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Lower tax rate needs considered for Southside

Published 11:05am Saturday, October 13, 2012

by Thomas Councill

I submit this report as a member of the City of Franklin Project Management Plan Team. The team makes sure the Franklin Community Needs Assessment Project will be completed by June 30.

The City Council’s governing majority’s goal is to produce documents for the state that assess housing, infrastructure and neighborhood conditions within three predominantly poor and black Southside neighborhoods, and prioritize the neighborhoods for future redevelopment.

For clarity, Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn and Council Members Greg McLemore, Mona Murphy and Mary Hilliard make up a black Southside majority. Council members Benny Burgess, Barry Cheatham, Murphy, Hilliard and Ashburn make a black-white, black woman-white man, good black women alliance, super majority.

I serve as a core member of the team and my function is to act as a spark plug or liaison between the project areas and the city; I inform residents of project activities.

Other members are Randy Martin, City Manager; Donald Goodwin, director of Community Development; Brian Reagan, Community Planning Partners; Hilliard; Philip Page, executive director of Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority; Taylor Williams, city attorney; Daniel Peak, chairman of the Planning Commission; Bobby Tyler, Planning Commission and developer; Russ Pace, city public works director; Melissa Rollins, finance director; JoeAnn Faulk, finance accountant; Phil Sherman, code enforcement officer; Bob Adkins, code inspector; McLemore; Alvin Blow, contractor; Shelia Baker, Community Development recording secretary; and Ricky Sykes and Linwood Johnson, neighborhood representatives.

Both Council majorities are working to take homes and churches from residents and property owners of the Southside. There is no secret conspiracy going on.

All of the city’s top leaders, black and white, agree the goal and the procedures being used to initiate a redevelopment project that will ultimately take homes and churches. I’ve learned through attending team meetings that the top three criteria for taking homes and churches through redevelopment gentrification are:

* The neighborhoods must be poor. The reason is poor people cannot hire lawyers to fight the city.

* The neighborhoods should be uneducated. The lack of knowledge and training makes it easy for the city to deceive the residents.

* The areas should be basically black, the reason being a lack of political strength and will. Historically blacks have not been able to effectively resist eminent domain.

I believe the more important point is the impact of having the Southside as a slum area.

Since the collapse of the housing market, property values have fallen more than 16 percent. The city’s 2012 housing sales study reveals that 28 homes and no lots were sold.

Tax values should reflect fair market value, but there was no market for lots. And there were only two properties sold on the Southside. Most of the comparables used to determine tax rates were from the Northside, which is not a slum area.

The significant point is that the Northside had a market. Although meager, the fair market value drop of 16 percent could be used to justify tax rates for that side of town. The Southside did not have a market; therefore, it had no fair market values to determine tax values.

However, the City Council wrongfully gave the Southside a tax-rate based on the Northside. This Southside rate is higher than it would be if an assessment had been done based on the Southside only. The result is an overcharge on the Southside landowners.

If the city council insists on maintaining slum status for the Southside, it should establish a slum discount tax rate to serve as a free market alternative for developing the slum areas. A reduced rate of 10 cents per square foot would encourage investors, resulting in an upgrade of the housing stock. Once housing values reach parity with the Northside, the slum zoning would be changed to a fair market.

The City Council has a revenue neutral policy, which would need to change. With a reduction in revenue, due to the implementation of a slum tax rate, the city would have to do more with less, and utilize the power of free markets to maintain operational efficiencies.

Thomas H. Councill Jr. is a member of the City’s redevelopment management team and can be reached at thomas_councill@hotmail.com.

  • Typhoon

    Mr Councill I fully understand that anything you do or write is allways about race I can see that anything pertaining to the the City Government and the way it is run you are on the negative from your situation in the past. Why don’t you run for City Council in the next election?

    Suggest Removal

    • Councill

      Mr Councill I fully understand that anything you do or write is always about race…

      ==============================

      I must disagree with you; however, I try to deal with circumstances and problems in a realistic manner. Let’s use schools as an example. Former Chairman Benton was wrongfully attacked by members of the current Black – White alliance, accused of using racial slurs, one being that Black people eat chicken.

      I publicly said that Benton was unfairly attacked. Benton is White. The attackers were Black. In my view, right is right and wrong is wrong. I heard the man, and his comments were not racist.

      I assume you would rather not deal with the realities. I feel to ignore these issues, no matter how unpleasant will not allow us to correct wrongs and move forward as a community.

      Suggest Removal

    • Councill

      I can see that anything pertaining to the City Government and the way it is run you are on the negative from your situation in the past.
      ================================

      I’m not exactly clear on this point, if you can give me your examples, I will try to explain to you my reasoning; otherwise,

      I’m for low taxes, free market solutions, economic development, job creation, job training, transparency; broadcasting of city council, planning commission, housing authority, school board meeting, increasing the recreation department’s youth program budget from $7,000 to an amount that actually supplies youth programs.

      I’m against street gangs, and I’m for safe clean streets.

      I’m for bench marking and performance ratios of city department activities, solid planning in regard to the comprehensive plan and the budget.

