There was no silence Thursday at a special called Richmond City Commission meeting to discuss the city's property tax ordinance.
After taking no action Tuesday on the first reading of an ordinance that would have produced about $95,000 more in revenue, city commissioners unanimously voted down the property tax increase Thursday at the special-called meeting. Commissioners also unanimously voted for a two-percent revenue increase that keeps the property tax rate the same and slightly increases the personal property tax rate. Mayor Jim Barnes was not in attendance.
The new ordinance introduced Thursday keeps the tax rate for real property at 14.7 cents per $100 of assessed value and raises the tax on personal property to 16.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The 2017 rate was 15.9 cents.
According to City Finance Director Sharon Cain, revenue would increase about $50,000. The increase would come from new property and if a property owner's valuation or assessment had increased. The revenue increase would fall within the 4-percent limit allowed by state law, and not be subject to a referendum.
During Tuesday's regular meeting, when Mayor Barnes asked for a motion following the first reading of the ordinance proposing the four-percent revenue increase, there was none. After discussion on the topic, no commissioner offered a motion and the mayor moved on to the next agenda item.
In the ordinance voted down Thursday, the proposed tax rate for real estate was 14.9 cents per $100 of assessed value, which would have been 0.2 cents higher than the previous year's. It would have increased the tax on property valued at $100,000 by $2, according to Cain.
Prior to that vote, Commissioner Rev. Robert Blythe, who was unable to attend Tuesday's meeting, said whatever the commission decides on now will impact future commissions and their abilities. Blythe said the city is in a very good financial position now because of what was done previously.
Commissioner Morgan Eaves said she didn't favor an increase because the city hasn't been fiscally responsible in spending the money it currently has. She noted budget money often goes unused.
Commissioner Jason Morgan added the city hasn't invested the money properly either by not taking care of the simple things, such as repairing streets with potholes and sidewalks that are chipping away.
Commissioner Jim Newby once again noted he had heard from many constituents that if the city can afford a multi-million dollar project, it didn't need to raise tax rates.
Commissioners asked Cain and City Manager Rob Minerich if they felt the city could handle less revenue and Minerich said the city's budget could absorb the decrease. When the commission unanimously adopted its 2018-19 budget in June, the budget included a four-percent revenue increase. Cain said the budget would need to be amended though.
Minerich also said the reason for the special-called meeting was to make sure there was no delay in sending out tax bills.
The third tax rate option Commissioners had was the compensation rate, which would have kept revenue neutral. After unanimously approving keeping the same property tax rate, no reading was held on compensation rate.
Jonathan Greene is the editor of The Register; follow him on Twitter @jgreeneRR.