Emerson millage hike plays to empty house

Posted

The Emerson City Council held a second state-mandated public hearing regarding increased millage rates for property taxes Monday at Emerson City Hall.

But no one came and Mayor Al Pallone was forced — for a second time —to explain the council's stand on raising millage rates to an empty house.

"If we had tried to change it to where there was no tax increase, we would have had to roll it back to 1.7 mills," Pallone said, his voice echoing through the mostly empty room. "We came up with a number based on our budget requirements and while we experimented with that number, the current tax digest came in even higher than we expected. 

"We budgeted $185,000 based on the original estimate of the tax digest at $92 million, but when we got the revised tax digest, it increased to $97 million."

A computer rollback to 1.73 mills would have produced $169,000 in revenue, far short of the projected $185,000 needed.

"We originally proposed a 2 mill increase, which would have produced $195,000 in revenue," Pallone said. "But we cut back to 1.872 mills. That will produce $183,000 in revenue and we can make up the $2,000 shortfall with budget cutbacks."

The impact on a typical Emerson homeowner with a $125,000 house is $17.75 annually, Pallone said.

Next council considered granting a new alcohol permit for a Sunoco convenience store at Red Top Mountain Road and Interstate Highway 75. Under usual circumstances, the entire procedure would take a few minutes, but there was a stumbling point.

The  former owner, Nazemal Hoque, was arrested, charged with felony commercial gambling and, although he was never convicted, the permit was suspended, which is an automatic suspension in the city of Emerson. Since then, Fatiha Aman has applied under her business name, Tahia LLC, to seek a permit. However, she is Hoque's wife and there was concern that his presence at the store might compromise the permit.

City Manager Kevin McBurnett spent the next 30 minutes reading all the rules, 32 of them, that must be considered before awarding the permit. In the end, the council approved the permit with a few conditions.

In other business, council:

• Approved an amended plan for employee classifications.

• Approved an amended plan for employee compensation.

• Approved a floodplain management plan.

• Approved the sale of two surplus trucks.

• Approved an intergovernmental agreement regarding the public safety radio system.

A third public hearing about the millage rate increase will be held at the Emerson City Hall at 6 p.m., Monday, Aug. 20, followed by a called council meeting at 6:30 p.m.