ELIZABETHTON — A long and difficult budget process should be completed Friday when the Carter County Commission holds a special called meeting and a public hearing.
The public hearing begins at 4 p.m. in the Main Courtroom of the Carter County Courthouse.
The Budge Committee has been meeting since May and finally completed deliberations July 18 by voting 5-2 to recommend the property tax rate be set at $2.19 per $100 of assessed value, which is an increase of 18 cents over the state-certified tax rate.
The commission will consider the committee’s recommendation, but past commissions have frequently set the tax rate at a higher or lower level after deliberations were finished.
The commission has been under conflicting pressures this year. Many constituents have called for an easing of the tax burden during the nation’s long economic recession. At the same time, there are demands for tax increases, primarily to fund the county school system and to staff the new jail that will open sometime during the current fiscal year.
The Budget Committee’s recommendation allows for increases for both the school system and the new jail, while keeping the tax increase lower by taking a one-time hit on the reserves in Debt Service Fund.
The expenses for servicing the county’s debt next year will be $2,889,000, but the committee is placing only 12.6 percent of the property tax rate into debt service. That will raise $991,000.
What makes this funding possible is a healthy fund balance of $8 million that will cover the difference. The committee felt justified in using some of the reserves because of the difficult economic conditions many citizens are experiencing and also the prospects of a better year next year, when at least three new companies are projected to be established and offering employment.
The proposed budget does provide an increase of more than $1 million for the Carter County School System and the Elizabethton City School System. It also includes an increase of $344,720 to the Carter County Highway Department and $378,783 more in the General Fund to cover increases in the costs of fuel, utilities, insurance and maintenance agreements.
There is also an additional $1.3 million to cover the costs of 37 additional positions for the new jail, recommended by the University of Tennessee’s County Technical Assistance Service.
The commission is holding the special meeting at the end of July to meet the deadline in state law for counties to have their budgets completed and approved before Monday. Mayor Leon Humphrey strongly urged the Budget Committee to meet the legal deadline.