City-county cooperation benefits us all

Published 8:51 am Monday, June 18, 2018

Everyone in Carter County benefits from the Elizabethton-Carter County Public Library and the city parks, but not everybody is paying for them.
This year’s county budget is a bare-bones budget, too bare for city taxpayers.
The county has proposed cutting funds to the Elizabethton Parks & Rec Department as well as the Elizabethton-Carter County Public Library, which has caused some concern for city leaders.
Far more county residents use the local library as well as park and rec facilities than city residents, which equates to county residents getting a free ride at the expense of city taxpayers.
City Council expressed its dismay at the cut in funds at Thursday evening’s council meeting. One councilman suggested the city begin charging county residents for use of city facilities. City taxpayers have always shouldered the greater share of operational expenses for the library and park and rec programs even though county residents are free to use them, placing an unfair burden on city taxpayers.
Both, the City of Elizabethton and Carter County rely heavily on property taxes to pay for public schools, which are historically underfunded. Property taxes (along with sales taxes) also serve as the financial backbone of city and county services, paying for such bread-and-butter necessities as road maintenance, trash pickup (in the city) and public safety. The city has always hoped the county would spring for some extra dollars to pay for such services as park and rec and the library since county residents do use them.
It seems that the two entities need to sit down together and put together a strategy to close the gap.
If you have ever complained about high property taxes or local sales taxes, it helps to understand how your money is put back into the community. While you may not personally benefit from every tax dollar collected, your city and county governments provide a number of taxpayer-funded services that improve the quality of life for individuals and the community at large.
In the City of Elizabethton, tax dollars pay for well-staffed and managed fire stations as well as an adequately funded police force. Those tax dollars also help pay for a public works department and water department. On top of the tax dollars that support improvements and repairs to water and sewer lines, city residents pay monthly water bills for water and sewer services as well as a $10 surcharge for garbage pickup.
City tax dollars also support recreational programs, including ball field upkeep, weekend outdoor events such as the Covered Bridge concerts and programs for seniors, including the Elizabethton Senior Center. Tax money also goes to upkeeping the parks, such as mowing, garbage pickup, bathroom maintenance, parking lot paving, etc.
Tax dollars are used to pay the library staff, buy books, computers, magazine subscriptions, maintain the building, keep the lights on, as well as the heat in the winter, and air conditioning in the summer.
None of these services are free.
City residents are right to feel they receive less than their fair share of county services. With the city providing most core services, city residents believe more than ever that their tax dollars are simply underwriting other county residents.
Not surprisingly, then, there’s constant bickering when it comes to matters such as divvying up tax revenues.
We don’t recommend charging county residents an individual fee to use the library, or to attend the Senior Citizens Center, or to use a city park. Many of these same people pay county taxes and they expect something in return rather than just core services. We would urge county commissioners to dig deeper in their coffers and come up with some extra funds to pay for their residents to use these city services.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox