Crossville Mayor talks logistics
Crossville – On April 18 a public notice was placed in the Crossville Chronicle regarding the city of Crossville’s acquisition of a $55 million “tax-exempt general obligation bond” in an effort to build an indoor recreation center. Sources close to the deal have informed The Upper Cumberland Business Journal such a bond may force the city to raise taxes threefold.
The notice gives the public “twenty (20) days from the date of the publication hereof” to sign a petition by “at least 10% of the registered voters…” to protest the issuance. Crossville Mayor R.J. Crawford said the project is just in the beginning stages, and the idea of raising taxes is the last thing he would support.
“Tax increases are never a good thing on a business,” said Crawford. “It adds to the cost side of doing business. For me, if that is the option and direction the council wish to move forward on, then I would not be willing to support it. I will do everything I can to mitigate the tax burden for business and residences.”
Why does the notice fail to mention an increase in taxes and gives the public only 20 days from publication for a petition to be filed and signed?
“That’s because we don’t know what the tax increase will be for sure until we get a final locked in interest rate from our bond manager,” he said of the wording of the notice. “Once we get that, we will then take a look at rate and cost and decide if we wish to move forward. If we do, then we would vote to accept rate and move forward with that action on accepting bonds.”
The council would then have to accept the cost of the recreation center building for a final vote. If in the end, the council decides not to move forward they can back out of the project.
There are many steps in the process and this is the first, according to Crawford.
“We have a few more steps before we are locked into cost and if there would be a tax increase,” he said. “In regard to the 20 days, that’s a state requirement. I would highly encourage your readers to review the MTAS website for further information.”
Find the website at www.mtas.tennessee.edu/knowledgebase/referenda-bond-issues.
Crawford said April’s vote approved the Bond manager to search the market and secure the amount and rate.
“So right now, it is not a done deal in moving forward on taking out bonds,” said Crawford. “We still have a few steps. I would encourage those people concerned to speak with council members and share their concerns so that when and if we get to the final vote council has a better outlook from its citizens. As of now, I have had very little interaction from the public on their concern.”
The city does not solely base cost on property tax increases. If that were the case, the tax increase would “be very high,” according to Crawford.
“Currently we have $20 million in savings and reserves and close to an additional $2 million projected increase in our budget in sales tax revenue compared to last year and see that to continue to rise,” said Crawford. “Also, we are still discussing the size and scope of the Recreation center. I’d like to see the price tag come down around the $30 million range, similar to what was done recently in Morristown.”
The current scale and size of the project may shrink.
“We are waiting on the architects to come back with those options,” continued Crawford. “So we have wiggle room and space to work with and are nowhere near any final approvals. Again, our most recent vote was to get our bond manager to secure us the ability to get financing through bonds and see what that rate would be. Trying to lock in an interest rate at the top end of the cost spectrum of a Recreation center. This does not mean we are moving forward with building yet.”
An indoor recreation center would be a positive for the community. Buildings such as those have kept children out of trouble for decades.
But the question remains. Is the juice worth the squeeze?
“I look at a rec. center as a good thing,” said Crawford. “It brings families together. It’s a focal point for our community, and it will attract and retain talent and people to the area. But we have to consider is the juice worth the squeeze. We should balance fiscal responsibility and investment when looking to develop a project of this scale. $55 million with only paying for it through an increase in property tax is a non-starter for me. We need something at a lesser cost amount and supplemented through reserves, private donations and sales tax. We must have other, cost-effective options to move this building forward or we shouldn’t move forward at all, and that is what the council is working on currently. We still have a way to go before the finished project is here.”
Image by mrsiraphol on Freepik.