Carter Budget Committee cutting the unknown while waiting for state figures

John Thompson • May 14, 2018 at 9:30 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The Budget Committee of the Carter County Commission is finding it difficult to trim the proposed budget for next fiscal year because the biggest single portion of the budget is still an unknown amount.

The frustration continued during its Monday meeting when the committee learned that the Carter County School Board still has not received word on how much money the state will be providing the school system in Basic Education Program funds.

Committee Chairwoman Sonja Culler told committee members that Director of Schools Kevin Ward is hopeful the Basic Education Program amount would be known before the committee’s voting meeting Thursday.

The delay is especially aggravating for committee members because of their determination to trim the budget, which at one time appeared to be $1.3 million higher than this year, requiring a 16-cent addition to the county’s property tax rate.

While waiting for the state figures on how much funding the school department will receive next year, the committee has been discussing ways to reduce the budget. While the discussions have been in workshop sessions when votes are not taken, She said it appears the committee is in agreement on ways to reduce the tax increase from 16 cents to 10 cents per $100 assessed value.

With no school budget to go over yet, the committee continued with its scrutinization of the county budget. Committee member Robert Acuff suggested that the county stop paying for cell phones used by employees. He also said the county could work on using less paper by putting more information online.

Rather than dictate where each office should cut, the committee will ask each office holder to relook at the budget to try and find 10 percent and 15 percent cuts. Acuff said he realized all departments were not going to be able to achieve cuts of those size, but he wanted them to work toward that goal.

One way the county may be able to gain some one-time avenue that won’t cost taxpayers is to request the state to give the county all the unclaimed funds designated for citizens in Carter County. Since the county has never made such a request to the state, the amount could be substantial. The unclaimed funds first began to be held by the state in the 1980s.

With the hope that the School Board will have the figures for the state’s contribution to the Basic Education Program prior to its Thursday meeting, Culler told the committee members to be prepared for a long meeting.

“Bring some food or eat a big dinner,” Culler told them in anticipating for finally getting a proposed budget together to present to the County Commission for its meeting next week.

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