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Revisiting the property tax rate comparison

A comment on Oak Ridge Today has inspired me to update the comparison of property tax rates that I made back in January 2008. Using data from the Tennessee Comptroller, I am pleased to find that Oak Ridge made significant progress over the last 5 years in our comparative property tax burden (our rates in comparison with other places in the state) . The combined city and county property tax rates paid by Anderson County Oak Ridgers in 2012 are less than the rates in 19 other Tennessee jurisdictions, compared with just 6 other jurisdictions in 2007. Rates for Roane County Oak Ridge are less than those in 36 other jurisdictions, compared with just 14 in 2007. Since counties reappraise every 5 years, both data sets come at the same point in the appraisal cycle, so reappraisals shouldn’t distort the comparison.

As I noted in 2008, I compare the total of the local property rates paid because it’s not meaningful to compare just the city tax rates. Comparing tax rates in municipalities that offer a lot of services with rates in municipalities that leave these services to the county is like comparing the cost of a full-course meal at one restaurant with the price of the main course (or even just the appetizer) at another eatery. Comparisons should be based on he total property tax burden, which includes city and county property tax, as well as levies by the special school districts and other local taxing districts that exist in some areas.

The current combined property tax rate for Anderson County Oak Ridge is $4.74 (down from $5.33 in 2007) and for Roane County Oak Ridge it’s $4.36 (down from $4.92). Here’s the list of all the other Tennessee jurisdictions that equal or exceed those rates, led by six cities in Shelby County:

  • Memphis   $7.13
  • Bartlett   $5.55
  • Germantown   $5.545
  • Collierville   $5.49
  • Millington   $5.29
  • Arlington   $5.21
  • Humboldt   $5.19
  • Chattanooga   $5.0742
  • Chapel Hill (Marshall County)  $4.97
  • Bruceton (includes special school district tax)  $4.9624
  • Manchester   $4.9571
  • Oakdale   $4.9309
  • Goodlettsville  (Davidson County portion) $4.91
  • Ridgetop   $4.91
  • Lakeland   $4.91
  • Tullahoma (Coffee County portion)  $4.8725
  • Knoxville   $4.82
  • Tullahoma (Franklin County portion) $4.7552
  • Henning   $4.742
  • Oak Ridge (Anderson County portion)  $4.74
  • Ripley   $4.6874
  • Lewisburg   $4.67
  • Ridgeside   $4.6652
  • Nashville   $4.66
  • Dyersburg   $4.64
  • Trenton  (includes special school district tax) $4.637
  • Gates   $4.5674
  • Kenton (includes special school district tax)  $4.55
  • Bristol   $4.5207
  • Friendship   $4.504
  • Rutherford  (includes special school district tax) $4.45
  • Dyer (includes special school district tax)  $4.43
  • Signal Mountain   $4.4286
  • Lookout Mountain   $4.3852
  • Brownsville   $4.38
  • Clarksville   $4.38
  • Oak Ridge (Roane County portion)  $4.36
  • Medina (includes special school district tax) $4.3566

The next time someone says Oak Ridge has the state’s highest property taxes, let’s tell them how very wrong they are! It’s also worth remembering that many Tennessee counties add to the tax burden on their citizens by levying a wheel tax — something we don’t have.

Of course, Oak Ridge is still a long way from being one of the state’s low-tax jurisdictions. In case you’re curious, the lowest total property tax rates in the state are in unincorporated parts of Fayette County ($1.4781) and in Cumberland County outside of Crossville ($1.4975).



  1. Ellen,

    Thank you for compiling this.
    I am glad I found your Blog and I like how you present information.

    Are the taxes different for businesses vs homeowners?

    Or is there another way to consider other taxes?

    I know a small business owner that purchased a business earlier this year and when she got her first electric bill, about 25% of it was taxes. (I am taking this as accurate because I trust her and have never known her to mislead me with exaggeration)

    She was not happy!

    And I am not happy with this whole sign thing going on.
    I keep seeing Oak Ridge say it is business friendly, and being lower in the taxes helps, but the hoopla about the water increase and the ticking time bomb of the sewer system has many people (including Realtors) worried.
    (I think I got off topic, sorry)

    Thank you again and I plan to read some of your older posts.

  2. Sam Hopwood says:

    The tax debate aside, the biggest problem as I see it, is the continued decline of school enrollment in OR. People with children, the folks we should really be interested in, are not moving here. The high school recently dropped from 6A sports to 5A as a result of ORHS’s dropping enrollment. Few seem concerned about that. If parents with children are not willing to move here, for whatever reason, we are in serious trouble.

  3. R Chinn says:

    I don’t see Farragut Maryville Clinton and Powell on the list. That is our competition. If we don’t get more of the folks that work here to live here this place is dead. 50,000 in 5 years!

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