Here’s some good news for city of Memphis taxpayers. It’s appearing increasingly likely the city’s tax rate of $3.25 per $100 of assessed value will be lower once the Memphis City Council sets a new tax rate for the coming fiscal year.
Right now, the current tax rate of $3.25 means someone with a $150,000 home pays $1,218.75 a year in city property taxes.
Because 2009 is a reappraisal year, the city – and all local governments in Tennessee – must first identify what’s called a certified tax rate before they set an official tax rate. The certified tax rate is whatever tax rate will give that government the same amount of revenue it brought in last year.
That extra step only occurs during reappraisal years. The point of that extra step in setting a new tax rate is to prevent governments from reaping a windfall on the backs of property owners whose property appreciates in value.
Once a certified tax rate is calculated, the governing body can then move from there and either leave that figure as the new official tax rate – or, if a tax increase is deemed necessary, the certified tax rate can be raised.
It’s an important step that might seem like a complicated bit of bureaucracy. But it directly affects a taxpayer’s pocketbook.
Think of it this way: if city officials leave the city’s tax rate at $3.25 for next year’s budget, it looks like no change has been made. We didn’t raise the tax rate, they might say. Let’s have a round of applause.
But if the tax rate remained $3.25 during this particular year, that would mean the city, in fact, did implement a property tax hike.
It would mean a lower certified rate was identified, and then that rate was raised back up to $3.25.
City finance director Roland McElrath, however, has twice in public this week said a lower certified rate will be calculated. And that the city administration will then recommend leaving it untouched.
“After the certified tax rate is set, there’s no plan to raise it above the certified tax rate,” McElrath told council members Thursday night.