments are not supposed to increase the burden on taxpayers (i.e., as value goes up, tax rates are supposed to go down to equalize).
At the same time, the population has grown (thanks, Nashville).
This leaves the city with 8 percent less tax revenue per person.
Instead of adjusting their spending, the City Council would rather the taxpayer contribute more.
But it looks like they don't wanna.
"Stop the excess spending and stop the tax increases," Scott Kinsman said.
When compared to other local municipalities, Murfreesboro was already on the high side.
Murfreesboro: $1.31 (proposed)
Franklin: $0.417 in Franklin,
Lebanon: $0.607 and
To compare to Nashville, county rate of $2.099 to the city's current rate of $0.94 for $3.039. If the tax hike goes through, Murfreesboro homeowners will pay $3.409 total. Nashville property owners pay $2.755 in the general services district. Outlying homes pay less because they get fewer services.