Huntsville, TN (2017-08-07) The county legislative body has rejected a 12-cent tax increase proposed by the county’s budget committee. With an August 31st deadline quickly approaching, the county commission will meet in special called session again next week to try to pass a budget.
On a 7-6 vote Monday night, the Scott County Commission, which was meeting in special-called session, rejected a budget proposed by the county’s budget committee. As presented, the budget would have resulted in a 12-cent tax increase.
“I can’t see how we can continue to put this on the people who are working their butts off,” commented sixth district Commissioner Robin Newman, who voted against the proposed tax increase. On the other side were commissioners like Sam Lyles, who lauded the work put into the budget by the committee and supported the budget. “Just to dismiss it (without consideration of the time, effort, and knowledge put into it) is out of hand,” he remarked.
Newman, along with Commissioners Sheila Buttram, David (Blue) Day, June Jeffers, Eric Newport, and Ernest Phillips, cast dissenting votes.
If the tax levy would have passed, tax payers outside the Oneida Special School District would have been paying $2.494 cents per $100 in assessed value. Those inside the district would be paying $2.983, which includes additional fees for the Oneida Public Debt.
As proposed, the budget would have included roughly an additional $360,000 in revenue, which would have funded a 3% raise for all county general employees (~150 workers), additional money for maintenance of county buildings and equipment, and additional revenue to offset anticipated interest rate hikes on outstanding debt.
After the proposed tax levy failed to pass, Commissioner Trent Cross, who chairs the county budget committee, refused to reconvene the committee to consider alternatives. “If we revise the budget, it will be revised by this whole body (county commission),” Cross said. Afterwards, Newman restated her stance. “You may get enough votes, and if you do, we’ll move on, but I will not vote for this tax increase,” she said.
Newman argued that the county had received more revenue in the last fiscal year than in year’s past, and that a looming state property reappraisal could be devastating to property owners. “We can’t keep penalizing landowners,” she said. Cross countered that property taxes were the county’s only major source of revenue, and the county commission had refused to consider other forms of taxation.
Commissioner Mike Slaven tried to put a realistic tone on the conversation, saying a person living in a $100,000 home would pay an additional $2.50 per month in taxes under the proposal. Commissioner June Jeffers argued it wasn’t about the additional taxes, but those who couldn’t pay existing taxes. “We have people living on $400-$600 dollars a month. How do they live and pay this high tax to the county?” she questioned.
As the discussion died down, Commissioners began having sidebar conversations amongst themselves about possible alternatives. The semi-private conversations continued until County Attorney John Beaty called an end to the one-on-one discussions, and informed commissioners all debate and deliberations should be conducted in accordance with open meetings decorum.
Ultimately, an alternate plan was put on the table for consideration. Commissioner Rick Russ motioned for a ten cent tax increase, which would have removed the additional funds to offset potential interest rate hikes. The measure initially appeared it would pass, as Commissioner Buttram supported the measure during a roll call vote, but later recanted. Likewise, Cross, initially voted against the measure, but changed to his vote to support it. The motion failed again by the same 7-6 vote.
Unable to pass the tax levy, the county legislative body adjourned. Since the county must submit a budget to the state by August 31, 2017, Mayor Dale Perdue immediately called for another special meeting to discuss the budget on Monday, August 14th at 6:00 p.m.
If everyone holds steadfast to their position, the next meeting will likely be short-lived; provided Commissioner Patti Brown is able to attend. Brown was not present Monday night; however, she would likely vote for the tax increase, as she is a member of the budget committee. Her support would give the measure the final vote needed for approval.