In its first in-person summit since 2020, all seven mayors in the Williamson County area met for Franklin Tomorrow's Breakfast with the Mayors July 27 to discuss a number of topics related to growth in the county.

Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson said one initiative the county has recently begun working on is a countywide growth plan. He said because the county expects to double its population over the next 20 years, officials are working to determine where that growth will occur in the county as well as plan for the infrastructure—such as roads, utilities and schools—needed to support that growth.

"That's a real hard project because all cities in the county have a different perspective on how they want to grow, and it's a challenge, but it can be done," Anderson said.

Anderson said city managers from each municipality have begun meeting to discuss plans; however, the public will be asked for feedback during the process. Because the process is expected to take up to two years, a date for when public meetings or surveys will be held has not been announced; however, Anderson said information will be sent out via the cities and the county website.

Tax increase

Most municipalities in the region passed budgets for the next fiscal year this month, including Williamson County, which approved a $650 million budget July 15. However, while cities like Franklin and Brentwood kept their effective tax rates flat, Williamson County has opted to raise its property tax rate by 8%, or roughly $0.13 per $100 valuation. Anderson said while a portion of that revenue will go to school growth, revenue is also needed to fund future growth.

"Nobody likes a property tax increase ... but to keep up with all the things that we have over the next 3-4 years, these are some of the programs that we've got in the pipeline that need to be paid for," he said.

During the county commission meeting July 15, County Budget Director Nina Graham said that additional revenue is also need to bridge gaps caused by the pandemic, such as revenue losses in areas like the hotel/motel tax and park permits.

The tax rate change comes just after the county completed its reappraisal process, which found that home values rose by just over 30% on average over the past five years. Anderson said the county also intends to change its process to conduct reappraisals every four years instead of every five years.

COVID-19 concerns

With cases back on the rise nationwide, COVID-19 has become a renewed concern for many residents. Officials discussed whether the county will bring back its mask mandate, which expired back in February.

Even though Williamson County has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state, the area has still seen a sharp increase in active cases over the past month, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Health. Since July 1, cases in the county have risen by more than 800%, from 50 cases on July 1 to 480 cases as of July 25, according to the TDH.

However, while officials stated mask wearing is a personal choice and should be used if an individual wishes to do so, Anderson said the county will not reintroduce a mandate unless one is issued at the state level. He said even if the county wanted to issue a mask mandate, it does not have the authority to do so without an executive order from Gov. Bill Lee.

"Currently, even if we wanted to, we can't. That is not the way the law is structured," he said. "When the governor gave the power to come down to the local level, he said, 'You all can make those decisions,' at that time. I do not like the masks, I think they cause all kinds of anxieties, but I will wear the mask. Maybe if we do a better job of getting vaccinated—those are personal choices—we will not see that order come down from the state and we can live our lives the way that we need to live them."

Residents can watch the full Breakfast with the Mayors event here.