Unicoi board passes new budget; Alderman takes issue with published criticisms

Sue Guinn Legg • Jun 18, 2018 at 10:52 PM

UNICOI - The Unicoi Board of Mayor and Alderman on Monday gave final approval to a $3.1 million budget for 2018-19.

Passed by a vote of four to one with Alderman Roger Cooper opposed, the budget includes a more than $2.7 million in town expenditures, $452,552 in expenditures for Unicoi’s Mountain Harvest Kitchen food business incubator and an ending fund balance of $462,650.

The general government expenditures include $481,727 for public works, $119,995 for parks and recreation, $181,211 for debt service and $93,000 for public safety.

Line item kitchen expenditures include nearly $379,000 in grant funding awarded to the town last year for specialized equipment and a Health Access Grant awarded to the kitchen for construction of a farmers market pavilion and healthy food and exercise programming that was approved by the board later in Monday’s meeting.

General line item expenditure include a $12,500 in grant match funding for a Community Transportation Planning Grant for a bike trail along the Highway 107 corridor from Erwin to Unicoi, that was also approved by the board later in the meeting.

Alderman Jeff Linville said funding for the bike trial, which has been in the planning stages for the past 10 years, will come from an existing capital outlay note.

The clarification of the bike trail expenditure came in a series of comments Linville made in advance of the vote on the budget and in apparent response to criticisms of town budget included in a recent series of paid advertisements and letters to the editor published the in The Erwin Record and Johnson City Press.

Linville began by saying Unicoi pays “our fair share and a little more” for county services through county land taxes and noted that the average home in Unicoi is valued at $145,000 compared to the average home value of $126,000 elsewhere in the county.

In response to the ads and letters’ contention that the town has refused to contribute anything for school resource officers, Linville again noted that the town is paying “a fair share” to the county and that the county is still working on its budget.

He also said all gubernatorial candidates are promising funding for additional school officers called it “way too early in the process” for the town to make an expenditure, indicating the board would wait and see what is budgeted for those officers by the county and state.

“If there is shortage, we’ll see what we can do,” Linville said.

Linville said statements that the town had cut funding for the fire department and refused funding for the county’s 911 district were not true. He said that the town has always provided all funding requested by the Unicoi Fire Department and for the past two budget years has allocated $5,000 annually for 911.

The final vote on the budget was also preceded by two motions to remove line item expenditures related to personnel. Both motions were made by Cooper, seconded by Bullen and defeated by votes of three to two with Linville, Vice Mayor Doug Hopson and Mayor Johnny Lynch opposed.

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