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Unicoi County residents see 12-cent tax hike

September 26th, 2011 10:28 pm by Brad Hicks

ERWIN — It’s now official — Unicoi County residents will face a property tax increase of a little more than 12 cents in the new fiscal year.
At Monday’s regular meeting, the county commission approved the second and final reading of measures to approve the county’s estimated budget and set the county’s property tax rate for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
The property tax per $100 of assessed value will be $2.5537 in the 2011-12 fiscal year, an increase of 12.37 cents over last year’s rate of $2.43. The measure to set the rate was approved by a 6-3 vote, with commissioners Kenneth Garland, Gene Wilson and Sue Jean Wilson voting against it.
These same commissioners also voted against passage of the county’s estimated budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year. The budget includes a 1.6 percent raise for county employees working in the County Courthouse and Sheriff’s Department, as well as a 1.6 percent increase on the county’s portion of county teachers’ salaries.
Prior to its regular meeting, the commission met in a planning session, at which several commissioners expressed their dissatisfaction for services offered by the County Technical Advisory Service, an agency that offers assistance and advice to counties on governmental issues.
Commission Chairwoman Sue Jean Wilson said CTAS was unable to offer assistance on a couple of questions she recently posed to them. Commissioner Bill Hensley said the service offers little help when dealing with controversial matters.
“When you have something that’s going to be controversial, this office against that office, they will not give you a definitive answer,” Hensley said. “You talk about getting on the fence, they’re pros at it.”
Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch, on the other hand, called the services offered by CTAS “invaluable” and suggested that the commission maintain funding for CTAS dues in the county’s 2011-12 budget. He also suggested commissioners voice their dissatisfaction to CTAS officials.
Still, Commissioner Doug Bowman motioned that the county not pay its dues to CTAS until it has the opportunity to evaluate its membership with the service.
“I can promise you a veto on the whole budget if you guys do that,” Lynch said to commissioners. “ ... You all are really playing hardcore redneck ball with this. I think they can come up and I think we can come to some resolution to this without being this way.”
Commissioner Mickey Hatcher clarified that funding for the dues would not be removed from the 2011-12 fiscal year budget under Bowman’s motion, but the payment of these dues would be withheld from the agency until commissioners can voice their concerns. Bowman’s motion was passed by the commission.
The commission also approved the issuance of a capital outlay note that will be used for the purchase of four vehicles for the Sheriff’s Department. UCSD Chief Deputy Ronnie Adkins said the note would be used to purchase and equip four vehicles — two Ford Crown Victorias and two Ford Expeditions — this year. The estimated cost of the vehicles and equipment is around $115,000, Adkins said.
Commissioners, by an 8-1 vote, approved the note’s issuance, with the caveats that the vehicle purchases are financed for three years and that the county and UCSD split the payments on the note. Garland voted against the measure. Adkins said after the 2011-12 budget year, he would like to see a rotation system implemented in which the UCSD purchase two new vehicles each year.
In other business, the commission:
n Voted to appoint Sue Jean Wilson to another term as chairwoman of the commission. The commission voted to appoint Hatcher to serve as its vice-chairman.
n Approved a resolution to increase county jail fees from $10 per day to $35 per day.
n Approved the county’s quarterly report.

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