JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Johnson City Commission approved its $114 million general fund budget in a 4-0 vote Thursday.

Commissioners voted unanimously to raise property tax rates by 25 cents as a part of the budget item. This is the city’s first property tax rate increase since 2016.

“We don’t take doing this lightly, but we also want to make sure that we have police cars to respond when you make them and that there are 911 operators to answer the phone,” Commissioner Joe Wise said before the vote. “That’s what this budget is really trying to do.

Next year, Johnson City homeowners will pay $1.98 per $100 dollars assessed property value, 25 cents more than the city’s current rate of $1.73 per $100 dollars of assessed property value.

The revenue generated by the tax increase will fund three city objectives: the cost of building a new Towne Acres Elementary School, roadway improvements, and beefed up contributions for Washington County emergency services.

Of the 25 cent total, 15 cents are earmarked for Towne Acres, seven cents for infrastructure, and three cents for emergency services.

Towne Acres taxes

Revenue from 15 cents of the total 25-cent property tax increase earmarked for Towne Acres is set to generate $3.2 million for the city next year.

School Board President Kathy Hall told News Channel 11 the money will allow the city and school system to begin making design plans for a new Towne Acres campus.

“We’ll be working with our city commission to decide on an architect, to decide what we need in that school,” said Hall.

Early plans estimate the project would increase capacity at Towne Acres from 420 to 700 students, allowing the city to both replace aging facilities and adapt to the needs of a growing school system.

Hall said she hopes the project will be complete in three years.

“We are ready to roll now that the funding is secure for bonding that project,” said Hall.

Emergency services funding

Johnson City Schools isn’t the only entity benefitting from the tax increase. Washington County Emergency Medical Services and 911 will see the revenue from three cents of the total tax increase.

Washington County 911 Directory Greg Matherly told News Channel 11 the majority of the money they receive from the city will help cover employee raises.

“I appreciate the city recognizing struggles and being able to cut off some of our turnover rate,” Matherly said.

Matherly told News Channel 11 that his department had 11 empty positions out of 40 total roles at one point this year.

“We’ve struggled this year with overtime costs, as you can imagine,” Matherly said.

He said the over $200,000 the city is contributing to 911 will help keep the department staffed.

The remainder of both 911 and EMS funding comes from the state of Tennessee and Washington County combined.

Washington County is scheduled to vote on its budget on June 22.