Carter County Commission

All eyes and ears were on Carter County Finance Director Brad Burke during the budget setting session on Monday night.

ELIZABETHTON — Despite a sharply divided disagreement over funding for the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter on Monday evening, it was mostly smooth sailing for the Carter County Commission in passing a new budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. The commissioners also passed the certified tax rate of $2.03. That is down from the $2.47 rate passed by the commission last year, before the latest countywide assessment of property but determined by the state comptroller’s office to bring in the same amount of property tax revenue.

The only serious controversy during the passage of the new budget was an attempt to reduce the county’s contribution to the animal shelter that is jointly operated by the city and the county. The total contribution to the shelter by the city, county and other means in 2020-21 was $492,000. Several commissioners discussed reducing the total amount to $400,000 by reducing the county’s share, but were not able to gather the 13 votes needed.

Gary Bailey spoke for several commissioners in saying that the city was contributing $125,000. If the shelter’s revenue was cut to $400,000, that would mean the county was providing $228,600 in the plan. Another $46,400 comes to the shelter from other sources.

Kelly Collins argued that city residents were being taxed twice for the shelter. She also said the county’s population was larger.

As several votes were taken with different amounts for the county to contribute, the commission continued to have a stalemate of 11 or 12 votes. Commissioner Mike Hill was absent.

After one such defeated vote, animal shelter director Shannon Posada said “this commission needs to work with the city.”

The finally successful vote came when Bailey moved the county’s annual contribution to the $250,000 mark. That would provide the shelter with a total revenue of $421,400. That was still a $70,000 cut from last year. That broke the logjam, with Willie Campbell, Mark Blevins, Nancy Brown, Julie Guinn, Mark Tester, Charles Von Cannon, Austin Jaynes, Jerry Proffitt, Ginger Holdren, Layla Ward, Randal Jenkins, Gary Bailey, Aaron Frazier and Robin McKamey voting for the motion. Robert Acuff, Bradley Johnson, Isaiah Grindstaff, Ross Garland, Travis Hill, Sonja Culler, Daniel McInturff, Kelly Collins and Thomas Proffitt voted against the motion.

Posada was asked how the cut would impact the animal shelter budget. She said the shelter’s board of directors, which is made up of city and county appointees, will have to decide where to make cuts to balance the budget.

Following the vote on the budget, the commission then took the vote on the property tax rate. Commissioner Sonja Culler noted the increase in the animal shelter budget over the previous amount recommended by the Budget Committee. Finance Director Brad Burke said the tax rate did not need to be increased to cover the increase. With that, the Commission voted unanimously to set the tax rate at the certified tax rate of $2.03.

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John Thompson covers Carter and Johnson counties for the Johnson City Press since 1998. He grew up in Washington County and graduated from University High and East Tennessee State University

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