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City, County, and DeKalb Animal Coalition Seeking Common Ground

February 24, 2021
By: Dwayne Page

Seeking Common ground

In an informal workshop forum Tuesday night, the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen met with the County Mayor and the County Commission along with members and staff of the DeKalb Animal Coalition and shelter to seek solutions to issues that have fostered differences between the parties in recent months including taking in animals at the shelter from anywhere in the county.

The Smithville Aldermen essentially banned all animals being brought into the shelter from outside the City in October due to concerns of liability and costs. Since that time the shelter, which had been at capacity of more than 30 animals most days is well under capacity now. As of Tuesday, there were only six animals housed at the shelter.

During Tuesday night’s workshop, Alderman Brandon Cox explained what led to the city’s decision.

“The reality is the numbers we were seeing and the situation our employees were dealing with was over capacity, being overworked, and having not enough support. That comes from a number of factors. Our original contract with the coalition was to provide one full time and one part time employee (etc) but essentially since I have been on the city council we have grown that from one full time and one part time employee to two full time employees and that is still not enough. I think the last numbers before the motion I made last year to stop taking county animals was about 67% of the animals at the shelter were from the county. Since the coalition and this building was built and improved upon the city has doubled its expenditures from roughly $60,000 a year to almost $120,000 a year for this particular department. There is a financial burden that the city has taken on behalf of the county and we are not really getting a lot of reciprocation from the county. My goal is to see if we can get something from the county to help carry some of that burden,” said Alderman Cox.

The shelter opened in November 2017 on Transfer Station Road behind Tenneco Automotive under the guidance of the DeKalb Animal Coalition, a non-profit organization, with a mission to provide a safe location for neglected, abandoned and abused animals; to provide an alternative low-kill policy so these animals receive medical attention, reduce overpopulation, and be cared for until they can be placed in homes. The new shelter replaced an old dilapidated dog pound which the city operated and staffed on Smith Road

The two full time employees who work at the shelter, Director Megan Moore and Emmaly Bennett are employed by the City of Smithville. The Coalition also funds a part time employee. The city provides a truck for the shelter which is used for animal transports and the city has other expenses related to the shelter as specified in a 99 year lease which the city entered into with the Coalition in 2015. The original agreement was for the city to fund only one full time and a part time employee but that was later changed due to the workload.

Both the City of Smithville and the DeKalb County Government appropriated $75,000 for construction of the shelter and the Coalition raised funds and borrowed money to complete it.
Also under a memorandum of understanding with the county, the Coalition is to pick up animals for the county when a request is made from the county mayor’s office or the sheriff’s department at a fee to the county of $110 but city officials say the City of Smithville is not a party to that agreement and receives none of that money.

Some have suggested that the city and county form their own agreement to include the county funding at least one full time position at the shelter.

Speaking hypothetically, County Mayor Tim Stribling said Tuesday night that if the county were to fund a shelter position that money should go directly to Smithville and the person hired become a city employee in much the same way as school resources officers are funded for the sheriff’s department under a funding partnership between the city, county, and school system.

“If it came to that and they (city) asked the county to provide funding for that (animal shelter position) my thoughts are that this person should be employed by the city of Smithville and not the county. Take for example the SRO’s in the schools. The Board of Education gives funding, the City of Smithville gives funding and the county gives funding but they (SRO’s) are Sheriff’s Department employees,” said County Mayor Stribling.

Attorney Sarah Cripps, speaking on behalf of the Coalition during Tuesday night’s meeting suggested that a new partnership agreement be drawn up between the coalition, city, and county to more clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each and that until such an agreement is reached, that the city resume accepting and picking up animals from outside the city.

“The problem here is that we have a triangle. The Coalition has signed a lease and contract with the City of Smithville. The Coalition has signed a memorandum of understanding with DeKalb County. We have never had and do not currently have anything in writing that involved all. It may be that this is what we need to do. In the interim the Coalition proposes to resume receiving animals from outside the city limits but within the county on the prior basis of $110 per animal received pending resolved by a contract that involves all three of these entities,” said Cripps.

Fourth district county commissioner Scott Little said he liked Cripps’ suggestion.

