Taxes and funding for capital improvement projects proved a contentious issue Wednesday night as candidates for two open seats on the Thompson’s Station Board of Mayor and Alderman met to discuss matters of policy.
The candidates seeking four-year terms on the board in the Nov. 8 election include incumbent Sarah Benson and challengers Ben Dilks, John Peterson and Brian Stover.
While development and growth have become major concerns for Thompson’s Station residents in recent years, the four candidates largely were in agreement on matters such as the Two Farms at Thompson’s Station development, which has proved divisive for many locals.
When asked, each of the candidates responded that they support the 2,000-acre project, reasoning that the proposal is high-quality and that the developer has a good track record.
And when it came to traffic, there was a consensus among all four candidates to look at alternative transportation improvements rather than widening U.S. Highway 31.
One subject on which the candidates were not in agreement was finance.
A focal point of discussion among the candidates concerned a new franchise fee for Atmos Energy customers, essentially amounting to a natural gas tax for customers. The Board of Mayor and Alderman voted 4-1 on Tuesday night to approve the fee, which would gradually scale to a 5-percent tax over a 20-year period.
Dilks said because the town is in a good fiscal position, it should not be looking at new taxes or franchise fees when it does not even have a plan for spending its current revenue.
During the discussion on finance, Dilks asked Peterson if he was advocating new taxes when he said he would support the town generating additional revenue. Peterson did say there was a need for additional revenue, specifying capital improvement projects for the Town of Thompson’s Station such as roadway improvements, walking trails, sewer improvements and the $2 million plan for Thompson’s Station Park.
Referencing Tuesday night’s vote on the Atmos Energy franchise fee, Peterson said he was in favor of the franchise fee. He said he took a look at his bills, finding that a 5-percent tax would only result in about $30 a year.
“That’s a fairly small sum of money, and when we consider the projects out here we want to get completed, and while we do have $7 million, I think I just showed you an example of how quickly that $7 million can be used up.”
Stover said he did not approve of new Atmos Energy tax, which the Board approved on Tuesday.
“I’m not in favor of blindly taxing, but having a strategic plan to show where money is going,” Stover said. “Every business does that. If you have a dollar figure, you need to have a plan for how that’s going to be spent.”
Concerning the vote on the Atmos tax, Benson, currently serving as Alderman, said it influenced her because Thompson’s Station was one of the only municipalities around that was not taking advantage of that money.
“Other communities around us are doing the franchise fee, and it didn’t make sense to me to not take advantage of that money,” she said.
Quint Qualls covers Spring Hill for Home Page Media Group. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.