The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Incorporating New Cities

Reference Number: MTAS-295
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: August 10, 2017
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Communities incorporating under mayor-aldermanic or city manager-commission charters must have at least 1,500 residents.

No territory shall be incorporated within five miles of an existing city of 100,000 or more residents or within three miles of a city of fewer than 100,000 residents. T.C.A. § 6-1-205, T.C.A. § 6-18-103.

T.C.A. § 6-58-112 provides that no new municipality may be incorporated unless it is within a planned growth area. (See Chapter 23, Countywide Growth Plan, Annexation and Boundary Adjustments, and Dissolution). The county legislative body must approve the incorporation prior to the incorporation election. The new municipality must levy a property tax at least equal to its portion of state-shared revenue. For 15 years following its incorporation, the newly incorporated city must give the county the same amount of local option sales tax and wholesale beer tax the county was collecting on the date of incorporation. T.C.A. § 57-6-103, T.C.A. § 67-6-712.

T.C.A. § 9-4-5306 and T.C.A. § 67-5-104 establish the following rules for municipalities that have attempted to incorporate under laws subsequently declared unconstitutional (the Tiny Towns Law) and that have received grants or state-shared revenues or collected property taxes:

  • Those municipalities are not required to repay state grants, state-shared taxes, or expended property tax revenues;
  • Unobligated grants or state-shared revenues belong to the county;
  • Unobligated property tax revenues are returned to taxpayers pro rata; and
  • If grants, state-shared revenues, and property taxes were commingled, there is a presumption that the municipality expended grant and state-shared revenues before property tax revenues.

Newly Incorporated City Taking Over Services
If a county government is delivering urban services in an area that becomes part of a city by annexation or incorporation, the city has priority in providing public services. The governing body must declare its desire to take over existing services. Arbitration, subject to court review, is ordered if the parties cannot agree. T.C.A. § 5-16-110  Municipalities also may have a prior right to take over a utility district’s service territory in newly annexed areas of the municipality. T.C.A. § 6-51-111. That right may be restricted by federal law where the utility district has issued certain bonds. 7 U.S.C. 1926(b).