“That’s a really good idea. We have some structural problems here and I’m not speaking for the commission but I don’t think the commission will act before the budget committee meets on our budget for next year. That gives us a couple of months for the city, county, and coalition to hammer out something. The coalition has done an outstanding job and they deserve a seat at the table but they don’t pay the bills. I think we can work out something between all three of these parties before we talk about some extra funding or whatever from the county. As Sarah said the next step may be to form a committee from the three of us (city, county, and coalition) to work things out and to restructure and re-do these contracts,” said Commissioner Little.

Since Tuesday night’s meeting was only a workshop, no action could be taken by either the aldermen or county commission.

DeKalb Local Option Sales Tax Collections for January remained strong

February 23, 2021
By: Dwayne Page

DeKalb County’s local option sales tax collections for January 2021 eclipsed those for the same month in 2020 according to the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

In his monthly report on local option sales tax collections, County Mayor Tim Stribling informed the county commission Monday night that DeKalb County brought in $183,986 in January, 2021 compared to $120,455 for January, 2020.

All four cities within DeKalb County also hauled in more local option sales tax revenue as well. The comparisons between the two months for each municipality are as follows :

Smithville: $371,635 ( January, 2021), $329,824 (January 2020)

Alexandria: $32,540 (January, 2021), $29,388 (January 2020)

Dowelltown: $4,859 (January, 2021), $2,180 (January 2020)

Liberty: $9,625 (January, 2021), $6,911 (January 2020)

NET COLLECTIONS (LOCAL OPTION SALES TAX): $602,647 (January 2021), $488,761 (January 2020)

DeKalb property sales and values up since last reappraisal cycle (View video here)

February 23, 2021
By: Dwayne Page

DeKalb County has experienced increases in property values and sales over the last four years and that will be reflected in the finalized overall property revaluation when the latest reappraisal cycle is completed this spring.

Assessor Shannon Cantrell addresses County Commission about reappraisal from dwayne page on Vimeo.

During Monday night’s regular monthly meeting, Assessor of Property Shannon Cantrell informed the county commission that DeKalb County is now in the fifth year of the latest five year reappraisal cycle which means property values will be updated soon.

“As you might know DeKalb County has seen record property sales over the last four years. For example the base rate for an average home in 2016 was $100,500 and it looks like the base rate this year is going to be somewhere around $135,000 which is about a 35% increase. Of course every property is different, whether it be farmland, where it is, or what type of home and we mass those in groups but this example should give you some kind of indication of the increase in appraisals upcoming this year,” said Cantrell.

State law establishes reappraisal for updating and equaling property values for every county in Tennessee for property tax purposes.

In DeKalb County, reappraisal is an on-going process comprised of an on-site review of each parcel of real property over a four year period followed by a finalized revaluation of all such property in the fifth year.

Once property values are finalized this year, they will remain the same until the next five year reappraisal cycle is completed in 2026 regardless of how the market performs.

“In the previous (five year cycle) information was collected in the years, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012 when things (market) were down and a lot of things were not selling good and that made for lower appraisals in 2016 and those are still in place right now but they will soon be changed by property sales that have transpired over the last four years which will be an increase,” said Cantrell.

“In this final year of the reappraisal cycle we are in your home’s worth and market value should be the same. It may have been low these previous four years but once reappraisal is finalized your home should be assessed at market value or as close as we can get it. That’s the equalization part of it,” he said.

However future changes in the market could affect property values.

“For example lets say your home value has gone up 30% and is worth $200,000 and then there is a downturn in the market and your home value drops to $150,000 you will still be paying on that $200,000 value until the next reappraisal in 2026.

Once the five year cycle is completed and the updated property values are finalized, the state will establish a new certified property tax rate for the county which is expected to be below the current rate of $2.12 per $100 of assessed value but would generate essentially the same amount of local revenue to the county.

Should the county commission later decide to increase the property tax rate above the new certified rate, it would first have to conduct a public hearing.

During Monday night’s meeting, the county commission adopted a resolution authorizing a new continuous five year reappraisal cycle from 2021 to 2026.

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