‘It’s the opportunities’: Top 10 TN counties for wealth growth include Rutherford, Maury

Rutherford and Maury counties join seven other Middle Tennessee counties to rank in the state’s top 10 for growth of wealth, a SmartAsset study shows.

The study measured the increase in median income, investment income and home value growth the past 10 years in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties to find the places where wealth has climbed the most, according to a press release.

Williamson topped the list with median home value increase of $503,604, median income increase of $26,713 and median investment increase of $24,000. Davidson, which includes the large county seat of Nashville, was runner up followed by Wilson at third. Sumner came in fifth; Rutherford, sixth; Blount, seventh, an East Tennessee county and only one outside of Middle Tennessee in ranking; Marshall, eighth; Cheatham, ninth; and Dickson, 10th.

New housing construction continues in the Shelton Square subdivision in Murfreesboro on Monday, April 24, 2023.

New housing construction continues in the Shelton Square subdivision in Murfreesboro on Monday, April 24, 2023.

The growth of median home values in Middle Tennessee does not surprise Scott Abernathy, the past president and remaining board member for the Middle Tennessee Association of Realtors in Murfreesboro.

“The more demand you have for real estate the more expensive it’s going to be,” Abernathy said.

‘Our values are still going up’: Affordable homes drive buyers outside Rutherford County

People moving to Middle Tennessee from high tax states

Rutherford is the fast-growing county in the state and offers the most affordable housing among the doughnut counties that surround Nashville, said Abernathy, a Murfreesboro-based property manager serving owners of rental houses and tenants.

Many people are moving to Rutherford and other Middle Tennessee counties to pursue careers, Abernathy said.

“It’s the opportunities,” Abernathy said. “You have opportunity here to advance yourself with the jobs.”

People also are moving to Rutherford and other Middle Tennessee counties from high-tax states, Abernathy said.

“We are not overly taxed,” Abernathy said.

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Republican mayor says people moving to Maury from blue states

Maury Mayor Sheila Butt said she was not surprised to learn her county ranked fourth in growth of wealth with a median home value increase of $240,062, median income of $21,017 and median investment income of $9,000.

“We understand that some people are fleeing some of the blue states, the high income tax states, because of the high cost of living and high taxes,” said Butt, a Republican who won her seat August 2022 in a GOP-leaning red-state. “People are coming and paying cash for houses at higher prices.”

Butt said one of her family members gained equity in a house purchased in 2018 for $435,000.

“Now that house would be worth $600,000 to $625,000,” Butt said.

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Butt said she recalled meeting people who had moved to Maury County while she campaigned during the First Friday events with music, dining and shopping on the Public Square in Columbia. About every 10th person moved from California, Illinois or another blue state.

“They love the charm of Maury County,” Butt said. “They love the friendliness. They love so many things.”

Many of the people moving to Maury from high tax states are buying much larger beautiful homes with more property, Butt said.

“Or they can buy the same (sized) house and pocket a lot of cash,” Butt said.

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Rutherford mayor wants ‘growth to pay for itself’

Rutherford’s sixth ranking comes with increases of median home value of $226,300, median income of $17,584 and investment income of $8,000.

The growth of wealth is influenced by more people wanting to move to Rutherford and needing more schools, roads and other services that the county must fund, Mayor Joe Carr said.

“I feel it’s just another indicator of the growth that Rutherford County is experiencing that makes it necessary for Rutherford County to have the same authority to fund that growth that other counties and cities already have,” Carr said.

Carr wants the Tennessee General Assembly to permit Rutherford to have authority that Williamson has with impact fees and development taxes that generated about $30.8 million in the 2021-2022 fiscal budget year, according to 2023 report by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR).

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Rutherford County needs funds in particular to build schools for a district that typically adds more than 1,000 students annually. The county serves nearly 52,000 students at 50 schools and depends on 179 portable classrooms spread among the overcrowded campuses.

The Rutherford County Board of Education expects to spend $280 million in the next three years to open a westside elementary school by August 2025, westside middle school by August 2026 and a northwest high school by August 2027, Schools Director James “Jimmy” Sullivan said.

“Yesterday is when we need them,” Sullivan said.

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Carr seeks also impact fee options like cities have

The burden to pay for the new schools, roads and other infrastructure has mostly been on the existing property taxpayers, said Carr, who won his seat as the Republican nominee in August 2022.

