Elizabethton City budget fails on first reading

Published 9:26 am Friday, May 9, 2014

Elizabethton’s City Council failed to approve a first reading of the 2014-2015 budget after some concerns about the funding for Carter County Tomorrow could not be addressed.
Councilman Bob Cable made the motion to amend the budget to remove all funding for the economic development agency from the city’s budget. Elizabethton provides $45,000 each year from the Elizabethton Electric Department and $49,000 from the water/sewer department.
The motion was seconded by Bill Carter but failed on a 2-4 vote. Cable and Carter voted for the amendment. Richard Tester and Jeff Treadway voted against. Sam Shipley and Curt Alexander initially passed but then voted against the amendment.
Tester, who is also chairman of the CCT board, asked council to provide direction for the agency if it was not satisfied with the direction it was headed instead of cutting funding.
“Invest in the future,” Tester said. “We can make changes but to cut funding the organization would cease to exist and that would handicap Elizabethton. I see Carter County Tomorrow as a positive and an attribute. To cut economic development is not wise for the future of Elizabethton.
Tester said there were “boots on the ground” and projects were being completed. He listed the retainment and expansion of Send the Light distribution, the future assisted living facility for Elizabethton, the plans for the West Elk development, the Roan Mountain sewer project and the development at the Borla complex.
He continued that Carter County, and Elizabethton, needed an economic development point person so that interested individuals or businesses had someone to contact if they wanted to come to the county.
Carter said he found issues with the communication from CCT. He said the board had not been kept up to date on the projects that were underway.
Tester said he had been told by a former council member that it was not best for someone from CCT to come to council meetings for updates. He added that if council wanted updates CCT would be glad to provide them.
Treadway said that while council was not satisfied with what CCT was producing, specifically with job creation numbers, he felt they needed to have an alternate plan for economic development before funding to CCT was eliminated.
“If it is not Carter County Tomorrow, then what?” Treadway asked. “We still need that entity to represent the economic development needs of the community.”
He said they should warn CCT that if performance does not improve, then funding could be cut next year. He said in the meantime, council could be looking into the matter themselves to come up with alternate plans that better suited them.
After the amendment was denied, Council voted on the budget as a whole which included an approved amendment to increase the allocation to the Carter County Rescue Squad from $2,500 to $20,000. The vote was tied, which meant the motion failed. Tester, Treadway and Shipley voted in favor of the budget. Cable, Carter and Alexander voted against.
Alexander said he voted against the budget because there were still issues that council needed to work out before they could move forward.
Since the budget needs to be approved on two readings, the budget will come before council in the June meeting and a special called meeting will be necessary to have it approved by the July deadline.
While council was not able to approve the budget, they did approve the property tax rate for the coming year. The tax rate will remain the same at $1.82.
Council also approved a restructure to water and sewer rates and fees through the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The changes makes the $10 water capital improvement fee a part of the water rate structure and usage rates for both water and sewer will increase by 3 percent each year.

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