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Carter County Commission continues to wait for next budget

John Thompson • May 21, 2018 at 10:30 PM

ELIZABETHTON — With the budget not set for the next fiscal year, Monday night’s meeting of the Carter County Commission was fairly quiet and uneventful.

The Budget Committee had originally planned to have a proposed budget presented to the commission Monday night, allowing the commissioners a month to review it before voting on the budget in July. But the committee is continuing to work on the budget and invited all commissioners to attend the next two committee meetings.

Budget Committee Chairwoman Sonja Culler reported on the committee’s work and its current standing.

“We have met for about 20 hours,” Culler told the commission. She said when all the budget requests for next year were received, she said the requested increases amounted to $1.3 million more than anticipated revenue under the current tax rates.

Instead of looking for ways to get more revenue to meet those increased demands, the committee has worked to cut the requests and expenses. The committee has asked each county department and office to cut its non-payroll expenses by 10 percent.

She said some have done so, while others told her there was not enough left in their budget for a 10 percent cut. The committee has also examined what would be saved if all the county’s donations to outside agencies were eliminated except for those that were mandated or the county was contractually obligated to fund.

Culler told the commission that the cuts have lowered the amount of requests over anticipated revenue to $751,000. That amounts to about a 9-cent property tax increase, with each cent on the property tax bringing in $83,341 to the county government.

“We are trying to do the best we can do,” Culler said.

While the Budget Committee has been considering ways to avoid a property tax increase by cutting expenses, another county commissioner had an alternative way of avoiding a property tax increase.

Commissioner Ray Lyons said “there are other possibilities to raise revenue beside raising property taxes.”

Culler said the Budget Committee has two additional meetings scheduled to reach a proposed budget. The meetings are scheduled for the evening of Thursday, May 29, and Monday, June 4. She welcomed commissioners to attend.

In other matters, the commission chose Creole Miller to fill a vacancy on the Carter County School Board that was created when Steve Harvey had to move out of his district.

The commissioners heard from two candidates for the position, Miller and Josh Hubbard.

Miller is a retired educator with the Carter County School System who taught at Happy Valley Elementary School for over 20 years and was principal at Central Elementary. She has worked as supervisor of the county’s Head Start and Pre-Kindergarten programs.

Hubbard is 25 years old and is a firefighter with the Elizabethton Fire Department. He said he was educated in the Happy Valley schools and has become dedicated to public service. He has also become a cattle farmer in his off time from the fire department.

Commissioners said both were fine candidates to choose from.

“Can I vote for both of them?” Commissioner Ronnie Trivett asked.

The vote was 13-10 for Miller, with commissioner Doc Miller not able to cast a vote because he was stuck in a traffic jam around Watauga Lake caused by a fatal car crash.

The loudest cheer came toward the end of the meeting when Landfill Committee Chairwoman Bobbie Gouge-Dietz reported that vandals had broken into the recycling center for several days in a row, causing damage.

The good news? She said that last Friday, Landfill Manager Benny Lyons and others had hidden inside the Recycling Center and caught the vandals. She said they are now facing vandalism, arson and burglary charges in Juvenile Court.

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