      I’m for advisory committees for the public works, community development, electric, and police departments.

      I’m against lazy department heads and redevelopment as a first option for improving neighborhoods.

      I’m for helping the homeless.

      If you are against the above, I can see why you believe I’m negative. And from what I can see, the city council is against everything I’m for.

      As far as race goes, I’m against any alliance that will allow the Southside to be ripped off, robbed, deceived, or denied services.

      Suggest Removal

    • Councill

      Why don’t you run for City Council in the next election?
      =====================

      I realize that you don’t have a real heart felt desire to see me on the city council, but many people who are sincere have approached me. However, just for the fun of it, which seat would you have me pursue? Ward or Mayor?

      Suggest Removal

  • Typhoon

    Who said “Race” why is that brought up in the first place I think the column and the replys are stupid and disgusting.The city needs every dollar of taxes that are owed and are “Payed” and I know that a lot of people think the assements are to high until they get ready to sell then they think they unfairly low.And I repeat “PAYED”

    Suggest Removal

    • Councill

      Who said “Race” why is that brought up in the first place I think the column and the replys are stupid and disgusting.

      ============================

      Race was brought up because the slum/redevelopment issue is based on the race of the renters in the area.

      Race was brought up because city leaders feel that the race of the majority of the people living in an area is a criteria for gentrification of an area.

      Race was brought up because the political alliance is a Black – White alliance. This is the first Black – White alliance in the city’s history.

      Race was brought up because the Black women in the alliance have decided to be subservient to the White men instead of being their leaders or equal partners. This willingness to follow without questioning them or trying to negotiate for their constituents is having a negative impact on the Southside‘s quality of life and pocketbooks.

      Race is brought up because the city’s voting (political) wards are based on the race of the majority of the residents within arbitrary boundaries determined by the city and cleared by the Federal government.

      Race is brought up because the Black residents affected by the alliance’s decisions can activate the racial majority on the city council. At the next meeting the Black majority could adjust tax rates, reform the electric department, implement a elected school board, switch from an a redevelopment policy to a rehabilitation policy. But instead of addressing all of the issues that Black residents want to see addressed they wait for clearance from Benny Burgess and Barry Cheatham.

      Race was brought up because race matters.

      Suggest Removal

  • Makalani

    “The last thing Franklin needs is more dissension/separation based on race and whether one resides North or South of the CSX tracks.”

    @ Typhoon — So you are DISGUSTED that there is not MORE “dissension/separation” based on race ….?

    That is Disgusting.PERIOD

    Suggest Removal

    • Councill

      “The last thing Franklin needs is more dissension/separation based on race and whether one resides North or South of the CSX tracks.”

      ==========================

      In my opinion these issues are not divisive or racial. Here’s why.

      1. The primary point concerning the arbitrary calculation of Southside land value is not a race issue. It is a calculation issue. Once the formula reflects reality, it is whatever it is. The community wants fair, we just have to fix the mistake made.

      2. Some people have a knee jerk reaction, automatically yelling race just because an issue pertains to the Southside. It does not have to happen in this instance because although most of the residents of the Southside are Black, this may not, and probably is not the case with Southside land ownership. Many of the Southside properties are owned by Northside landlords, out of town landlords, limited partnerships, corporations such as Banks, etc., and Limited Liability Companies.

      3. Fair is fair. If the landowner’s valuation is wrong, it can be remedied by issuing an abatement or a refund. The correct valuation has nothing to do with the owner’s race, sex, religion, etc. It just deals with the adjustment that is needed because there was no market to determine a fair market value.

      4. The politics of discussing and deciding a tax rate reduction to stimulate private investment, to increase Southside land values that would ultimately lead to increase revenue for the entire city, does not have to be divisive.

      Review the local history of redevelopment, Black and White leadership agreed to take Southside property without dissension or divisiveness. Just like they agreed to take, they can agreed to stimulate development without a racial conflict. Once the Southside values increase to acceptable levels, the rate should go back up. The increase in revenue will help everyone in the long run.

      5. The same reasoning applies to the slum designation. The Black political leadership agrees with the Southside area being identified as a blighted slum in need of redevelopment. They feel that taking homes and churches from their constituents will generate income for the city through gentrification. The Black leaders feel that infra-structure work can be paid for with community development block grants, and they do not feel that the reduction in black renters will affect their power or ability to be reelected.

      They won’t change their position until the White leadership see a need to do something different. If the White leadership can see where a tax rate reduction can stimulate an increase in revenue without a severe impact on services, the Blacks will go along. Therefore there would not be any racial divisiveness.

      Suggest Removal

  • Typhoon

    The column and the replys and comments Disgusting. PERIOD

    Suggest Removal

  • Makalani

    RE: “You are advocating overcharging Southside owner’s when you ignore the details of determining their arbitrary value.”

    Like most taxpayers — I don’t have the time or expertise to do an in depth analysis of taxation such as yours! I just break out my $$Store petroleum jelly — bend over — grab my ankles and mail in the checks! Tax and spend politicians love misinformed taxpayers such as myself who don’t question their methodology!

