As usual, the first night of the discussions was set aside for the independent and nonprofit organizations that provide services to county residents but are not part of the county government.
This year, the county government is donating just over $1 million to these organizations. The agencies have requested that this amount be increased to $1,250,000 next year.
While this would be a significant increase, over 89 percent of that increase is coming from three organizations. The county's volunteer fire departments are seeking the largest increase at $70,000. Second- and third-largest are the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library and the Carter County Rescue Squad. Both are seeking $60,000 increases.
David Jones, the new president of the Carter County Volunteer Firefighters, gave the presentation for the fire departments. He told the committee that all the members of the fire departments are volunteers, and the largest amount of volunteer hours are used not for fighting fires or training, but on fundraising.
While there is no payroll to meet, Jones told the committee that there are a lot of expenses in operating a fire department. He said a new truck costs around $250,000 to $300,000. He said the cost of equipping a firefighter is about $6,000 each to provide the standard coat, pants and boots.
The increase would be broken down to provide a $10,000 increase to each of the county's seven volunteer fire departments. That would mean the county would be providing a total of $60,000 to each department.The county's donation would also include $15,000 for a firefighter grant. That would bring the firefighters' total request to $435,000.
Renita Barksdale, director of the library, thanked the committee for approving a budget increase this year from $28,412.50. That brought the county's total donation to the library to $60,000. Barksdale is requesting the bottom line be doubled next year, going from $60,000 to $120,000.
Barksdale said the state categorized the library as a class 5 facility based on the population it serves. She said the library is understaffed, according to the state standards for its class.
Barksdale said 75 percent of the people who use the library are county residents, while only 25 percent come from the city of Elizabethton. Despite those percentages, Barksdale said the library receives $534,020 in funding from the city of Elizabethton, with only $60,000 from Carter County.
Rescue Squad Director Terry Arnold and Anthony Roberts, clinical director of the squad, explained the squad's request. Roberts told the committee that the amount only helps the squad's bottom line break even because it received a one-time funding increase of $160,000 this year. The increase would bring the county's donation to the squad to $330,000.