By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE – The Cookeville City Council voted Thursday to increase the property tax rate for the 2020 fiscal year by 15 cents per $100 of assessed property value to fund transportation projects.
During the council’s Monday work session, an increase of 10 cents was discussed which would have resulted in $864,000 going into a transportation fund.
Members of the council have recently had two work sessions during which they evaluated road projects trying to find ways to get the biggest impact for the dollars spent. The road deemed to have the biggest impact on local traffic was Walnut Avenue and the proposed project would widen the roadway to five lanes from Interstate Drive to Jackson Street.
Councilman Eric Walker was concerned that an increase of 10 cents wouldn’t have enough impact.
“We identified 39 street projects that need to happen and an addition nine state and city street projects that need to happen in the near future,” said Walker. “With this amount of stuff on our plate, we really need to move forward and try to provide some additional income.”
Walker then made a motion to increase the tax rate by 15 cents and create a restricted “pay as you go fund” of 5 cents to work on projects on a yearly basis.
“I do think it’s important to add this additional five cents tax increase,” said Walker. “It’s important for us to attack these flow problems, parking downtown, sidewalks. We’ve got ADA compliance issues that we are trying to attack in the near future.
“If we are going to really see our city start to increase as the growth increases, if we don’t want to hit people each year, or every other year, with tax increases we need to go ahead and start solving as many of these problems as we have as fast as we can.”
Councilman Chuck Womack reinforced Walker’s thoughts on the roads.
“I think we’ve got a road problem in Cookeville,” said Womack. “Getting around Cookeville takes a lot longer than it used to and I’ve been here a long time.”
Womack sees Cookeville’s internal arteries as a solution to some of the transportation flow issues.
“I see the need to put more money into roads the people of Cookeville can use, particularly the internal arteries like Stephens and Walnut,” Womack said. “That’s where the people who live here get around and we have our own ways of getting around. Now the people who come in on 10th Street, Jefferson and Willow, I think we can get some state funding to help with that, but I think we need to put some money into our own internal arteries so this sounds reasonable.”
Mayor Ricky Shelton was the only councilperson voting against the 15 cent increase instead favoring the 10-cent increase. His concern was that with the increase in water rates and the new spread of gas bills over the entire year that the increase would be too much at one time for some residents.
“We’re the 10th fastest growing micropolitan,” reminded Councilperson Laurin Wheaton. “Traffic is the number one problem that I continually hear about. I know that no one is going to like raising taxes but at the same time we have problems that we need to address. There’s things we have to do to make the city better.”
To see how the tax increase will impact you, visit here.