Tax Revenue in Hamilton County

Property taxes are the primary source of stable revenue for nearly all local governments. This revenue is what determines a municipality’s capacity to provide essential social services, invest in roads and infrastructure, and educate its youth. A sound and well-functioning property tax system is an important consideration in evaluating overall municipal fiscal health.

In an effort to better understand our community, its revenue sources, and the impact of public policy and private investment, Metro Ideas Project (MIP) analyzed five years of property tax bills at the parcel level. This research examined over 1.2 million individual tax records from over 240,000 properties in Hamilton County, Tennessee. In this brief report, our analysis is limited to tax bills from two municipalities over five years: Hamilton County and the City of Chattanooga.

Report: Tax Revenue in Hamilton County

It is often difficult to get reliable local data on property taxes comparable by
neighborhood. Previous analyses would
 allow analysis at the ZIP code level, but
 prove difficult to differentiate between
 commercial and residential rates.
 Furthermore, ZIP codes often encompass
 several neighborhoods with a wide variety
 of differing characteristics, including
 income, property values, and real estate trends. Far better is census tract level data, which are a stable set of geographic units with a plethora of additional data that are tracked by a variety of federal, state, and local agencies.

This level of granularity is an important factor in understanding a changing local economy, the role of density, and relative tax burden across multiple communities.

This brief not only shows which areas have high or low property tax burdens in relation to
each other, but also provides the public with clear information on individual neighborhoods as they have grown and changed. Specific areas may see dramatic swings in tax bills as whole real estate markets become more desirable and expensive, or changes may be due to a few large developments in the area. Regardless, as the Chattanooga region continues to evolve, MIP hopes this brief will provide meaningful data for comparison as policymakers and residents consider how changes in its tax base affect quality of life and fiscal well-being.

As Chattanooga and Hamilton County continue to invest in an urban core and position themselves as a thriving midsize region, it is important to understand how the city’s and county’s tax bases are evolving in turn. Furthermore, identifying which areas may have seen a decline in tax revenue generation from previous years may point to warning signs of divestment or neighborhood distress.

Further reading

About this project

Metro Ideas Project completed this report in the fall of 2017.


Data and documents