Citizens protest tax increase, speak out at Commission meeting

Published 11:05 pm Monday, July 17, 2017

Prior to debate by the County Commission on a proposed property tax increase, a group of citizens made their feelings on the issue known.

On Monday evening, a small group of citizens lined Elk Avenue around the Veterans Monument in front of the Carter County Courthouse to show their opposition to a tax increase. The citizens held signs and called for motorists to honk their horns to show their opposition as well.

Several cars and motorcycles beeped their horns as they drove by to demonstrate their support for the protestors.

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During the public comments portion of the meeting, two residents stood to address the commission regarding the budget and proposed tax rate increase.

“On this tax increase, I can’t understand why you want one,” said Jenett Morgan. “You just had one last year. You need to live within your means.”

Morgan told the Commission she had been informed there was millions of dollars of money “lying around” in the Trustee’s Office, the Finance Department, and in Debt Service that was not being used.

“Why do you want a tax increase when you have all this money sitting around,” Morgan asked the Commission. “What is it for? Can anyone tell me?”

Resident Roy Livingston also spoke out regarding the proposed tax increase and called into question the need for the hike.

“There’s enough money here to run two or three counties if they count it,” Livingston said. “This time the people are going to rear up. They’re not going to take it any more.”

Carter County Finance Director Christa Byrd and Trustee Randall Lewis also attempted to explain to the Commission and the citizens in attendance the money pointed out by Morgan in her comments.

“As for the $6 Million, I’m honestly not sure where that came from,” Byrd said. “We don’t keep funds in my office.”

Lewis explained the money in his office — which he identified as $17,816,792.82 in CD investments and $10,371,888.46 in the county’s checking account — is previously collected tax revenue used to pay the county’s bills along with the fund balances for the General Fund, Carter County School System, and Highway Department.

The county receives the largest portion of its funds between October and February when residents pay their property taxes. Lewis said he stretches those funds throughout the year to pay the county’s bills.