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Franklin approves tax increase

Franklin approves tax increase

The Franklin Town Council unanimously approved its 2018-19 budget on Monday night, which includes a 4-cent property tax increase for its residents. 

The town’s total budget is just under $9 million. With the property tax increase, the town’s millage rate will increase from 28 cents to 32 cents per every $100 of assessed value. For example, a homeowner with a house valued at $100,000 will now pay about $320 a year in property taxes instead of $280 a year. This is the first tax increase the town has had in the last several years. 

Only two people spoke during the public hearing prior to the budget being passed. Franklin resident Angela Moore, who has made a few unsuccessful runs for a town council seat, made suggestions of where the board could cut expenses in order to keep the tax rate the same. 

“The town has decided to raise taxes by 14.3 percent after raises of 4 to 8 percent over the last six to eight years,” she said. “When you look at what taxes were several years ago it’s a significant raise.”

Moore said she knows cutting a budget can be difficult, but that it’s necessary given how much debt the town has to pay off. The town has $170,931 budgeted for general debt service and another $22,051 in interest payments. It also has about $75,000 budgeted for fire debt service and about $1 million in debt for a new water and sewer plant project. 

“There are lots of projects everyone wants to do but we are in a huge amount of debt — we’re paying $225,000 a year in interest to debt service,” Moore said. “We have to stop taking on new projects.”

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Moore said the town should also cut out expenses associated with tourism-related events like Pickin’ on the Square, Fourth of July fireworks and other town-funded festivals and hand that responsibility over to the Tourism Development Authority. 

Once again Moore asked the town to stop designating $40,000 a year in the budget for nonprofit funding. Each year, community nonprofits providing services in Franklin apply for up to $5,000 grants from the town’s nonprofit pool and the town selects which agencies receive funding. Moore said it isn’t fair to take money from the taxpayers to give to charities they may or may not want to support. 

“I don’t get a say in where y’all donate my taxes and that’s just not OK,” she said. “Particularly in light of the fact you can’t pay your bills without raising taxes.”

Councilmember Adam Kimsey said although a tax increase is scary, the town has to provide services and has to complete certain capital projects. 

“Those projects need to be done and the cost doesn’t get any cheaper,” he said. 

Kimsey added that he agreed the council needed to take a closer look at how the nonprofit funds are being spent. 

Mayor Bob Scott agreed, saying that many municipalities have stopped providing funds to nonprofits all together because of legality issues.   

“For the most part I’m conformable enough with it, but appreciate Angela’s comments,” said Councilmember Joe Collins. “I’m OK with Pickin’ (on the Square) because I can look at it as economic development. I’m OK with paying interest because you can’t build big things by paying it out of your back pocket. But I have a little angst about the nonprofit funding because there is an opportunity for us to choose what the citizens put their money towards. I do see the other side of it.”

Councilmember Barbara McRae said the town should proceed with the nonprofit funding this year and closely examine it next year. 

“I don’t have a philosophical problem with it — they can provide the service much cheaper than the town could if we wanted to provide that service but we do need to make sure everyone is meeting that standard,” she said. 

Councilmember David Culpepper said he didn’t think there was a way to avoid a tax increase for this year, but would like to see the board start the budget review process earlier next year and think more long-term when it comes to funding projects. 

The 2018-19 budget passed unanimously. 

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