Dickson City Council Views Budget With 5¢ Reduction in Property Tax Rate

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Photo: City of Dickson

The Dickson City Council previewed a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that reduces the city’s property tax rate from 77.35 cents to 72 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Mayor Don L. Weiss Jr. and City Administrator Rydell Wesson presented a draft of a $35.2 million budget during the council’s Finance and Management Committee meeting Monday, May 20.

The presentation also included updates on several ongoing projects and outlined three new projects for consideration:

• Replacing Dickson Fire Department Station #2;
• Building an aquatic and recreational center in Henslee Park; and
• Building a new City Hall to replace the current facility on East Walnut Street and the Municipal Building on South Main Street.

Although the city has yet to receive a certified tax rate from the state following this year’s mandated reappraisal process, Mayor Weiss said he is comfortable in proposing the city’s property tax rate being reduced by more than five cents will still provide enough revenue to meet the city’s growing expenses.

Administrator Wesson said the budget draft projects a 72-cent property tax rate will generate $5.6 million, compared to $4.5 million at the 77.35-cent rate in the current budget, which is less than 18 percent of the city’s total revenue. Wesson said local option and state sales taxes continue to provide over 42 percent of the city’s revenues, projecting a slower growth rate from $12.7 million to $13.3 million.

The budget draft projects $30.5 million in revenues and $34.3 million in expenses with $3.777 million being transferred from the city’s $21.5 million reserves to cover the difference.

The budget projects $27.6 million in operating expenses and $7.5 million in projects and capital purchases.

The ongoing projects reviewed during the meeting include:

• Downtown Revitalization Phase VI, which is Church Street from East College Street to East Rickert Avenue and includes a $1,167,334 Transportation Alternative Program grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation with $100,000 budgeted for engineering and design in FY24-25. The project is currently in design;
• Downtown Revitalization Phase VII, which is Frank Clement Place and West Railroad Street from Center Avenue to South Charlotte Street and includes a $1,365,254 TAP grant with $100,000 budgeted for engineering and design in FY24-25. The city signed a contract for the project May 15;
• West College Street Phase I, which is from North Mulberry Street to Walker Street and includes a $1,271,424 Multimodal Access grant from TDOT. The project is currently in design;
• West College Street Phase II, which is from Walker Street to Polk Avenue and includes a $1,199,895 Multimodal Access grant with $225,000 budgeted for engineering and design for Phases I and II in FY24-25. The city received a contract for Phase II on May 14 and it will be presented to the council for approval June 3;
• Traffic signal improvements on Highway 70 at Weaver and Beasley drives and on Highway 70 at Highway 96 in Phases II and III of the Intelligent Transportation System project that uses Surface Transportation Block Grants with $100,000 budgeted for design and engineering on each phase in FY24-25;
• Phase I of improvements at J. Dan Buckner Park that includes two basketball courts, two courts striped for tennis and pickleball, a pavilion with restrooms, a playground and new parking and access that is Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant. The city has received a $1.25 million Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation that requires the city fund 50 percent, or $625,000. Wesson said the city recently opened bids for the project and the low bid was $2,855,000. Public Works Director David Travis said TDEC has told the city there are no more funds available for this round of grants and the city is budgeting $2,230,000 to cover the difference in the grant and low bid;
• Phase II of improvements to J. Dan Buckner Park consists of reconfiguring the large baseball field into three 225-foot multiuse fields with a new concession stand and restroom building, a new playground, additional parking and a covered practice facility/batting cage in the area where the Municipal Pool is being removed. The city has applied for a $4,000,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund grant from TDEC for Phase II, but Mayor Weiss said he doesn’t expect to find out if the city receives any funds until late fall. No funds for Phase II are included in the FY24-25 budget:
• The city is building three more tennis courts and a new playground at the Lester Speyer Community Recreational Complex and Tennsco has pledged to fully reimburse the city the cost of the project with $1.6 million included in the FY24-25 budget. Tennsco owns the facility and leases its operation to the city’s Park and Recreation Department;
• The Tennessee Department of Transportation has approved a $689,000 State Industrial Access grant for improvements to the intersection of Tennsco Drive and Highway 47 that include widening the turning access and a turning lane to improve safety. The city is responsible for 50 percent of the cost of right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation. The state estimates right-of-way acquisition will be around $9,000 and Dickson Electric System, Greater Dickson Gas Authority and Water Authority of Dickson County have committed to cover the cost of utility relocation. The project is currently in design;
• The extension of Alexander Drive to Gum Branch Road is expected to be substantially complete this summer. The need for additional fill material at the Gum Branch Road end pushed the project cost to $3.5 million. The intersection with Highway 46 is being redesigned to add a dedicated turn lane and the cost of that project is not known at this time. The FY24-25 budget includes $300,000 for the project;
• The city has received a $295,000 Safe Streets and Roads for All grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop a safety action plan that will identify improvements that can be considered for city streets and intersections. The FY24-25 budget includes the city’s 20 percent share of $59,000; and
• The city has applied for a $150,000 Historic Development grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development for roof and interior repairs to the historic War Memorial Building. The city’s share of the grant would be 70 percent, or $105,000.
In looking at the city’s future needs, Mayor Weiss identified three primary projects:
• Replacing Dickson Fire Department Station #2 on Pringle Drive in Pomona has become necessary because the department has outgrown the facility and it needs extensive renovations. Mayor Weiss said the city has secured approximately 3.5 acres on Marshall Stuart Drive in the William D. Field-Dickson County Industrial Park that will be donated by The Jackson Foundation. The city plans to build a 5,000-7,000-square-foot facility at an estimated cost of $3-4 million. No funds for the project are included in the FY24-25 budget;
• The city is in discussions with a company that designs facilities for the YMCA to provide plans for an aquatic and recreational facility in Henslee Park next to the Splash Pad and Playground. Mayor Weiss said the city also is negotiating an agreement with the Dickson County Family YMCA to staff and operate the facility that could include an indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, early childhood learning center and other recreational spaces. The mayor said the agreement will include provisions for use of the facility without requiring YMCA membership by paying a daily fee much like was previously required at the municipal swimming pool that was closed last year. The anticipated cost of the project is around $25 million and Mayor Weiss said the YMCA board has agreed to raise $10 million for the project over the term of the financing. He said the project would allow the YMCA to sell its current facility to pay off its debt and provide operational funds for startup at the new facility. No funds for the project are included in the FY24-25 budget; and
• Replacing City Hall and the Municipal Building with a new City Hall at the current Municipal Building site on South Main Street. Mayor Weiss said both facilities have run out of room and the 70-year-old Municipal Building has numerous mechanical, plumbing and electrical problems. The preliminary plan would consist of a three-story, 45,000-square-foot building that could face the intersection of South Main Street and Walnut Street with parking in the back. The Dickson Municipal Court would temporarily relocate to City Hall and the Dickson Police Department would temporarily relocate to the house on West Walnut Street recently purchased by the city and the former Senior Citizens Center once Nashville State Community College moves to its new campus on Highway 46. The current Municipal Building would be demolished and a new City Hall constructed that would provide more room and allow for the consolidation of all city administrative offices in one location. The project is estimated to cost $25 million but there are no funds included in the FY24-25 budget draft.

