LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. (WHNT) — Residents of Lincoln County gathered on Tuesday night to express their concerns over a proposed 52% property tax, following a survey from a previous meeting.
The Lincoln County Budget Commission held a public forum at Ninth Grade Academy to allow residents to voice their opinions about the proposed budget, which suggested a hefty pay raise for city employees, along with a hike in property tax.
According to the survey, that tax ranged between a 35% and 52% increase, residents said. However, the board of commissioners confirmed a portion of that tax would be allocated to schools, which was another trending concern.
Another portion of the tax would supplement the boost in pay raise for employees of the city, including the Lincoln County Schools Superintendent, whose salary of over a quarter million is “more than the salary for the Governor of Tennessee,” one resident said.
The budget meeting held Monday night allowed the City of Fayetteville, Tennessee’s seven-member Board of Mayor and Alderman to review a proposed budget for fiscal year 2024. A regular budget committee meeting regarding the city’s proposal is scheduled for June 13, where residents will be allowed to attend, but not speak.
While several citizens agreed that police officers and firefighters deserve more than what they’re currently being paid, some residents like Don Jenkins expressed their concerns, saying several in the community were already struggling to make ends meet.
Others worry about widows and seniors in the community who live on fixed incomes, saying the additional property tax would cost them their homes.
“Several ladies have told me that we can’t do this we can easily lose our home,” Jenkins said.
Bill Shelton, a former commissioner himself, suggested the budget be run like a business, saying, “You don’t spend money you don’t have.” He added that it wasn’t right for commissioners to receive a chunk of money while the community was “eating rice and beans.”
As residents took the stand speaking to Lincoln County leaders, they pointed to the current state of inflation furthering the burden and how some in the community are living paycheck to paycheck, and having to choose between paying the tax or buying groceries.
“Go back to the drawing board and try to compromise, come up with a solution that could work for everybody,” one Lincoln County man said.
“We need to take care of our lower-paid employees,” said Fayetteville Mayor Donna Hartman. “Especially our police, our fire department, our sanitation department. These people are on the streets all the time. They’re working hard to take care of us.”
Tammy Painter, the county’s Property Assessor, said she doesn’t have enough employees to meet the parameters of her role, including a mapper. “I have to hand-draw the maps for the county, send them to the state, who will approve them ‘at their leisure.'”
Painter added the county is billed for that service.
Although residents say they would have liked to vote on the proposal, Lincoln County leaders will make a decision on the proposed property tax increase during a meeting on June 20.