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Clay may not revisit property tax for 6-8 months

By Gary Lloyd

CLAY — The Clay City Council may not discuss the direction of its new five-millage property tax for another six to eight months, City Manager Ronnie Dixon said Tuesday.

The property tax Tuesday was only discussed during a work session, not the regular meeting.

Funds from the property tax, which won’t hit city coffers until 2016, could go toward a Clay school system or police department.

The Clay City Council
photo by Gary Lloyd

Mayor Charles Webster said he’d like to see the money put in a contingency, school or public safety fund, similar to how items show up in the city budget, instead of earmarking the funds. Councilman Ricky Baker, however, said the ordinance has already been voted on and approved, with all but Councilman Ben Thackerson voting for the money to be earmarked. He said the five mills were voted on based on what that money would go toward. If not earmarked, Baker said, “Let’s do away with it.”

“I think that should stand just like it is,” Baker said.

The ordinance approved in July that levied the property tax geared the money toward a city school system or police department. Two last-minute ordinance additions to the Aug. 4 agenda would have changed that earmark in order to “support the contract for providing 5 Deputy Sheriffs and support through grants issued to the Clay Elementary School, Clay-Chalkville Middle School, Clay-Chalkville High School,” Ordinance 2014-07 stated.

The property tax equates to $50 per year on a house with an assessed value of $100,000. It would be $100 per year on a house with an assessed value of $200,000.

Thackerson said he thought the five mills would go toward capital improvements, such as road paving and additions at Cosby Lake Park.

Webster said he’d like to garner responses from community members on what they may want.

Councilman Kevin Small said his concern is the property value of homes in the city. Those are determined by the success of the schools in the city, he said. He said he can see the “potential handcuffing” of earmarking the funds from the property tax, of setting it in stone what the money must go toward. People do, however, want to know where their money is going, he said.

Webster said he’ll soon be meeting with Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Craig Pouncey about the issues facing the city. Getting district lines re-drawn is a top priority. Webster said Clay-Chalkville High School also has eight portables that have been on campus a long time.

“That’s ridiculous,” he said.

Dixon went over the budget with council members, noting how much the city spends and takes in each month. If the city is not bringing in significant revenue now, Dixon asked how a school system or police department could be supported. He said council members would need to think about where cuts could happen to free up more money.

Small said the council needs to put a prioritized list of improvements on paper. He said the city will either pay now or pay later for things it wants and needs. He said their decisions could either make Clay “awesome” or turn it into a city that a home can’t be sold in.

The Clay City Council next meets Monday, Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Clay City Hall. The council will consider for approval its budget for the next fiscal year.

Contact Gary Lloyd at news@trussvilletribune.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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