Carter County avoids tax rate increase

Published 8:25 am Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Carter County Commissioners, in addition to passing the county’s full 2019/2020 budget Monday, July 15, also succeeded in avoiding increasing the tax rate for the second year in a row.

The tax rate remained at 2.47 percent with a 23-1 vote, with only Commissioner Sonja Culler voting against it. This tax rate is calculated with each cent valuing about $84,551 in revenue for the county, for a total expected revenue of $20,884,203 for the year.

This lack of a tax rate increase comes after Finance Director Brad Burke redid how his department calculates the expected revenue and expenditures from each department, starting the calculations later in the budget season, in February, instead of using last year’s budget estimates as a base. The result was so significant, he said he found roughly $5 million in excess revenue in the unassigned fund balance and did not have to touch any of it in order to balance the county budget.

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Carter County also approved a 3.5 percent pay increase for all county employees in the same budget.

Other counties found similar success. Washington County recently passed a tax rate decrease on June 24, from 2.37 percent to 2.15 percent, while also approving a 2 percent pay increase for its employees.

Sullivan County experienced a tax raise, though it was a measly .02 percent increase from last year’s 2.55, up to 2.57 as of a vote on July 18.

Johnson County has yet to pass their full budget, though the Accounts Office there said they were looking to pass their budget in August as normal.

Part of Carter County‘s success story with this year’s tax rate comes from saving money in several different areas, including the pursuit of a new health care plan as well as adopting the state’s 457 retirement plan at the same time. The county landfill recently received a commission vote in favor of adopting a new contract with the city of Elizabethton, which will bring in between $300,000 and $400,000 in increased revenue to the county as the city dumps its household trash at the county landfill.