Budget Committee takes tax increase off table, votes to pull 11 cents from Debt Service

Published 10:42 pm Monday, August 13, 2018

With the Aug. 31 deadline closing in, the Carter County Budget Committee moved forward in the process of locking in a budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

During a meeting Monday inside the Carter County Courthouse, the Committee passed a motion to keep the property tax rate at $2.47 per $100 of assessed value instead of the raised rate of $2.58 that included a 9-cent hike to cover the 2018-19 budget deficit and a 2-cent increase to fund raises for county employees.

The motion, which passed 8-1, will instead take 11 cents ($916, 881.79) from monies appropriated for the debt service fund to cover the deficit and pay raises in the 2018-19 budget. The motion was made by committee member John Lewis and seconded by committee member Ronnie Trivette. The only member of the committee to vote no on the motion was committee member Isaiah Grindstaff.

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Grindstaff said he voted no on the motion due to concerns over the depletion of reserves in the debt service fund balance which is at roughly four million dollars.

“We are going to go draw down our reserves that we have worked really hard over the last eight years building,” said Grindstaff. “Over the last four years, we have done a great job of creating these fund balance accounts, while I don’t agree with the constant increases that we have seen, I do feel like we need to pick a number in all of our fund balance accounts and stay at that number.”

The original budget that included the tax increase was approved by the Carter County Commission during the July meeting before being vetoed by Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey. During the Aug. 6 commission meeting, the commission voted to uphold the mayor’s veto and to send the budget back to the Budget Committee.

Budget Committee Chair Sonja Culler said she was glad that the Committee was able to move forward in the budgeting process and take the tax increase off the table.

“This has been a long process because nobody wanted to say that we needed a tax increase,” said Culler. “We have scrutinized the budget, and a lot of people don’t think we have, but we have. We asked people to cut, and they did cut. Some of them couldn’t cut.”

With the changes made by Monday’s motion applied, the 2018-19 budget must now go back in front of the Carter County Commission for approval. The commission will meet on Aug. 27.