Earlier this month, Lakeland’s Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to implement a property tax for the first time in the City’s 35-year history. With rising costs to improve and maintain our infrastructure – bridges, roads and municipal recreation areas for families, among other needs – this property tax will help continue the quality of life Lakeland residents have grown accustomed to over the years.
The new property tax rate will be 85 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The new property tax will generate more than $2 million annually for the City. Based on state law, the property tax period actually started on Jan. 1, 2012, and will be due beginning this fall.
A question we’re hearing from residents is regarding whether MLGW fees will be reduced as a result of the introduction of property taxes. The Board felt it is necessary to provide for reserves for the possible Lakeland Municipal School System at this time. If the school system is approved by voters, we would have to be in operation by August 2013 without any immediate state funding, and this would include the election of a board, the hiring of a superintendent, getting ready for new school year, etc., all using existing City revenues. State funding would begin once the school system opens.
Other considerations are:
The Board of Commissioners received overwhelming support for a Lakeland Municipal School System at several public meetings. To be successful, the Lakeland Municipal School System must be adequately funded. Although the estimate for the local contribution of the first year of operation of a Lakeland Municipal School System is approximately $500,000, the Board of Commissioners felt it was prudent to establish a reserve of one year’s operational expenses, or $1million, with $800,000 funded by the property tax and $200,000 from the increase in the local option sales tax.
The City will be facing immediate expenses in establishing a Lakeland Municipal School System to start by August 2013 (electing a school board, the appointing of a superintendent, office staff, office space, legal and consulting expenses, etc.). It is our understanding the Lakeland Municipal School System would not receive any state or federal funds until the school actually starts in August 2013.
Based on the budget needs, the Board of Commissioners decided to establish a property tax for capital improvement needs, which could not be funded by current revenues. This is estimated to be approximately $1.4 million and is for capital and infrastructure improvements or repair, not for salaries or operational expenses.
The objective of the capital improvements is to maintain property values and protect the quality of life in Lakeland while providing for sustainable financial and economic growth in our City. This includes providing for financial stability by promoting economic growth and reducing/avoiding debt.
These capital projects would include:
- Road improvements including major street maintenance and renovation: Major repairs include isolated repairs (potholes, street failures, curb and drainage issues, etc.) in all subdivisions.
- Bridge and drainage repair: This would include major renovations on a bridge on Stewart Road and other street drainage improvements.
- Extension of Beverle Rivera Drive, including traffic signals at Canada Road and paying the match for a grant for renovations to Huff and Puff: Part of this is paid for by the Tennessee Department of Transportation as part of the I-40/Canada Road interchange project.
- Payment of the City’s share of the I-40/Canada Road interchange, including loan payments.
- New Canada Road: This will help with the completion of the preliminary design of New Canada Road. The next step will cost an estimated $400,000 in local funds and $1.6 million in federal funds.
- Construction of a City-owned fire station to be staffed by the Shelby County Fire Department to provide improved fire protection in Lakeland
- Park and recreation development and improvements, including provision for adequate youth recreation, such as soccer and baseball fields
- Funding necessary to establish, maintain and operate the Lakeland Municipal School System and continued implementation of the five-year Capital Improvement Plan. The plan is updated annually with an immediate scope of five years.
In the meantime, the Board of Commissioners will be working on a program to offset other fees, especially the fire and ambulance fees.
As the Board of Commissioners moves forward, we will continue to keep our citizens informed and updated with developments as they occur. We appreciate residents working with us as we continue to move Lakeland forward during this growing and exiting time for our City. The Lakeland web site (www.lakelandtn.gov) will have updated news as will this blog.