Commission Keeps Tax Rate at $1.91

By Jacob E. Rosenbaum

The Fentress County Commission met in a special called session on Monday, August 5, 2019, for the purpose of adopting the 2019-2020 budget. While the majority of the budget was adopted as proposed by the budget committee, there were a number of last minute changes which occurred shortly prior to passage. The most significant of these included a 30¢ an hour raise for all county employees across the board as opposed to a 20¢ raise, a lack of increase in contributions to the Industrial Development Board, and an increase in the Ambulance Service budget for the purchase of a new ambulance. It is worth noting that the Commission passed the budget with a projected approximately $150,000 shortfall, which will have to come from the County’s fund balance.

The meeting was called to order by County Executive Jimmy Johnson. 2nd District Commissioner Kim Davidson led the pledge to the flag, and the opening prayer was led by 2nd District Commissioner Rod Williams. When County Clerk Marilyn Stephens called the roll, it showed that nine out of ten Commissioners were present, with Micki McDonald being absent.

The first item of business was to approve the minutes of the meetings of the budget committee, which hammered out the proposed budget in a series of five meetings held over the course of the last three months. These minutes were unanimously approved.

The next item of business was a resolution setting the tax levy for the current fiscal year. The consensus throughout budget discussions had been that it would be desirable to avoid a tax increase this year, and maintain the present rate of $1.91 in property tax for every $100 of assessed value. A motion to adopt this resolution, keeping the tax levy at the present rate, was made by Benny Hughes, seconded by Lester Gooding, and was passed with all present voting in favor.

The Commission then moved on to consider the various proposed budgets for the current fiscal year, starting with Fund 101, the County General Fund. This budget is the one in which the most changes would be made.

Commissioner Justin Miller then drew the attention of the Commission to the fund’s contributions line item, which was budgeted at nearly $84,000. This line item is the amount set aside for contributions to the Industrial Development Board. Miller proposed that this amount was too much, and that it should be reduced to the amount of $30,000, so that the funds could be better used elsewhere. Miller made his statement in the form of a motion to amend the line item. After some time, the motion was seconded by Larry Cooper. The motion was voted down on a vote of 2 in favor, 7 against, with only Miller and Cooper voting favorably.

Discussion of this matter continued, with commissioners weighing in regarding how to proceed. Commissioner Rod Williams said that he felt the ID Board should be funded, and not “handcuffed.”

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