Colbaugh said road, school departments not the cause of proposed property tax increase

John Thompson • Updated Jun 11, 2018 at 10:27 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Superintendent Roger Colbaugh of the Carter County Highway Department responded to complaints about spending in his department by saying that the reason for the proposed increase in the property tax rate is not because of his department.

Speaking during Monday's meeting of the Highway Committee of the Carter County Commission, Colbaugh said the division of the property tax rate will leave his department with the same amount of money it has had in recent years. That amount is 13 cents of the county's proposed rate. Colbaugh said it has been 13 cents since before he took over the office, and it has not increased.

Most of the funding for the department comes from state sources, especially the tax on each gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel. Since that tax went up last year, all 95 county departments have seen an increase in funding from the state.

Colbaugh said state funding for his department has increased by $600,000 for the new fiscal year. He said that additional money will be going into more asphalt for roads, highway markings and more for snow and ice clearing.

Highway Committee members had previously said there was a perception problem because Colbaugh had included the purchase of a new sport utility vehicle in next year's budget. Colbaugh plans to use the vehicle for his travels through the county.

For the past four years, Colbaugh used a Ford F-150 pickup truck as his vehicle. He said he did not need such a big vehicle, that he had never hauled anything in the truck bed. He proposed to give the truck to one of his supervisors.

Despite the criticism, Colbaugh said his department and the school department are presenting budgets that do not require an increase in the tax rate. He said the entire 9-cent increase in the property tax rate will go to support increases in spending in the General Fund.

Highway Committee Chairman Mike Hill said he had received numerous telephone calls complaining about the supposed wasteful spending in the Highway Department. Colbaugh said those complaints were generated from inaccurate comments on social media. He said some of those comments had come from County Commissioners.

In other matters, the committee heard from several citizens with road problems. Many of the problems were concerned with drainage matters in this unusually rainy time.

Sonya and Joe Miller appeared before the committee to complain about drainage problems and flood damage from earlier this year on Jess Jarrett Road in Burbank. Mrs. Miller said a damaged tile was replaced with a smaller one and questioned why a large tile had not been installed. She said there was still a lot of debris in the creek bed.

Colbaugh said a meeting with representatives of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation had already been scheduled for today on the flood-recovery effort.

The committee also heard from property owners who live in the section of Gunsmoke Hollow that is not a part of the county’s Gunsmoke Hollow Road. Colbaugh gave the property owners advice on drainage and ground preparation methods to prepare the road for paving to county specifications.

He said state law would not allow the county department to work on the private property, but the county could take it onto its road list once it has been improved, then assume maintenance of the road.

The committee also heard from a citizen who lives on Browns Branch Road in Hampton about drainage problems on that road.

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