The Nolensville Board of Mayor and Aldermen met for its final public meeting as a government body on Thursday night.
The board approved, among other things, the second reading of a tax increase aimed at funding the town’s first municipal fire services.
BOMA will be dissolved and replaced with the town’s first Town Commission once election results come in on Sept. 15, following August’s historic vote to change the town’s form of government.
BOMA approved the second and final reading of ordinance 20-19 in a 3-2 vote, which raises the property tax rate by 0.14 cents, nearly doubling the tax, specifically to fund the town’s first municipal fire services.
Nolensville Mayor Jimmy Alexander and Alderman Tommy Dugger both voted against the increase while Aldermen Derek Adams, Wendy Cook-Mucci and Russell Gill voted for the increase.
The votes were in line with the previous votes on the first reading of the ordinance which was passed in August, with Mayor Alexander arguing that it was the wrong time to raise taxes on residents, some of whom he said are experiencing financial difficulties due to the ongoing COIVD-19 pandemic.
Dugger said that he didn’t feel that it was right to raise property taxes on citizens in the last BOMA meeting.
“I can honestly tell the people I don’t know why we’re doing it either,” Alexander said. “Call Wendy or call Derek. It just does not make sense. There’s no emergency, there’s as far as I can see there’s no urgency to this. I’m bum-puzzled by it all, but I'm sure Wendy has an answer.”
Supporters of the increase, including Cook-Mucci, argued that the time was now to begin funding the department, adding that the issue wouldn't be able to be taken up again for two years.
"We have needs for public safety now," Cook-Mucci said. "Should have been met and need to be met and so if I can do that without raising the property tax then of course I would do that."
Both Cook-Mucci and Gill argued that even with the increase, Nolensville's property taxes would still be the second lowest in the county.
"This didn't come easy and I know what the economy is and I know what it is looking like but this is what we have to do a as a town to provide the services that are desperately needed right now," Cook-Mucci said.
Dugger brought up some concerns over what he said could be growing costs of a fire department as well as come concerns about the best way to fund and start the department, but Adams called the move a first step in the right direction.
"We may not be putting the exact dollar amount that we need a year from now for an operational fire department but this is the first step," Adams said.
"We're here now and if we're going to do it, we have to fund it, and I would never vote for a tax increase unless I knew exactly what it was going to do and this is absolutely one need that the town has," Gill said.
As previously reported, BOMA was presented with an updated University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) study which laid out a framework to starting municipal EMS/fire services in the town.
The 2020 MTAS Study laid out three recommended options for the town, which all include filling all proposed staff positions, and are as follows:
- Staff two engines, one ladder and provide a shift supervisor, something that MTAS said is the same response level in apparatus that the NVFD currently provides but would have more staff to respond to calls.
- Provide one engine, one ladder and a shift supervisor, an option that places two crews on the scene and includes the capabilities of a ladder company.
- Provide the response of one engine company.
In August Nolensville Town Administrator Donald Anthony spoke on the issue and said that MTAS has since offered a fourth option that detailed 14 staff positions, but the ordinance on Thursday's agenda detailed funding 10 staff members and covering the cost of paying three firefighters, three engineers, three lieutenants and a fire chief.
The town posted the new job opening for their first full-time fire chief on Friday morning, with applications accepted through Oct. 4.
In addition to the approval of the tax increase, BOMA unanimously approved a resolution to adopt salary ranges for both the town police chief and fire chief with minimum, mid and maximum salary ranges for both positions at $90,000; $105,000 and $130,000 respectively.
While their was an obvious division among the BOMA members, they all praised the Nolensville Volunteer Fire Department past and present, with NVFD Board President and Town Commission candidate Tom Seyfried adding, "Just because we have a great volunteer department doesn't mean that there's not a need there for something bigger."