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City of Rhome OKs tax freeze; Rate frozen for seniors

By Racey Burden | Published Wednesday, February 14, 2018
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Rhome City Council voted Feb. 8 to approve a tax rate freeze for residents who are over 65 or disabled.

The council discussed the rate freeze last month and asked city attorney Carvan Adkins to draft an ordinance for enacting the freeze. Adkins presented the ordinance to the council this week.

Before the vote, councilman Sam Eason said he’d discussed the rate freeze with a coworker who is a mayor in another town. She told him the freeze wasn’t a good idea because it forces younger citizens to shoulder more of the tax burden. Eason asked fellow council members if they thought that might discourage younger people from moving to Rhome.

“We’re looking at a future vision for this city,” Eason said. “Will this affect that?”

Councilwoman Leeanne Mackowski said they owed it to Rhome’s older citizens to lighten their tax load.

“It’s time we respect our seniors and allow them this tax break,” she said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance.

Residents who are disabled or aged 65 and older have to apply with the Wise County Appraisal District for the rate freeze. Their tax rate will remain the same as it was the day it was frozen, even if the city raises it at a later date.

COUNCIL DEBATES RECREATION POSITION

At the last meeting, the council asked Mayor Michelle Pittman di Credico to create a job description and find money in the budget for a part-time recreation director.

Marie Moore, a resident of Rhome, has organized senior luncheons at the Rhome Recreation Center for eight years under a state-funded program. Moore was recently told by the program directors that she is no longer eligible for the funding. In January, the council discussed making Moore’s position a city employee job so that the senior program could continue.

di Credico’s job description stipulated that the recreation director should coordinate and schedule events and prepare food at the recreation center. She said if the council wanted to hire someone for the job, they’d have to take around $10,000 out of other budget items.

“I’m not for it,” councilman Kenny Crenshaw said. “I don’t think the city wants to get involved.”

di Credico mentioned that a local business said they might be interested in providing funds for the senior luncheon program after seeing the Messenger’s Feb. 3 article on Moore, but she wouldn’t know more about their offer until the following week.

Eason said he didn’t feel comfortable creating a part-time position specifically for one person.

“Would we be considering this if [Moore] weren’t involved? I want to do this for Mrs. Moore, but I think that’s the wrong reason to do this,” Eason said.

He asked if the seniors might consider filling out forms to become a non-profit so they could pay Moore via donations. Mackowski said she would file that paperwork.

“But we’re mot making the position for Marie,” Mackowski said. “We’re making it for the city… It’s a service for our seniors.”

Councilwoman Elaine Priest added that the city would have to post the job application and interview candidates, not just give the position to Moore. Priest said maybe a new person could expand not just the senior program, but all events at the recreation center.

“I believe the seniors have been happy without any city oversight involved,” di Credico said. “I would like to see if there are businesses that will contribute to them as an independent group.”

The council decided to table further discussion until the March meeting.

The council also:

  • approved the city’s audit for fiscal year 2016-2017.
  • approved a $78,000 bid from STW to update the city’s financial and utility billing software.
  • approved revisions to the bylaws and constitution of the Rhome Volunteer Fire Department.
  • named the Messenger the city’s official newspaper for 2018.
  • adopted an ordinance revising the rule of order for public meetings.
  • adopted an ordinance revising the city’s official depository to name Wells Fargo and Pinnacle Bank.

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