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6 APRIL 2022


Chairman Stoney Jackson opened the meeting asking Tommy Pollard to offer a prayer and lead the pledge.  Minutes were then approved after motion by Joyce Woodard and seconded by Larry Worsham.


First Agenda Item –Property Tax Freeze, Chairman Jackson asked Melisa Kelton, Consultant with the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) to speak on the subject.  She in turn introduced Joe Griffin, also consultant for Property Assessment at CTAS, stating he had considerable expertise in both county and at state level.  Mr. Griffin proceeded to discuss establishment of the Property Tax Freeze Act, enacted in the 2007 session with last amendment in 2012 for individuals 65+; recent Haywood County adoption; provided a handout showing background information on the provisions of the act; frequently asked questions; a listing of the counties and cities in Tennessee who have adopted the local option Property Tax Freeze program (23 counties {24 with Haywood} of 95 total counties and 33  cities/towns of approximately 346 municipalities in Tennessee with many more living in smaller towns; and a map showing income limits by Tennessee counties for tax year 2021.


Challenges presented and discussed:  Sometimes adopted by city only, sometimes county only and sometimes both city and county which means to the tax payer considerable confusion on “if have a tax freeze why have my taxes increased.”  Example county freezes but city does not, or vice versa.  Freeze only applies to primary residence and five acres.  If own more than five acres – two separate tax rates.  If property re-appraised, pay at the lower of the two rates.  However freeze is applied, the reduction must come from somewhere leaving the balance of the tax payers to pick up the additional.  As noted above only a fraction of counties and cities have adopted this local option and of those some do an additional stipend for some taxpayers (potentially drawing an arbitrary line).  Mr. Griffin noted from the tax payer’s perspective, with all the required documentation for proof, they often feel guilty asking for the freeze.  He also noted the extensive workload on the Trustee’s office, with Melissa Kelton of CTAS noting that had occurred in one of the counties.  Commissioner Tommy Pollard spoke at this time noting that he had proposed adopting this option because he wanted to help the poor in the county.  After the above discussion, he said he didn’t want to put a burden on those people and that something more simple might be more appropriate.  Mr. Griffin continued to discuss who would benefit from the program but also the offset in cost, e.g. additional help in Trustee’s office; have to apply every year and if dropped, return to that year full rate.  Commissioner Wilburn asked if the total tax was reimbursed under the tax relief but the answer is that certain people, e.g. totally disabled veterans, are treated differently than a person 65+ only.  Janice Curtis, Trustee, mentioned the state returns an annual amount each year back to the local government, who in turn supplements that tax; and if more people qualify there would be less reduction per person. Commissioner David Wamble mentioned the county has not raised property taxes for the last 13 years so many may have quit applying due to seeing no change or advantage.  Mr. Griffin mentioned that Giles County will probably see an influx of citizens and that will mean need for infrastructure and that counties are always behind for infrastructure, implying need for additional tax revenue.  Mr. Griffin also discussed “gaming” the system, where very wealthy people change on paper ownership of the home which may be valued more than $1M, but with the “new owner” usually the wife whose income is considerably less, they can qualify for the tax freeze and that was being done in some of the larger cities.   Market fluctuations also impact who pays and what are the required property tax.  Although the Tennessee Constitution authorizing this program spells out that total or combined annual income, OR WEALTH, the wealth portion was questioned by Commissioner Mike Cesarini, and Mr. Griffin responded as did some of the commissioners by insisting the income is just that, income only, not other assets or other forms of wealth.  Commissioner Tracy Wilburn asked when put on the state ballot did the act pass all counties and Mr. Griffin said the act passed but the adoption and implementation lagged with additional amendments being included.  Chairman Jackson asked Janice Curtis how many are now on the tax relief and she commented that it averages around 461, with some going off and some coming on.


Discussion then moved to a potential stipend to add to the amount returned by the state.  Several wanted to go ahead at this meeting or next to settle this issue.  Others questioned the immediacy and asked that the numbers be crunched in the budget committee.  A motion by Tommy and seconded by Larry Worsham was made to provide to the budget committee for their developing the potential cost options.  Motion approved.  Chairman thanked CTAS for coming and Melissa Kelton noted that if any questions came up afterwards, email would be the best route.


While not on the agenda, a motion by Commissioner Gayle Jones (in absentee) was provided to all to include on the full commission agenda the need to hire Lois Aymett to post certain information to the Giles County website.  The County Executive Melissa Greene noted that posting of the agenda and supporting documentation for the full commission is the responsibility of Carol Wade, County Clerk, and often additional items are needed that would require updating the agenda in a more immediate fashion.  She also noted that two and one-half years ago, there was not a web site and now if the commissioners receive a notice of a meeting it is immediately put on the calendar for all.  She also said she had received in her three and one-half years as County Executive, only one call asking for minutes.  To place the extensive documentation will require additional storage on the website and additional cost.  Chairman Jackson noted that all agendas are posted on the bulletin board outside the Annex meeting room, and County Executive noted they are also put on the radio.  Additionally, some of the commissioners are also posting on their media pages.  Commissioner Sutton noted that if they want to know, then take action to go to the source and pick it up.  Commissioner Duane Jones noted that the minutes are posted after approval, which is usually one month later.  Commissioner Erin Curry noted that the county calendar and your personal calendar can be synched so one update does both.  Chairman Jackson said the legislative body was following all TCA code and County Executive Greene noted that the website is not a requirement of the code but is done to be more transparent to the county.  The Chairman further said if there is something being done or not according to the TCA code, then the county attorney should address that in full court.  Commissioner Brad Butler noted that most of the action and discussion takes place in the committee meetings, and if citizens have concerns, they should address them to their individual commissioner, their representative.

Commission Roger Reedy noted in the past each person that had sponsored a bill would stand up and in a short time talk about the bill and why it was being presented.  Chairman Jackson said it was in the rules, but not typically followed, but Commissioner Curry was especially noteworthy in following that rule.  In finalizing the discussion on hiring the posting out, County Executive noted that her budget was the only one cut last year and that their workload is substantial this year.


Motion to adjourn was made by Mike Cesarini, seconded by Larry Worsham and was approved.


Attendees:  Chairman Stoney Jackson, Joyce Woodard, Duane Jones, Brad Butler, Tommy Pollard , and Larry Worsham (Judy Pruett , absent) /Other Commissioners Mike Cesarini, Rodney Journey, David Adams, Tim Risner, David Wamble, Rose Brown, Tracy Wilburn, Joseph Sutton, Erin Curry, Bill Cary /Other County Executive Melissa Greene, Trustee Janice Curtis, Property Assessor Tommy Hyatt CTAS Melisa Kelton, Joe Griffin, Public Bill Young, Annelle Guthrie