County Commission to hold public hearing on budget

Published 9:46 am Monday, August 3, 2015

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The County Commission will present the county’s annual budget at a public hearing Tuesday and follow that up with a special called meeting to debate and vote on the budget.
This is the second time a public hearing on the budget has been scheduled. The first public hearing was canceled after the budget committee failed to pass a needed correction to a clerical omission in the debt service budget. Once a budget has been presented to the public hearing, the debt service portion of the budget cannot be altered under state law.
The public hearing is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Carter County Courthouse. Once the hearing is complete, the full commission will meet to deliberate the budget.
Members of the budget committee approved a budget with the same tax rate as last year, with property owners to pay $2.45 per $100 of taxable property value.
The tax rate break down will see $1.06 going to the general purpose school fund, $1.015 allocated to the county general fund, $0.245 designated for the debt service fund and $0.13 set aside for the highway department fund.
Debate on the full commission floor and in the budget committee meetings indicates there may be portions of the budget which will be hotly debated during the commission meeting on Tuesday following the public hearing.
In recent months, some commissioners along with Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey have voiced their displeasure with Carter County Tommorrow and have suggested funding be pulled from that agency.
In March, Commissioner Robert Gobble suggested the county should cease funding CCT due to a lack of progress in bringing jobs and industry to the county. Gobble made a motion to withdraw the funding, but ultimately amended the motion, and instead referred the matter of funding to the budget committee.
During budget committee meetings, funding for CCT was left in the budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
At the group’s July meeting, Commissioner Ray Lyons once again attempted to pull funding from the agency. Lyons made a motion to reserve $40,000 in funding for Carter County Tomorrow and $90,000 in funding for tourism through the Chamber of Commerce until what he described as “problems” with those agencies could be resolved.
The motion failed on a vote of 11-11.
Funding for the Carter County Rescue Squad has also created a stir among commissioners and the community this budget cycle.
In May, officials with the Rescue Squad announced if additional funding was not received the agency may have to sell to an outside company.
The agency was funded $170,000 by the county last year and for this fiscal year requested $387,000 in additional funding from the county. That request for extra funding was denied by the budget committee, which approved funding in the same amount as the previous year – $170,000 – for the Rescue Squad.
After the request for additional funding was denied, the board of directors for the Rescue Squad voted to shut down two of its substations – one Hampton and one in Roan Mountain – as a way for the agency to try to save money. The agency will still answer calls and provide service in those areas, “but it may take us a bit longer to get there,” Rescue Squad Director Terry Arnold said.
Word of the impending closures spread through the community and many residents have been campaigning on social media asking the agency not to close the substations and asking the Commission to work to help keep the substations open.
Among those strongly campaigning on social media is Commissioner Mike Hill, who represents the Roan Mountain district.
Hill has asked for residents to show up at the public hearing and Commission meeting to make their voices heard on the matter. He has also been sharing e-mails and messages from constituents through his Facebook account and posed for a photograph with a sign reading “Roan Mountain lives matter.”

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