J.T. Woods, the Roane County property assessor candidate who killed himself in the yard of his former boss, shouldn’t have received $16,913 in jobless benefits, an unemployment appeals hearing officer has ruled.
From the News Sentinel report: A hearing on Assessor Teresa Kirkham’s appeal of Woods’ jobless benefits occurred May 30. On May 31, Woods shot himself in the head with a .357-caliber handgun outside Assessor Teresa Kirkham’s Kingston condo.
A ruling dated June 6 by state hearing officer Barbara Ligon stated Woods had improperly drawn benefits. It was made public this week.
The ruling states Woods gave “an incorrect reason for his separation” from his job as a field appraiser, and the jobless benefits he received must be repaid.
Woods was fired from his job in 2010 after saying he was sick when he was actually golfing in Florida with the doctor who signed his medical excuse, according to the ruling.
After he was fired, Woods filed a jobless claim saying he had been “separated due to a lack of work.”
A candidate for Roane County property assessor fatally shot himself this morning in the yard of the current assessor, his former employer, reports the News Sentinel. James T. Woods, 56, shot himself in the head, according to authorities.
Gary Nelson, assistant police chief for the Kingston Police Department, confirmed the shooting this afternoon.
Woods shot himself outside Teresa Kirkham’s condo at 1010 Brentwood Way in Kingston, according to fire officials.
Bowden R. Ladd, an investigator with the district attorney general’s office, confirmed that Woods died from the self-inflicted gunshot wound.
District Attorney General Russell Johnson said he was told Kirkham had pulled into her driveway, and she had called an employee to come to her residence.
The employee saw Woods “sitting on a wall and realized he had a gun in his lap,” Johnson said. “He was sitting there telling her what he was going to do,” the district attorney said.
“As she turned away, she said he shot himself once in the head.”
Woods was among several people running against Kirkham, the longtime assessor, for the post.
Johnson said a .357-caliber revolver that was fully loaded with one spent shell in the chamber was found at the scene.
Saying Nashville has a choice to make that will guide its trajectory “for decades to come,” Nashville Mayor Karl Dean proposed a 53-cent property tax increase Tuesday to fund his $1.71 billion Metro budget proposal.
From The Tennessean: The tax increase would generate about $100 million in new revenue, Dean said. It would raise the tax rate to $4.66 per $100 of assessed value in the Urban Services District — 3 cents below the rate when Dean took office in 2007, before a countywide reappraisal — and $4.09 in the General Services District.
Assessed value is 25 percent of the appraised value for residential property and 40 percent for commercial property. The mayor said the 12.83 percent tax increase for a typical homeowner would amount to about $16 a month, or $192 a year, on a $145,400 home, the median price in Nashville. Assuming the home was appraised at the purchase price, that would raise the annual tax bill to $1,693.91.
The city would use the revenues to raise starting teacher salaries by $5,000, moving Metro Schools into the top tier of Tennessee school districts; retain 50 police officers whose federal grant funding soon will run out; give a 4 percent pay raise to most city employees, and pay debt service on building projects that will touch schools and the general government alike.
Without new revenue, the city would have to make big cuts in government services, Dean said.
The state comptroller’s office has decided against continuing to push for action this year on legsilation that would have repealed a property tax break granted the solar industry during former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s tenure.
Here’s a statement from Deputy Comptroller Jason Mumpower: “In the interests of producing the best possible solution to a complex issue, a bill (HB3526/SB3296) that would affect property assessments for solar businesses is being postponed,” said Jason Mumpower, chief of staff in the state Comptroller’s office. “While there has been a good discussion during this session about how solar businesses should be assessed, it is not advisable to seek a quick resolution of the concerns that have been raised during the session’s waning days.
“In fact, legislation enacted in haste through the technical corrections bill two years ago created the problem we now have, which is that the law currently requires solar businesses to be assessed at a rate deemed unconstitutional by the Attorney General. It is our belief that without corrective action, the law will be challenged and solar businesses could end up being assessed at 100 percent of their value, as opposed to the much reduced percentage of value we suggest to provide an incentive to the solar industry. We want to work with the industry over the summer in hopes of achieving the broadest consensus we can about the best way to move forward.”
And here’s a statement from the Senate Democratic Caucus on the move: “The decision by the Comptroller’s office to table a massive 6,000 percent tax increase on the solar industry is a prudent one. Small business owners and clean energy investors have made clear cases for how such an increase would cripple our fastest growing jobs sector.
