Rutherford officials say 'growth should pay for itself' in resolution to state legislators

New housing construction continues in the Shelton Square subdivision in Murfreesboro on Monday, April 24, 2023.
New housing construction continues in the Shelton Square subdivision in Murfreesboro on Monday, April 24, 2023.

A “growth should pay for itself” resolution seeking state support won unanimous support Monday from a Rutherford County Commission committee.

Rutherford County Mayor Joe Carr authored the resolution that would seek Tennessee General Assembly approval to provide the local government the same authority Williamson and Wilson counties have in collecting revenues through similar development taxes and new construction impact fees to help pay for new schools and expanded public services.

The full 21-member commission will consider the Steering, Legislative and Governmental Committee’s recommendation during a 6 p.m. Dec. 14 meeting at the Rutherford County Courthouse. The committee voted 7-0 without commenting on the resolution.

“Give us the freedom to allow growth to pay for itself,” said Carr, noting he crafted the document with assistance from his chief of staff Eric Hennessee, who’s a lawyer, and County Attorney Nick Christiansen.

More: Future tax hikes? 'If we don't fix growth paying for itself, we will be in same situation'

Carr said the county will face borrowing $400 million in the next couple of years to build and expand schools needed for growth. Paying back debt service will be about $30 million annually added to the county budget supported by a 16.1% property tax hike.

Mayor would 'veto' any new property tax hike

The Republican mayor contends the tax hike was needed to eliminate a $64 million deficit caused by funding growth. But he opposes any proposed new property tax that would be an estimated 10.7% increase to fund the annual debt to pay for the $400 million in school projects.

“If the County Commission wants to raise property taxes again, I’ll veto it,” Carr said.

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The mayor instead wants the county’s state lawmakers to pass legislation to allow Rutherford to pay for growth in improved ways than what’s allowed at this time.

The resolution mentions that the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) reported that Rutherford County in 2022 collected nearly $5.5 million on an adequate facilities tax at $1 per square foot per new home to help fund schools for 49,340 students, or about $111 per pupil.

TACIR’s findings show Rutherford’s revenues from growth trailed two adjacent counties: Williamson raising nearly $30.9 million for 41,980 students, which is about $735 per pupil; and Wilson collecting more than $16.9 million for 19,600 students, which equated to about $864 per pupil, the resolution said.

Meeting on funding issue set Dec. 18

The resolution also mentions how Murfreesboro, Smyrna and La Vergne are able to charge impact fees from development while Rutherford County is limited to the adequate facilities tax on housing to help fund schools.

“It is unconscionable to continue the scheme of forcing the property taxpayers of Rutherford County to fund infrastructure improvements, adequate school facilities, and the expansion of emergency services and other services caused by its accelerated growth with more property taxes,” the resolution said.

Carr and members of the County Commission will get the chance to promote the legislation during a 5 p.m. Dec. 18 meeting at the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce.

More: Tennessee housing market 2024 forecast: Where prices will fall and what homebuyers should know.

State Sen. Shane Reeves, R-Murfreesboro, organized the Dec. 18 “Roadmap to Rutherford County Funding” meeting to give county officials, fellow state lawmakers, home builders and real estate professionals a chance to discuss revenue options for the local government and school district., Carr said.

The county will be providing public notice for the Dec. 18 meeting to allow County Commission members to discuss the issues while complying with the Sunshine law , Carr said. The law requires members of a local governing body to only deliberate on issues and vote during public meetings with public notice. The county also will video record and televise the meeting through RCTV, the mayor added.

‘Find different ways to raise money’

Those planning to attend include County Commissioner Craig Harris, the Republican chairman of the steering committee that unanimously backed the “growth should pay for itself” resolution.

“We need to do something to help raise more revenuers for the county,” Harris said Tuesday after the steering committee meeting.

County leaders want to work with their state lawmakers to look at all revenue options, Harris said. Options could include money from lottery revenues, a larger local cut for sales tax collections, a new fee on real estate transactions, he added.

“We’re just trying to find different ways to raise money, so we don’t have to raise property taxes ever year,” Harris said.

Harris also said he opposes putting the full burden on growth taxes on the home builders, which adds to the cost of taxpayers trying to buy a house.

Reach reporter Scott Broden with news tips and questions through email at Follow his tweets on the X social media platform @ScottBroden.

Meeting notices

The Rutherford County Commission will consider a “growth should pay for itself” resolution during a 6 p.m. meeting Dec. 14 at the Rutherford County Courthouse.

A “Roadmap to Rutherford County Funding” meeting for state lawmakers and Rutherford County officials, home builders and real estate professionals will be from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Herald: Rutherford officials say 'growth should pay for itself' in resolution