Carter County says it will not raise property taxes for 2019/2020 fiscal year

The Carter County Commission during its Thursday evening budget workshop announced it would not be raising property taxes for the 2019/2020 fiscal year, and Financial Director Brad Burke said this was in part due to recalculations of expected revenues and expenses in the general fund.

He said part of this series of recalculations began right at the start of the budget process.

“Normally, you use the prior year’s budget as a starting point,” Burke said. “But the further I got along in it, I saw there were some issues in last year’s budget, as far as estimates for revenue and appropriations as well.”

Burke came on to Carter County’s finance department at the tail end of the 2018/2019 budget process, but brings roughly 25 years of experience from the state comptroller’s office.

Rather than immediately use the previous budget as a starting point, Burke said he waited to receive the actual 2018/2019 budget numbers as of February 28, 2019, which is where he truly began the calculations for the general fund.

“There were some pretty big differences in some of the revenues and the expenditures, so I just kept digging and digging, came up with some figures I thought would be […] a lot closer than what the budget was,” Burke said.

In general, expected revenues trended towards more conservative numbers and expenditures trending towards higher numbers, meaning funds like the General Fund were receiving more money than budgeted for, and because that miscalculated number was the basis for next year, the discrepancies continued.

The county avoided a tax increase in last year’s budget by using excess funds in Debt Services. “The general fund does have a good unassigned fund balance,” he said.

Burke said state law mandates roughly 20 percent of the budget remained in the unassigned section, meaning about $3.2 million. Burke said Carter County has roughly $8 million.

“[Revenue] has built up over the past few years,” he said. “Generally, the revenue will exceed what is paid out in expenditures, some years more than others.”

For the 2019/2020 fiscal year, this positive difference in revenue and expenses is partially responsible for the lack of a need for a tax increase.

For those concerned about a potential change of heart as the budget process continues, he said at this point, it was unlikely to see a tax increase for the upcoming year, even as the budget is still up for conversation.

“I do not see anything occurring between now and June 30 that would alter my opinion,” Burke said.

Carter County has until August to send a completed budget proposal to Nashville.

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