Tony, Tony, Tony

Some weeks ago as this political season had just gotten underway, I reported that contrary to his first political ads, Lenoir City  mayor candidate Tony Aikens did in fact vote for a property tax increase as a city councilman.

Just last week someone brought me one of Mr. Aikens' most recent political mailers. One of the first claims made in the mailer is:

"I have never voted for a property tax increase."

One of us has got to be wrong. Let's see if we can figure out who.

On June 23rd 2005, not only did Mr. Aikens and his fellow city councilmen vote for one of the city's largest property tax increases, they did it in what most would consider the most unethical way possible.

They used the confusion of reappraisals to slip in a secret "stealth" property tax increase by not adopting the new "certified tax rate" after reappraisals. Every four years, Lenoir City and Loudon County property owners are faced with property reappraisals. This is the process whereby the state takes all kinds of information pertaining to our county and city property, sticks it in a computer and comes up with new values for our property.

Higher property appraisals do not automatically mean higher property taxes. In fact state law prohibits local governments from raising property taxes simply due to reappraisals. The only way your property taxes go up is if commission or city council raises the tax rate.

2005 was a reappraisal year. When property values go up the tax rate must come down. The 2005 Lenoir City property tax rate was $1.30. After reappraisals that year the state lowered Lenoir City's new certified property tax rate at $1.11. 

Lenoir City council never breathed a word about their new certified tax rate, quietly held their required public hearing which no one attended because no one knew or understood what it was about, and voted to exceed the new certified property tax rate set by the state from $1.11 back up to $1.30 effectively duping the public into believing they had not raised taxes.

The council's action raised the city property tax rate by 19 cents or 17%. If you ask any member of Council who voted for the tax increase today, they will likely swear to you they did not raise taxes.  I think some of them have heard it and repeated it so often they've convinced themselves it's the truth.

I'm not reporting this issue to try to hurt Tony's campaign, in fact I wish the best of luck to all the candidates but it's the responsibility of every citizen to hold our elected officials and candidates accountable for their statements and actions.