published Monday, July 9th, 2012

Hamilton County assessor contest first in 12 years

Jelena Butler, Bill Bennett
Jelena Butler, Bill Bennett

EARLY VOTING

Voters may cast ballots from July 13-July 28 at the following locations in Hamilton County:

• Brainerd Recreation Center, 1010 North Moore Road and Eastwood Church, 4300 Ooltewah-Ringgold Road; Northgate Mall, entrance at former Shanes Rib Shack/Pizza Hut next to Belk; Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• Hamilton County Election Commission, 700 River Terminal Road, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Source: Hamilton County Election Commission

Poll
Who do you support for assessor of property?

Hamilton County voters heading to the ballot box Aug. 2 will have a choice for assessor of property for the first time in three election cycles.

Incumbent Bill Bennett, who has run unopposed since the 2000 race, will face Democrat Jelena Butler and independent Conrad Taylor.

Butler, a director in the commercial division of KW Commercial, has built a campaign organization and amassed a campaign warchest of about $10,000. Taylor, a molecular account manager for Cepheid, hasn't accepted contributions and is running a word-of-mouth campaign.

Bennett has raised more than $50,000 from the Republican base, which he's been building since his first election to the County Commission in 1980.

"I've been a lot of places and tried to see a lot of people," Bennett said. "I've got out worlds of signs."

Butler and a team of supporters have been canvassing neighborhoods and attending community events.

"At any time there's about a dozen people working on the campaign," she said. The Fourth of July holiday offered many opportunities to meet voters, she said.

Taylor said he's mostly been talking with people individually.

"I've not been spending money on any of the roadside signs or advertising or anything like that," he said. "The whole campaign finance thing has always kind of irked me early and often."

Bennett is running on his experience ahead of a property-tax reappraisal year for the county's more than 150,000 parcels of land.

Butler's platform includes "access to clear and understandable information," "transparency in how the system works, how the appraisal process works and how the appeals process works" and technology.

"You've got to harness technology at every step for accuracy, timeliness of reporting, which is something they've been cited for," Butler said of Bennett's office.

Taylor said he thinks that Hamilton County properties are overvalued.

"I'm willing to face whatever political fallout comes from forcing assessment values to their appropriate levels," he said.

Butler also suggested that the assessor's office could be made more efficient by performing the reappraisals over four years.

If the county appraised a quarter of the properties each year, she said, "would that not be a more effective way to operate?"

This year, Bennett requested and received an additional $589,000 from the county in the fiscal 2013 budget to pay for the reappraisal effort.

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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