Carr wants to avoid another property tax increase like the nearly 16.2% hike he recommended to the Rutherford County Commission in his first year as mayor to eliminate a $64 million budget deficit he now contends came from paying for growth.

The decision increased the county’s property tax rate by slightly over 26 cents to a $1.8762 per $100 of assessed value. Rutherford’s property tax rate remains low in Middle Tennessee and falls below Maury’s $1.91.

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The Rutherford mayor crafted a resolution that the County Commission adopted in December to tell state lawmakers that “growth should pay for itself” by allowing the local government to have the same authority on development taxes and impact fees as Williamson and Wilson counties have.

The resolution also said the state should give Rutherford the same authority as cities such as Murfreesboro, Smyrna, La Vergne and Eagleville have on raising revenues through impact fees on development.

The Murfreesboro City Council established an impact fee in 2023 that’s expected to generate $9 million in annual revenues, according to a press release from spokesman Mike Browning. Murfreesboro’s impact fees include $1.50 per square foot charge on development of single family homes that increases to $2 by July 1, 2024, and is capping at $2.50 by 2025.

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Rutherford also saw the cost of government increase in fiscal budget year 2022-23 through raises ranging from nearly 15% recommended by former county Mayor Bill Ketron to nearly 20% for public safety workers to keep pace with inflation spread over recent years. The Rutherford County Commission decision on raises for employees sought for the government to remain competitive in pay.

Carr and Butt: Growth burdens property taxpayers

Like Carr, Maury Mayor Butt is advocating that the state allow her county to have the authority that neighboring Williamson has with growth taxes.

“Joe Carr and I are on the same page 100%,” said Butt, who previously served with him as Republican state representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Growth issues: Rutherford County wants state law to stop ‘burden of paying for new development’

Maury has an adequate facilities tax of 50 cents per square foot on residential development and 30 cents on accessory buildings and commercial development, Butt said.

Maury’s taxes on development date back to winning state approval in 1991 and 2000. These growth taxes generated about $3.7 million in revenues in 2021-22, according to the TACIR report.

Maury’s adequate facilities taxes, however, are inadequate in providing sufficient revenue for growth, Butt said.

“These people are coming in, moving here, and they immediately need services,” said Butt, who views her county’s adequate facilities tax as being out of date. “Like other counties in the state, there was a time we were begging for people to come to the county.”

Future tax hikes? ‘If we don’t fix growth paying for itself, we will be in same situation’

The people in the rural West Tennessee counties near where Ford is building a factory to build electric cars and batteries will experience what Maury, Rutherford and other Middle Tennessee counties have with growth, Butt said.

Butt said when those counties start growing, they might be left unprepared.

Given Republican state lawmakers value local control rather than federal control in a red state , Butt wants to see the same stance pertaining to the fast-growing counties on growth taxes.

“Let us decide how we can pay for the need of services that go with that growth,” Butt said. “They are coming. We are putting it back on the property owners to pay for it, who have lived here there whole lives.”

Reach reporter Scott Broden with questions or news tips by emailing him at [email protected]. To support his work with The Daily News Journal, sign up for a digital subscription.

Top 10 TN counties with growth of wealth

  1. Williamson: median home value raw growth, $503,604; median income raw growth, $26,713; investment income raw growth, $24,000

  2. Davidson: median home value raw growth, $269,125; median income raw growth, $18,712; investment income raw growth, $42,000

  3. Wilson: median home value raw growth, $281,074; median income raw growth, $21,834; investment income raw growth, $11,000

  4. Maury: median home value raw growth, $240,062; median income raw growth, $21,017; investment income raw growth, $9,000

  5. Sumner: median home value raw growth, $229,989; median income raw growth, $18,008; investment income raw growth, $11,000

  6. Rutherford: median home value raw growth, $226,300; median income raw growth, $17,584; investment income raw growth, $8,000

  7. Blount: median home value raw growth, $185,068; median income raw growth, $18,602; investment income raw growth, $11,000

  8. Marshall: median home value raw growth, $190,567; median income raw growth, $17,745; investment income raw growth, $12,000

  9. Cheatham: median home value raw growth, $210,811; median income raw growth, $16,686; investment income raw growth, $11,000

  10. Dickson: median home value raw growth, $193,560; median income raw growth, $17,070; investment income raw growth, $9,000

Source: SmartAsset study

This article originally appeared on Murfreesboro Daily News Journal: Top 10 TN counties for growth of wealth include Rutherford, Maury

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