The word from the bird
The word from the bird


There has been ominous talk in council lately that people living in the county, on the edge of the city, are freeloaders who deserve to be annexed.

Councilman Eddie Smotherman, for one, suggested that many county residents are taking advantage of city services and pay no city taxes. Last Thursday Councilman Ron Washington said the same thing, noting that we use city parks without paying for them.

Au contraire, revered city leaders. Even though Councilman Washington claimed we have less need to go into the city with our Subway restaurant, Dollar General and Exxon station, many of us do most of our shopping there. Perhaps it’s civic pride that drives us.

Your sales tax dollars at work

On every purchase you make in the city you are paying a sales tax of 9.75%. Of that figure, 7% goes to the state and 2.75% comes back to Rutherford County.  Half of that 2.75% goes to education. It  is split between the county and city school systems according to average daily attendance. What about the other half of the 2.75% — or 1.375%? That goes to the area where the sale was made. So unless you buy everything — including food — at Dollar General, you are contributing to the city’s revenue.

And what are you costing the city? A walk on the Greenway? If your kids play baseball or you play disc golf at Barfield Park, you pay a fee. It’s a relatively easy matter to have two fee schedules for residents and nonresidents. The recreation department takes about 9% of the city budget.

The city’s planning  consultant mentioned the library as thing we outsiders benefit from without paying for it. When I wanted to get a card from a better library in a neighboring town in New jersey, I found out the fee was $100 a year. It would be an easy  thing to charge people outside Murfreesboro a fee for using the library if the city feels it is being ripped off.

The consultant also mentioned city roads. When we use them we are almost always on the way to buy something and bring in sales tax revenue for the city.

Nor are we in the county dumping our kids on the city school system. And we do not depend on city fire and police protection. Nor do many of us use city sewer lines.

Giving up the Greenway

If walking the Greenway is giving the city a reason for wanting to annex my neighborhood I will give it up. I will also quit my frequent visits to Nashville’s Centennial Park because I would hate to see Magnolia Trace annexed by the Music City either.

What the councilmen are complaining about is a 2014 law that put an end to forced annexations. Now cities cannot annex properties on their fringes unless a majority of the residents in the target area vote to be annexed. Given the increased property taxes annexation would bring, such requests will likely be rare.

So acting totally out of character, Chicken Little advises you to calm yourselves. Think of the new state law, which will remain on the books as long as the legislators can resist city lobbyists. And remember that water heater you bought earlier this year at Home Depot. Hold your head high, county residents, and know that you are doing your share. — Chicken Little.

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[Ed. note: I hate to criticize Chicken Little’s reporting, but the annexation law is more complicated than we had thought. Here is how the consultant that the city has hired for long-range planning puts it.

The new law made substantial changes to annexation law in Tennessee. Before 2014, cities annexed land by passing a city ordinance.
The law changed all that by stripping away the power of cities to annex by ordinance. Now, cities can only annex parcels under the following conditions:

— The parcel to be annexed is exactly next to (contiguous to) a tract of land with the same owner, and this other tract  has already annexed by the city.

— The tract to be annexed is already being provided water and sewer services by the city.

— The owner of the tract (to be annexed) gives the city a notarized request to become part of the city.

—  Another legal means of annexation, annexation by referendum, will change on May 16, 2015 as a result of the new law. (I assume it has already.)

(From the draft of the Murfreesboro 2035 plan)

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