County to correct local option sales tax error

Published 10:46 pm Monday, May 9, 2022

The Carter County Commission Budget Committee voted unanimously Monday to correct an error in distributing the local option sales taxes collected this fiscal year.

The commission voted in March 2021 to keep the half-cent local option sales tax revenue. However, County Attorney Josh Hardin said Monday that state law requires that the tax be shared between the county and Elizabethton and Johnson City schools.

“The good thing is it’s not too late to fix the problem because none of the money has been spent,” said County Attorney Josh Hardin. “There was a specific referendum in 2008 to add the local option sales tax. We need to get back on track and it needs to be done before committing that money to be spent on other projects.”

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Commissioner Travis Hill made the motion to go back to the original 50/50 split and re-allocate the funds received since July 2021 effective immediately. The vote was 8-0 in favor of the motion.

The budget committee also addressed concerns from the Carter County teachers that they should receive an essential worker bonus from the ARP fund as the Health and Welfare Committee had suggested for other county employees in the amount of $5,000.

According to CTAS, the county cannot provide money to the teachers as they were to receive their essential money as part of the ESSER 1 and ESSER 2 funds received by the school system. Even if the teachers had made the request during the ARP town hall, the project would have had to be eliminated according to Budget Vice-Chair Aaron Frazier.

The Carter County Sheriff’s Department represented by Chief Deputy James Parrish appeared before the committee and concurred without comment with the budget for the sheriff’s department and jail that was sent to the department by Finance Director Carolyn Watson.

Parrish continued to share his concerns about the current staffing and echoed his earlier statements regarding the need to increase pay to stay competitive with neighboring counties.

“The Christmas, training, and $1,000 increases have helped us a little bit,” said Parrish. “We have been holding the line until today when we lost two more jailers today. One of the remedies that we would have is to let the U.S. Marshall contract go. We are at that point now. We don’t have a margin anymore.”

The chief deputy said neighboring counties are paying as much as $16.80 per hour and the Tennessee Department of Corrections paying $44,900 a year plus a $5,000 sign-on bonus.

The budget committee will meet again at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the courthouse.