City seeks state funds for 'newly' annexed property

By Julie Fann
star staff

The city will conduct a census of the "newly" annexed west end of Carter County within the next two days as a tool to request state funds that it is entitled to receive, according to Dave Ornduff, Director of Planning and Development for Elizabethton. However, citizens say they weren't formally notified the property had been annexed in the first place.
   "We didn't know, until we got a note stuck to the city garbage can they dropped off not long ago," said a woman who lives off the Milligan Highway and who wants to remain anonymous. Ornduff said the city didn't mail a notice to residents telling them their property had been annexed. "No. We were counting on the census to let them know that," he said. He said numerators will be going door to door to gather information and answer any questions.
   The woman and her husband were part of a group of residents who petitioned against a 1997 ordinance to annex approximately 400 acres of land that extends along both sides of the Milligan Highway to the Johnson City line and from Glanzstoff Highway to the top of Rio Vista Hill. The land was just annexed into the city in December after a grueling five-year battle that landed in the state's Court of Appeals.
   Residents say that being inside the city limits only increases the amount of taxes they pay, not the benefits they receive. Ornduff said the state-shared revenue the city is requesting is community money. "It's taxes that you and I pay, and it goes to Nashville, and then it comes back to the community," he said. Ornduff said the money will be used to provide services such as fire and police safety as well as educational services.
   According to Brad Moffitt, the city's finance director, state funds should total approximately $84 per person, and the estimated population of the annexed area is 1,000. Moffitt's concern is that the city won't receive the money because of the state's budget crisis.
   "The state's been threatening for the last year to take away the state-shared local revenue. They have a freeze on it now; it's frozen at last year's rates. If it doesn't stay in the budget, we could end up getting zero," he said.
   Rhonda Mullins, manager of Sterling Hills Apartments, once The Overlook, said she wasn't aware the apartment complex had been annexed by the city. "I've been here for eight months, and I had no idea that we were now part of the city, because that means a tax increase," she said.
   In 1997, The Overlook, in an attempt to circumvent annexation, attempted to become its own city under the Tiny Town Law, a law that allowed residents living within 3 miles from a small town or 5 miles from a municipality of 100,000 or more to seek incorporation. The law was declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court and the case was dismissed.