Property owners in Callaway will join much of the rest of the state next year in paying an ad valorem tax. After much debate commissioners passed the $2 million property tax Thursday night.
Despite many concerns from the audience Callaway commissioners say they had to have the new property tax. In fact, they say the revenue it will generate next year will only partially cover the expected $1 million budget shortfall.
Some commissioners went so far as to say they've been shrinking their duties as community servants because there just wasn't enough money.
"We have not been doing our job. Roads haven't been paved and buildings haven't been fixed because the money just isn't there,” says George Smith, Callaway Commissioner.
Smith joined his fellow commissioners in a unanimous vote to initiate the first property tax in Callaway city history, but much of the talk at Thursday's meeting focused on the next time the commission asks for money.
Commissioners say they will now look into creating a citizen's committee to work as a double check for the commission. Many homeowners say they worry that now that the tax is in place commissioners will try to increase it too often.
Callaway Commissioner Charles Griffin says, "I will not come back to you asking for more money. I don't want to do this again."
Commissioners say they already cut $900,000 out of this year’s budget and that's with the new $2 million property tax. The tax is only projected to create a little more than $600,000 to the more than $1 million still needed to balance.
Until this vote, Callaway was the largest city in the state that did not have a property tax.