ELIZABETHTON — Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey vetoed the recently passed 2013-14 budget for the county government and the 18-cent increase in the county property tax rate.
Humphrey gave several factors for his veto. First, he said the commission’s action to cut the recommended debt service funding violated state law. He said the Tennessee Code Annotated says in TCA 5-21-111 e 1 says the commission can make adjustments to all parts of the recommended budget except for Debt Service. In Monday’s vote on the budget, the commission lowered the Budget Committee’s recommended increase for the Debt Service from 10 cents to 3 cents.
Humphrey said the 3 cents added to Debt Service will not be enough to keep it from running out of money in a few years if more revenue were not put in. “We are digging an extremely deep hole,” Humphrey said.
Humphrey said there was also an economic reason for his decision to veto. He said in his previous experience as a Realtor he remembered that one question prospective home buyers always asked was what was the property tax rate. “We would have the second highest tax rate in the district,” Humphrey said. “If you have a high tax rate you better be providing some good services.”
Carter County Commission Chairman Thomas “Yogi” Bowers expressed disappointment over the mayor’s veto.
“I am not surprised but I am very disappointed in the mayor,” Bowers said. “He came to every budget workshop and sat with us for six hours on Monday when we tried to work out a budget. He never offered an alternative. It is easy to disagree with someone, but try to offer a better plan.”
Humphrey had previously called for finding alternatives to continued increases in the property tax rate. One alternative he said was a wheel tax.
“The county clerk says there are 42,588 cars registered in the county. At a $25 tax, that would generate close to a million dollars,” Humphrey said. “That is very close to what we need to balance Debt Service.”
Bowers said a special session of the County Commission will be held July 26 at 9 a.m. to override the mayor’s veto or pass a continuing resolution.
Finance Director Ingrid Deloach said a continuing resolution will enable the county offices to make purchases that were funded in 2012-13. That poses a problem for the county school system, which did not include the normal funding for textbooks last year because of one-time tax cuts.
Update: Carter County Commission approves 18-cent increase over last year's tax rate