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Bristol, Tenn. hikes property tax, Kingsport stays the same

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Jun 19 2013 05:01:18 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 19 2013 08:24:38 PM CDT

The battle to balance a budget is winding down for local cities with the new fiscal year just a few days away.

The battle to balance a budget is winding down for local cities with the new fiscal year just a few days away.

In fact, Tuesday night both Kingsport and Bristol, Tennessee passed their 2013-2014 budgets, but News 5 found out they mean two very different things for their taxpaying residents.

Bristol, Tennessee officials are asking their taxpayers to foot a higher bill.

The city council approved a $106 million budget that includes a 12 cent property tax hike along with other fee increases. "I think it's ridiculous, especially since we have to pay for our water, our sewer, our trash," said Better Erwin, a Bristol, Tennessee resident.

City council member Michelle Dolan told us the tax increase was justified by other members of the council as a means of investment in the city. "Our revenue from property taxes has been going down as the value of homes go down," Dolan said, but she voted against the budget.

"Our policy is actually to look for other areas to increase revenue and not to depend on property taxes," Dolan went on to say.

Across the county in Kingsport the financial frustrations are fewer.

The board of mayor and alderman also passed a budget Tuesday night. "The big highlight was we did not raise property taxes. Water and sewer rates went up a minimal three percent," said Kingsport's mayor, Dennis Phillips.

"I'm retired and on a fixed income and have got a lot of expenses to deal with, so it's quite nice to see one thing hold its own and stay the same," said Kingsport resident Paul Gillenwater.

On top of that, school funding increased. "We allocated an additional $450,000 this year," Phillips said.

So why do these budgets seem so different?

Mayor Dennis Phillips told us years worth of investments are finally paying off, like the Reedy Creek property that's now home to Starbucks, and the Kingsport Pavilion that includes Target among many other stores. "That was being taxed as farmland ten years ago. Today, it's being taxed as retail development in millions and millions of dollars," said Phillips.

Even still, Mayor Phillips said balancing a budget like this has become even more difficult, which is why he said even though taxes aren't going up this year that doesn't mean they won't go up next year.

Back in Bristol, council member Dolan said city leaders must be more diligent in the future to save taxpayer dollars. "I would like to see the budget looked at every work session and gone over with a fine-tooth comb to see where we can cut things that aren't necessary," said Dolan.

We also checked with Johnson City on its budget process.

Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin told us they've trimmed down the budget about as lean as it can go, that's why he doesn't expect any tax increases this year. A final reading of that budget is scheduled to happen Friday morning.

Bristol, Virginia's property tax was raised by two cents earlier this month.