“An open study committee is the best way to continue the conversation with those who would be most affected. As the Comptroller’s office is properly concerned about revenue consistency among clean energy sectors, I hope they’ll consider cutting other taxes instead of raising taxes on small businesses.”
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is calling for a 47-cent property tax increase to cover the cost of court-ordered, state-mandated school funding, reports The Commercial Appeal. “It’s all about the schools,” Wharton said Monday of the proposal he will present to Memphis City Council. “We will not ask for a tax increase to run city government. The budget I present will be clear. We’ll operate city government on the same amount we used last year.”
Because the city’s legally mandated funding of Memphis City Schools expires with the merger of city and Shelby County Schools in 2013, Wharton said the tax increase he’s proposing will be for just one year.
“This is truly the terminal year for school funding,” Wharton said.
The city’s current overall tax rate is $3.19 per $100 of assessed value, which includes $3.01 for city operations and 18 cents for Memphis City Schools. The budget Wharton will present to the City Council will call for a combined tax rate of around $3.66, with $3.01 for city operations and the rest for schools.
“It’s not inefficiency, bloat or waste that’s driving the cost of government. It’s the declining value of property and school funding, pure and simple,” he said. “We have kept the cost of government down, but we are still obligated to fund the school system.”
An accidentally dropped digit in the city’s property tax rate — sent to printers last fall for the latest tax bills — ended up costing the city of Kingston about $70,000, reports the News Sentinel. It also wound up costing the employee who made the mistake 30 days of unpaid administrative leave.
City officials caught the error about 10 days ago during a check of current-year revenues when they saw that property taxes were “coming in a little low,” City Manager Jim Pinkerton said.
That’s when they found that the wrong tax rate was sent to the state for printing the city’s 3,519 tax statements. Those bills were sent to taxpayers around Oct. 1, and were due at the end of February.
Instead of the correct certified tax rate of $1.0834 per $100 assessed value, the bills “reflected a tax rate of $1.034,” Pinkerton wrote in an email to the mayor and council members.
Each penny in property tax generates about $14,000, so that 5-cent error cost Kingston $70,000.
“It’s amazing that nobody caught this,” Mayor Troy Beets said. ”Certainly, nobody came up and said, ‘You charged me too little.'”
For the average homeowner, the tax bill was about $6 to $8 less than it should have been said, Beets said
A trio of Republican-backed state development bills, pushed as efforts to “restore” property rights, has alarmed Metro Council members who allege the legislation would “gut” Nashville’s community-led zoning overlays that guide growth along corridors and in neighborhoods.
So reports the City Paper. More: Mayor Karl Dean opposes the state bills, suggesting they threaten local control, a stance that has positioned him opposite of a usual ally: the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, which is lobbying for the anti-regulatory land use legislation. Metro government provides the chamber $300,000 annually for economic development services. But on this issue, the chamber is pitted against Metro.
“[The mayor] cannot support anything that limits the power of local governments to protect neighborhoods and the quality of life of our residents,” Dean’s spokeswoman Bonna Johnson said.
Indeed, Metro leaders contend this legislative endeavor is the latest in a now-undeniable trend of the GOP-dominated state legislature: Use state supremacy to override, even circumvent, the autonomy of local municipalities. Moves seem to be pinpointed specifically toward Democratic-leaning Davidson County.
…The three state zoning bills, introduced by Hermitage-area Republican Rep. Jim Gotto, a former Metro councilman, would dramatically curtail Metro’s capacity to make and enforce zoning decisions, Metro officials say. In doing so, measures hand greater authority to private property owners on planning issues, limiting the reach of local zoning laws that developers have long bemoaned.
Gotto, a one-term legislator up for re-election in November, said his bills are “all about job creation.” For too long, he claims, building and zoning regulations have piled up, creating “layers” of bureaucracy impeding businesses from flourishing.
“It’s a restoration of some property rights,” Gotto said of his legislation, which could go before a subcommittee this week. “The pendulum has swung. We just need to re-balance this a little bit. I’m hoping some good, positive things will come out of this. We’re certainly not trying to shut down planning commissions.”