Administrator Wesson said if the city council chooses to move forward with the projects, the city would go to the bond market to finance them either individually or by borrowing as much as $54 million at one time.

The proposed FY24-25 budget also includes:

• Four percent raises for all employees;
• A sanitation truck for $225,000 that was originally ordered in 2021 and hasn’t been delivered;
• Three Ford Explorers for the police department for $150,000;
• A pickup for the fire department for $63,000;
• A personnel transport van for $48,000;
• A brush truck for $270,000;
• Garage equipment for the Public Works Department for $34,100;
• 400 garbage cans for $26,000;
• A pickup for the Parks and Recreation Department for $50,000;
• Security cameras for the Public Works Department for $11,595;
• A front-deck mower for the Public Works Department for $28,904;
• A zero-turn mower for the Public Works Department for $17,262;
• A forestry mower for the Public Works Department for $8,500;
• $350,000 for a playground and pavilion with restrooms near the Skatepark behind Dickson Fire Department Station #1;
• $750,000 for paving;
• $100,000 for sidewalks;
• $135,000 to upgrade the high-mast streetlights on the Interstate 40 ramps at Highway 46;
• $2,200 for computers and equipment for the Office of Planning and Zoning;
• $2,500 for recreational equipment for the Senior Activity Center; and
• Increases the city’s allocation to the Humane Society of Dickson County under its Animal Control agreement from $60,000 to $100,000 and adds $15,000 for a spay/neuter program.

Administrator Wesson said the city is projecting to finish the current fiscal year June 30 with $22,189,000 in its fund balance. The Tennessee Office of the Comptroller recommends that cities keep a minimum of 25 percent of their operating expenses in reserves. With a projected operating budget of $27,650,409, that would require the city keep $6,912,602 in reserves. After projecting to use $3,777,900 in reserves for projects in the upcoming budget, the city is estimating it will have $18,411,100 remaining in fund balance.

Wesson pointed out that every year the city proposes using reserves to balance its budget, but revenues coming in better than projected and expenses lower than projected mean the city has only reduced its fund balance twice in the last 15 years and during that period it has grown from $3.5 million to $22 million.

Mayor Weiss said there could be some changes to the proposed budget once the city receives its certified tax rate, but he plans on presenting a budget that reduces the property tax rate from 77.35 cents to 72 cents. For a home appraised at $310,000, the median value of homes in Dickson, the 5.35-cent reduction in the tax rate would reduce property taxes from $599 to $558.

Mayor Weiss showed the council a 50-year history of property tax rates in the City of Dickson, showing the rate has been increased five times since 1975, exceeded the certified rate one time and was reduced by reappraisals five times. The City of Dickson’s property tax rate in 1976 hit a 50-year high point at $2.77 and has gradually been reduced by over $2 to the proposed 72-cent rate in the new budget.

The City Council will hold its first vote on the budget and property tax rate at its June 3 regular meeting. Mayor Weiss said he will schedule a special meeting June 17 for the public hearing and second and final vote on the budget. The new budget takes effect July 1.

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