July 29, 2016
by Ray Howze
Williamson County’s growth isn’t anything new. But managing that growth and the costs associated with it can sometimes be tricky.
New or higher taxes for more programs in the county can result from that growth, and with a higher population comes more public safety concerns for the sheriff’s department.
Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson and Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long addressed those issues Friday morning at a public roundtable discussion in Franklin.
Recently, the county approved a new property tax rate of $2.15 per $100 of assessed value, 34 cents higher than the state-certified rate of $1.81. The entire $515 million 2016-17 budget represents a growth of 9 percent from 2015-16.
Part of that tax raise, Anderson said, came from the county’s property reappraisal, which resulted in about a 22 percent average increase in property values. Since 2011, the county has grown about $9 billion, Anderson said.
“The value of what you’re going to pay, it’s a tax increase,” Anderson said. “Nobody likes it. I’ve had a lot of county commissioners push buttons for projects; they just don’t want to push the button to pay for it.”
To handle some of the student growth, the county opened three new schools in Nolensville on Sunday. The county expects the student population to grow about 1,800 students in the next year.
“If you want to stop tax increases, you have to say no to programs along the way,” Anderson said. “That’s hard to do.
“The sheriff needs more people to handle the court system, schools need more people … .”
About 75 percent of the county’s budget will go toward the schools.
It comes down to being able to pay for the county’s services, Anderson said. Part of that will go toward solving the county’s transportation issues.
During the roundtable, Anderson asked the crowd of about 30 to raise their hands if they grew up in Williamson County. Only a few raised their hands.
“We moved in on all the rest of them,” Anderson said. “We have to learn how to figure those solutions out — transportation, cities working together, police, law enforcement — it is a balancing act.”
Moving forward, Anderson said, the county is simply being outpaced by its population growth.
“We are tackling this transportation issue; it’s just not fast enough and we can’t keep ahead of the growth,” he said.
Long also took time Friday morning to address public safety issues with law enforcement and the public during Friday’s roundtable.
Long said he “feels very good” about the position the county is in when it comes to law enforcement. Part of his department’s goal now is to develop a conversation with the community to avoid shootings such as those in Dallas, Baton Rouge, La., and Minnesota.
Last week, Long attended a panel at Franklin’s First Missionary Baptist Church to discuss their policing and particularly to reach out to minority communities. He said he hopes those types of discussions will help prevent any kinds of those police shootings from developing in Williamson.
“It’s all about communication,” Long said. “And that’s what we wanted to accomplish that night was the lines of communication. We want to prevent anything demonstration-wise or anything like that from happening in our community, and the only way we can do that is communicate.
“The communication we had that night was really good.”