Budget hearing hears no one

Published 7:43 am Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It’s hard to have a hearing when there’s no one doing any talking.
And so the Carter County Budget Committee did not hear from the public Monday during its scheduled public hearing on the proposed 2014-2015 county budget.
A small group of residents did attend with the intention of speaking during the public hearing, but they had failed to submit a written request to speak before the meeting.
As a result, there was nothing to be heard at the hearing.
Committee chairman Harry Sisk read from the public meeting notice, noting that all requests to speak at the hearing had to be submitted in writing five days before the meeting to Finance Director Ingrid Deloach. No written requests were received.
Committee member Nancy Brown asked if the public could speak anyway, because people had attended but had not submitted a written request. Sisk said the committee had to follow the county’s rules, and closed the public hearing with no citizens speaking.
The decision not to allow the public to speak without written notification angered some of the citizens who had attended. Five people, including county Mayor Leon Humphrey, left the meeting.
Some of the citizens made comments as they left the meeting, saying they had not read that written notification was required and that the committee did not want to hear from the public because there were “too many (expletive) taxes.”
Under state law, the county must hold a public hearing on the budget before it can be voted on by the full County Commission.
The proposed budget for 2014-2015 includes an increase to the property tax rate which raises the rate from $2.33 per $100 of assessed value to $2.47.
The proposed budget adds funding to the Debt Service fund. Deloach had previously advised the budget committee and the full Commission that the Debt Service fund would face a shortfall in excess of $950,000 for the coming fiscal year if additional revenue was not added to the fund.
During the budget committee meeting held on July 1, the committee voted on a split decision of 5-3 to add 12 cents to the tax rate designated for the Debt Service fund in order to balance the budget in that fund.
The proposed budget also includes an increase of $141,397 to the Carter County School System’s general purpose school fund.
After the public hearing, the next step in the budget process will be a vote by the full Commission, which is next scheduled to meet on July 21 at 9 a.m. at the courthouse.
During the meeting, the committee approved an amendment to funding for insurance for the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter.
Deloach explained that the agreement had been set up for the City of Elizabethton to provide insurance for the building, and for the county government to provide insurance for the property. She said the amendment would have the insurance provided under one policy instead of two, with the city and the county splitting the cost.
“It just makes more sense,” Deloach said of having one body providing the insurance and splitting the cost.
The committee also approved reallocation of funding for spay and neuter services for the ECCAS and funds received from spay and neutering services and recognizing the Juvenile Justice Reimbursement grant.

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