    Again — I retract my statements about equity — to heck with those on the Northside of town! It’s every man for himself! If they go broke paying more taxes — can’t afford bread — let them eat cake!

    Suggest Removal

  • Makalani

    OK! I get it now! In light of your very cogent — thorough — more detailed and intricate explanations — I retract all of my objections!

    As a owner of multiple properties on the Southside — I stand to benefit from your plan. Why I am trying to bite the hand that is trying to feed me? To heck with the people North of the CSX tracks!

    Carry on!

    Suggest Removal

  • Makalani

    does not “relay” = rely

    Suggest Removal

  • Makalani

    RE: “However, the City Council wrongfully gave the Southside a tax-rate based on the Northside.”

    For the sake of argument — let’s say that this statement is 10,000% true! Southside residents still have lower TOTAL tax bills on AVERAGE than Northside residents because of OVERALL lower property values.

    Northside residents already pay a disproportionately higher TOTAL share into the City treasury by virtue of their OVERALL higher property values.

    To suggest a two-tiered — “affirmative action — lower slum tax rate” lol to adjust for unequal values North and South of the tracks doesn’t seem equitable and would ultimately further burden Northside taxpayers!

    RE: “… due to the implementation of a slum tax rate, the city would have to do more with less….”
    This suggests that the politicians in City Hall CAN learn to live within their means.

    Surely a man of your intelligence/erudition cannot be that naive! Perhaps you could use your connections to other similarly smart individuals to formulate a plan that does not relay on politicians EVER learning to control their spending. AND — a plan that DOES NOT pit the Southside against the Northside.

    The last thing Franklin needs is more dissension/separation based on race and whether one resides North or South of the CSX tracks.

    As if there isn’t already enough animus among some Northside residents who grumble/whine about their tax $$s going to poor people on the Southside! lol

    Suggest Removal

    • Councill

      To suggest a two-tiered — “affirmative action — lower slum tax rate” lol to adjust for unequal values North and South of the tracks doesn’t seem equitable and would ultimately further burden Northside taxpayers!

      ======================

      You bring up equity. If you mean to adjust for unequal fair market values, then my suggestion is equitable. As it now stands the current rate is assumed to be standard, but the values have been arbitrarily given to Southside properties based on inadequate presumptions.

      I wasn’t advocating an adjustment of equal values, if value is the tax rate. I suggest the lower rate to stimulate investment from the private sector into the area. The city’s policy is to pursue redevelopment that ultimately results in the lost of value for the property owners. With private sector investment, Southside owners will be able to cash out when they are ready, negotiate a fair market value sale, and reap benefits such as increased equity lines.

      The current redevelopment designations are arbitrary. This designation is impacting values by the mere existence of the designation. However, people don’t seem to mind the lost of value that this designation does to Southside property.

      As it now stands, the city’s leadership is only considering redevelopment. They could pursue rehabilitation, and I like to put free market incentives on the table for consideration.

      Suggest Removal

    • Councill

      For the sake of argument — let’s say that this statement is 10,000% true! Southside residents still have lower TOTAL tax bills on AVERAGE than Northside residents because of OVERALL lower property values.
      ================================

      You say the overall property values are lower. I ask you is it fair to pay more taxes on an incorrect calculation?

      The dollar amount paid being higher or lower is irrelevant. It is only what is owed based on fair market value. At the time the values were determined, there wasn’t a Southside market. Which means the City had to arbitrarily determine a value. Lots and main structures on the Northside had a 16% lost of value. Therefore a reasonable argument could be made that Southside properties had a 16% drop in value also. However, I think it is just as reasonable to go back to the last time that the Southside had a fair market value, which should be 2010. Subtract the gross Southside FMV from the Northside FMV and convert this figure to a ratio. This difference would reveal the lost in FMV due to the area being blighted.

      I would also ask you to consider housing density, when considering total area value. The lots are smaller, so you have more houses in an area. Also, consider rental housing. The Southside is a high rental area, with one owner having multiple properties. With higher density, and units owned, the total square footage could have some equivalence with Northside square footage.

      Suggest Removal

    • Councill

      Northside residents already pay a disproportionately higher TOTAL share into the City treasury by virtue of their OVERALL higher property values.
      ====================================================

      The issue is not gross tax payments. The issue is do we have the correct figures for the areas. The Northside had a market. Therefore Northside owners are paying their fair share of the tax burden. However the calculation to determine Southside values does not take into account blight and slum designation. This lapse means that the Southside owners are paying more than their fair share to run the city.

      Look at this another way. The varying areas have tax rates based on their zones. Which for the sake of argument we will say are fair. The city then standardize the charge by applying the rate to sq footage. If you own more sq footage, you pay more, own less, pay less.

      So when you don’t have a market, how do you determine a justifiable value? I’m saying they failed to adjust the value for the difference in crime, blight, and slum designation; all of these would have been considered in fair market transitions.

      You are advocating overcharging Southside owner’s when you ignore the details of determining their arbitrary value.

      Suggest Removal

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