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Harriman officials are going to voice their displeasure in writing with what they feel is unfair county taxation.
J.D. Sampson was one of four Harriman City Council members who, with Harriman Treasurer Charles Kerley, attended a Roane County Commission meeting in opposition of higher property taxes for Harriman and other cities.
“We felt it was unfair to tax us and give the residents outside the city a decrease,” Sampson said.
“I feel we have a real good chance to take them to court and sue them for discrimination and taxation without representation,” he added.
Sampson put on hold a proposal to meet with an attorney with Baker and Donelson, the Nashville law firm that handled the transfer of Roane Medical Center from the city to Covenant Health.
Sampson said he wanted to retain an attorney whose legal expertise is in such matters.
He made a motion, seconded by Councilman Kenyon Mee, to draft a resolution about the rate increase and how they don’t believe those who live in the city get their fair share of county services.
They are planning to meet with City Attorney Harold Balcom on how to proceed in Sampson’s resolution to send to the county making requests for funding.
Councilman Buddy Holley supports the effort with the recommendation it go to Balcom.
“I don’t disagree with the idea, but if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right,” he said.
Sampson favored making a similar request as he made to the county commission for paying for two police, two firefighters and a county portion toward the repair of Margrave Bridge.
Sampson said the county won’t be able to budget those items because the other cities would follow suit.
Mee agreed it is questionable how much services the city residents get for county taxes.
He said the way the taxes are set up doesn’t show a clear picture of how each resident’s taxes pay for what.
He also said he didn’t like the impression he got from budget discussions, that everything was already confirmed.
“They don’t really show any regard to it,” Mee said. “It was a cut-and-dry thing at the budget meeting.”
At last week’s county commission meeting, Sampson also called for the three county commissioners to represent the city residents’ wishes.
Two of them, Randy Ellis and George Nelson, voted against the tax rate changes. Commissioner Jerry Goddard voted for the budget and new tax rates.
County Executive Ron Woody said it was the need for less funding in some debt services, which are not paid for by some city residents and increases in other debt services that resulted in the increases for some and decreases for outside the cities.
“Everyone had an 8-cent increase, and then we were able to reduce some taxes in certain funds,” Woody said, “so everybody then started having tax decreases, but it wasn’t
equal across the county because some of the cities weren’t paying some of the taxes we were able to reduce.”