Article II, Sections 28 and 29, of the Tennessee Constitution and T.C.A. § 67-5-101 give cities the authority to tax all real and personal property unless state law provides an exemption. Property tax is the mainstay of municipal revenue for nearly all Tennessee cities. (Some small cities make no levy.) Many cities derive substantial revenues from other sources. But even in those cities, property tax is the primary "budget balancer" because the tax rate and imposition of the tax are subject to the discretion of the governing body. T.C.A. § 67-5-103 eliminated all existing maximum tax rate limitations, whether imposed by home rule, general, or private charters; however, it is not clear if re-imposing such a limitation by a subsequent charter provision is allowed. T.C.A. § 67-5-103.
Local assessments generally are made by county assessors. The act that consolidated city assessment offices with county assessors directs that a property assessment roll be furnished to each city at the cost of reproduction. T.C.A. § 67-1-513. The assessor also is required to certify to the mayor by the first Monday of every November a copy of the assessor’s annual aggregate statement showing the total assessed value of the property in each city, civil district, and ward. T.C.A. § 67-5-807.
The county board of equalization is the only body in each county to hear assessment appeals. However, a city located in two or more counties is authorized to make its own assessments and have a board of equalization. It may contract with the state board of equalization for assessment services. T.C.A. § 67-1-513 provides for cities to appoint some members to county boards of equalization. The number of appointees depends on the size of the city. For example, in counties having one or more cities with between 10,000 and 60,000 residents, each of the two largest cities with populations exceeding 10,000 appoints one member to the board. T.C.A. § 67-1-401(a)(3). Supervision and technical assistance for the counties’ assessment functions are provided by the state board of equalization. T.C.A. § 4-3-5103, 5105; T.C.A. § 67-1-307.
The property of privately owned public utilities (railroads, bus lines, gas companies, etc.) is assessed by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, and the assessments are subject to review and revision by the state board of equalization. The comptroller certifies to each city recorder or other tax-collecting official the assessed valuations subject to local taxation. T.C.A. §§ 67-5-1301–1331.