By Ashley Rader
Elizabethton property owners will soon pay a little more property tax, but will see concrete results from their investment.
Actually, asphalt results.
With council members saying the city’s streets are in “dire” need of repair, City Council approved a 4-cent increase in the property tax rate Thursday evening, specifically to pay for street resurfacing and paving in the city.
City Council voted 6-1 to raise the property tax from $1.78 to $1.82 per $100 of assessed value. Nancy Alsup cast the dissenting vote against the property tax increase.
Councilman Jeff Treadway first brought up the topic of increasing property taxes to pay for street improvements during last month’s council meeting. Thursday evening he asked council to consider the 4-cent increase to be designated to the street paving line item in the upcoming budget.
“We have some streets that are in dire need of repairs,” Treadway said. “This would help us to catch up where we have fallen behind. The idea is to stop the hemorrhaging and to start making improvements to our infrastructure.”
Mayor Curt Alexander noted the 4-cent increase, which would produce around $96,000 per year, would make no improvements the first year, but would help provide to continual improvements year after year.
“When times got hard, street paving was an easy area to cut,” Alexander said. “If we don’t do something to get a grasp on this soon, it will get out of hand.”
He added that because the property tax increase was going toward a specific cause rather than general expenses, the public would likely be more receptive to it.
Councilman Richard Tester said he had received numerous complaints from city residents concerned with the deterioration of the city’s streets.
“The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time,” Tester said. “We have to start somewhere.”
Treadway said he had looked over the city’s list of streets in need of repair. There are about 40 streets on the list and it would cost around $1 million to make repairs to them all. He said the $96,000 collected in a year could be used to repair as many as 9 or 10 streets a year or as few as one or two, depending on which streets were selected.
City Manager Jerome Kitchens said he was confident Street Department Director Danny Hilbert could effectively use any amount he was given for street repairs. He also noted most streets in the city were in need of some kind of work.
“You could throw a dart at a map blindfolded and hit a street that needs to be paved,” he said.
Treadway cautioned council against waiting too long to start making the needed repairs to the streets.
“It is not going to get better on its own,” he said. “If you put it off, it will end up costing more.”