Tax-share; what's fair? County Mayor warns of cuts - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Tax-share; what's fair? County Mayor warns of cuts

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - From birth and death certificates, to toddler checkups, to flu shots, the Health Department is a first choice or last resort for thousands of families all over Hamilton County.

But breaking down who pays for all this, isn't easy.

"You keep saying that's our tax," County Commissioner Joe Graham tells Chattanooga City Council member Deborah Scott.

"It's your tax because of state law, but your city is in our county."

"We are doing our fair share and more," she counters.

Scott maintains that Chattanooga property owners are paying 'double plus.'  Seventy one percent of Hamilton County residents live within Chattanooga city limits. Chattanooga property owners pay city and county property taxes, roughly 58 percent of all property taxes collected

within the county.

"I do think bringing up property taxes muddies the water because we're not talking about property tax issues," County Mayor Jim Coppinger says.

"We're focusing on sales tax."

 Thursday, County Commissioners voted to urge Chattanooga City Council to renew the 45-year-old sales tax-sharing agreement, as is.

 Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield wants the agreement to expire May 23, before crafting a new deal.

Scott maintains that any discussion must address what she sees as inequities in Chattanoogans' property tax burdens.

 "The city of Chattanooga has spent property taxes for county services, to match the sales tax dollars generated in Hamilton County," she says.

 Scott says that half of the ten municipalities within Hamilton County, including Soddy Daisy and Collegedale, need to kick in some of their sales tax dollars to fund services their citizens use and that Tennessee law requires the County to provide.

County leaders agree, but counter that Chattanoogans use those services most.

 "Over 50 percent of the funding for the Health Department comes from the state of Tennessee and federal grants," Coppinger says.

"Some of that money will disappear if we can't keep this tax-sharing agreement."

 Last Friday, Coppinger mailed letters to 28 agencies that receive money through the tax-sharing agreement, warning them not to count on that funding past May 23.

 Those agencies are;

Erlanger Hospital

Health Department

Speech and Hearing Center

Children's Home (Chambliss Shelter)

J. Johnson Mental Health Center

Veteran's Service Office

Convention and Visitor's Bureau

Civil Defense (Emergency Services)

County- City Planning Commission

Scenic Cities Beautiful Commission

Public Library

Social Services Administration

Family and Children's Services

Fortwood Center

Orange Grove

Team Evaluation

CADAS

Children's Advocacy Center

Community Research Council

Aim Center

Signal Centers

Bethlehem Community Sports Academy

Senior Neighbors

Allied Arts

WTCI Public Television

Regional History Museum

Urban League

African American Museum/Bessie Smith Hall

Thursday, Commissioners ask Scott to propose that City Council extend the tax-sharing agreement 'as is' for another year.

Scott says she'll introduce the measure, but is not sure whether she'd vote for it.

Failing that, Mayor Coppinger is pushing for an agreement that would continue to funnel Chattanooga sales tax dollars to the Health Department, Erlanger Medical Center, the Regional Planning Agency and to Emergency Management.

"The services that would be diminished or completely eliminated are devastating," Coppinger says.

 "And they are services that serve the county quite well."

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