LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETING MINUTES
24 JANUARY 2022
Chairman Stoney Jackson opened the meeting, asking Tommy Pollard to offer a prayer and lead the pledge. The minutes of the previous Legislative Committee Meeting, 7 October 2021, were motioned for approval by Joyce Woodard, seconded by Larry Worsham and were approved.
The discussion on the Property Tax Freeze Act was initiated by Tommy Pollard who had experienced many Giles County residents in dire economic circumstances, especially those that were elderly. He recommended putting into place a property tax rate freeze on owners of their primary residence on equal or less than five acres (no large farms). He mentioned inflation resulting in higher costs and the sales tax increasing as a result of the higher costs. He considered this property tax freeze to result in little to no loss of tax dollars. To answer a question about how many elderly lived in Giles County, Erin Curry noted that 21% of 65 and older adults were shown in the most recent census. Tommy Hyatt, Giles County Assessor of Property, discussed the tax relief program in Giles County which is generally based on income rather than age. For the tax relief program there is a requirement to review annually as would be for the Property Tax Freeze. Janice Curtis, Giles County Trustee, discussed the individuals eligible for the tax relief program. Those are 100% disabled veterans with no age or income limitations; elderly who must be 65 or older with income below $31,190 for this year, and this income is subject to change each year by the state; all individuals disabled, again with the income limitation; and the widow(er)of a disabled veteran with no income limitation. All must own the home and use it as a primary residence. All must show proof of income. Currently there are only 461 home owners using the tax relief program in Giles County. For the tax freeze program there only 23 counties and thirty cities in Tennessee who have adopted the property tax freeze and property tax relief programs. These programs are to ensure low-income elderly or disabled homeowners are able to age in place when living in a part of town with higher-than-average growth in property values. Janice discussed why in many cases this proof of income is difficult due to various factors, such as no income subject to federal income taxes, lost or unknown whereabouts of other documentation, although other sources such as bank statements sometimes are reviewed and approved as show of income. Discussion on how much would this freeze actually cost the county was complicated by some mixing the Property Tax Freeze with the low-income tax relief. David Adams mentioned another county does a match on the tax relief, and another gave a specific example in Giles County of $154 reduction (without any county match). A clarification on the freeze, where some thought meant no tax required, was cleared by Tommy Hyatt saying only freezes the amount already being paid. Janice did mention that after the first-year refund, coming after the tax had been paid in total, the following years were done at the approved reduced amount.
The discussion then started on the history of the Giles County freeze which was a referendum that voted to approve the freeze and which happened more than 14 years before. However due to personnel problems, e.g. lack of staff, the freeze was never implemented. A motion by Judy Pruett and seconded by Tommy Pollard was made to enact the property tax freeze at the rate as it exists today. Motion approved.
Further discussion on “if own property in another location, and live in house in another location, are you exempt?” Answer only on house (as long as it is less than 5 acres). Several of the commissioners asked for an estimate on the potential change in county funding but the complicated issue of potential applicants, some dying or moving going out of the program, and newer ones coming into the program and what a future tax rate might be made any estimate somewhat less useful. Beth Sumners-Moore, Financial Management Office, showed her concern for the potential workload on both Janice and Tommy Hyatt; and Janice herself said she would like to talk further to her auditor contact again. County Executive Melissa Greene, through video, said she was not sure the committee would need to vote on this since one was already approved (just not implemented) and that she would be in touch with the county lawyer, Lucy Henson.
Other questions about amending the earlier resolution were raised as well as approval by the full county legislative body being required. Chairman Jackson indicated no rush and that until the committee could get other feedback from Janice/Tommy Hyatt/Lucy Henson no further action would be pursued.
Motion to adjourn by Tommy Pollard, seconded by Larry Worsham was made and approved.
Attendees: Chairman Stoney Jackson, Duane Jones, Judy Pruett, Mike Cesarini, Tommy Pollard, Joyce Woodard, Larry Worsham Other Commissioners Gayle Jones, David Adams, Joseph Sutton, Tim Risner, Terry Harwell, Rodney Journey, Roger Reedy, Harold Brooks, David Wamble, Rose Brown, Erin Curry