It appears the City of Paris will be raising its property tax rate in the upcoming 2021-22 fiscal year.
An 8-cent increase approved on first reading Thursday night by the Paris Commission would place the rate at 80 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The current rate is 72 cents.
The budget was one of the main topics of Thursday’s meeting, with City Manager Kim Foster telling commissioners that it looks like the city will have about $4.81 million in the fund balance of the general fund when the fiscal year rolls around July 1.
Preliminary budget figures show the city with about $397,000 more in expenses than in revenues for the upcoming year. How to knock that minus-figure down was a big part of the discussions on the tax rate.
John Etheridge proposed increasing the tax rate by 5 cents, to 77 cents, saying he would like to see “a mixed bag” of a tax increase and the use of the fund balance to handle the expected deficit.
Sam Tharpe responded with his thoughts that the city should go ahead and use enough money from the fund balance to take care of the deficit without raising the tax rate at all.
“We have the money in our fund balance right now. Our small businesses have been through enough this year already,” Tharpe said.
Mayor Carlton Gerrell spoke in favor of spending more money on paving projects than is already in the budget. Foster said the paving budget had already been upped by $100,000 to $600,000, but Gerrell was clearly in favor of even more expenditures on streets.
“While things are good (financially), let’s go take care of some things with our infrastructure,” Gerrell said. “I’m for seeing if we want to up the paving budget even more. If the trends start to show the economy slowing down, well, it’s always easier to make a correction and not spend money you’ve already got budgeted than it is to have to go looking for more money.”
Etheridge made a motion to increase the tax rate to 77 cents, but Gayle Griffith followed by offering an amendment to that motion — one that would raise the rate to 80 cents.
The amendment, and subsequent motion, was approved by a 3-2 vote. Etheridge, Gerrell and Griffith voted yes, while Jackie Jones and Tharpe voted no.
Jones indicated she would have been in favor of just the 5-cent increase.
The commission then approved the preliminary budget on first reading, but Foster and her staff will now make changes in revenue numbers based on the new tax rate and come back with updated figures at the next city meeting.
In other action Thursday, the commission approved on first reading the addition of an appendix to the city’s building codes that will make it easier to deal with so-called “tiny houses.”
Lowell Schrader, the city’s building and codes inspector, said he has been approached by numerous people about the rules for having a tiny house, either as an accessory dwelling unit on an existing property that already has a primary dwelling, or as a primary dwelling unit on a separate piece of property.
The way the city’s building codes are set up, anyone building a tiny house — one that’s less than 400 square feet — have to follow the same regulations as for a regular residence. Schrader said that’s a problem for people who want to have smaller features such as stairs, windows, egress, and ceiling height than are allowed in regular homes.
He said he has had to meet with people who are living in sheds in the back of houses and had to tell them to vacate because those sheds are unsafe and don’t meet regulations for dwellings.
The new appendix allows Schrader to have some guidance in granting building permits for the tiny houses.