Collectively, the state bills broaden so-called “grandfather” protections for property owners, shielding them from local zoning laws enacted over time. Critics see the proposed policies as an attack on overlays and “specific plans” — sets of guidelines adopted over the past decade — aimed at improving aesthetics and fostering pedestrian-friendly growth in certain areas.
…One of the bills, HB3696, would apply vested rights to a development permit, overriding 70-plus years of Tennessee common law, according to the legal analysis of Jon Cooper, the Metro Council’s attorney.
…Raising many eyebrows is HB3694, which according to Cooper’s analysis rewrites state statute on “nonconforming property.” …According to Cooper’s analysis, the state proposal would protect all nonconforming property “forever” unless the property owner “intentionally and voluntarily relinquishes them.”
…Chamber officials and Gotto both credit Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s recent “Red Tape” statewide tour — which sought to identify ways “government makes life harder” for small businesses — for identifying zoning hurdles. Gotto’s bills resulted.
“While there are some situations when SPs [specific plans] and overlays are useful and beneficial, I have concerns when SPs and overlays are put on properties either without the knowledge property owners, which has happened in some cases, or against the wishes of the property owner,” Gotto said. “That’s what typically happens when you have these massive zonings and overlays.
A related state bill, HB1345, which Williamson County Republican Rep. Glen Casada has introduced, prohibits a local government from rezoning private property without the consent of affected property owners.
By Travis Lollar, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lawmakers concerned about the Occupy Nashville encampment next to the state Capitol are promoting a bill that would criminalize camping on public property across the state.
House Judiciary Chairman Eric Watson, who has a clear view of the 60-or-so tents from his office window, is sponsoring the legislation. He mentioned several reasons for wanting the encampment gone, including a couple last year having sex near his windows.
“A fight broke out yesterday,” he said in a Wednesday interview, “and there was a guy streaking today, running out here naked.”
But he said the main reason for the bill was to ensure equal access to the plaza for other groups, including schools that put on musical programs there.
“They’ve been reluctant to come up here. We’ve even had weddings put off,” Watson said.
(NASHVILLE, TN) November 9, 2011 -State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) today announced the introduction of a bill designed to slow the rate of growth of municipal and county property taxes. Senate Bill 2150 provides that no local government may impose an increase of more than one percent in the property tax rate without prior voter approval.
The legislation is the sixth in a series of announcements by Kelsey in his “12 for ’12” initiative for the next legislative session, which is set to reconvene January 10, 2012.
“This bill will help keep property taxes low,” said Senator Kelsey. “Residents deserve a voice in the decision to raise excessive taxes. Every increase in the property tax equals less money for families to buy groceries or pay off a credit card bill. Voters need a voice if politicians propose really excessive tax increases.”
Under the bill, property tax rate increases of one percent or less of the property value would continue to require only a simple majority of the local county commission or city council. However, property tax increases of more than one percent per year would require a referendum and approval from a majority of those voting in the referendum to take effect.
Voter approval of property taxes is not a new idea to Tennessee. In 2006, Nashville voters approved a ballot initiative to put all future property tax increases to a vote, regardless of the size of the increase. In the current fiscal year, approximately 50 percent of funding for the operating budget in Metro Nashville Davidson County comes from property taxes.
Other states have had property tax increase caps for years. California caps tax increases at 1 percent; New Jersey and New York limit annual increases to 2 percent; and Massachusetts maintains a 2.5 percent cap. In contrast to these rigid caps, Senate Bill 2150 conditions excessive property tax increases on voter approval.
Kelsey explained, “This bill will encourage greater fiscal responsibility on the part of local governments and will ultimately help cities and counties balance their budgets through saving and intelligent budget planning. If an emergency arises, local governments still have options under this bill, but raising the tax rate above 1 percent is not a decision that should not be taken lightly.”
Just a few months after adopting a “one-time” 18-cent property tax increase, the City Council voted Tuesday against letting voters decide whether it should be more difficult for the council to raise property taxes, reports the Commercial Appeal. The council voted 7-6 Tuesday against holding a referendum to ask voters if a two-thirds majority of the council should be needed to approve a property tax increase that is higher than the percentage increase of inflation or population growth. Currently, a simple majority of the 13-member council can approve a tax hike.
“This is smart because it will cause us to focus more on where we really need to be focused: on the spending side,” said Councilman Kemp Conrad, who sponsored the ordinance. “I’m just saying let’s make it a little more difficult, a two-thirds majority.”
But a majority of the council disagreed.