Approving the 2011 – 2012 property tax rate and budget were the main items on the July 18th agenda of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners. The evening started at 5:00 PM with a public hearing covering the proposed tax rate and budget and was followed by the regular monthly meeting at 6:00 PM. The proposed property tax rate was the same as last year and breaks down as follows:
General Fund $0.550
General Purpose School 0.565
Solid Waste/Sanitation 0.140
General Debt Service 0.170
Total Property Tax $1.425
One penny of property tax brings in about $135,080 when factoring in a six percent delinquency rate. The overall budget, including the school budget, is approximately $87,000,000. A nurse at the jail was moved from part time to full time due to workload, and part time guards were added to the jail to complete staffing requirements. No other new positions were added. Capital outlays in the amount of $905,000 were included for items such as computer upgrades, a new fire truck, an ambulance, and some much needed equipment for the Highway Department.
The property tax rate was set and the budget passed handily. I was the only dissenting vote concerning the budget. The Budget Committee worked hard on this budget and the expense side of the equation is very tight, conservative, and well thought out with few if any frills. I support the raises for the county employees as well as the capital expenses and other items. I believe the expense side is solid. My issue with the budget is on the revenue side. The General Fund expenses are $21,135,501 while revenues are $18,936,230. That leaves a gap of $2,199,271. The capital expenses mentioned above are $905,000 and are a valid one time expense in the budget. Subtracting that amount from the gap leaves the General Fund under funded to the amount of $1,294,271 in recurring expenses. This money is set to be taken from the General Fund’s fund balance which is, for lack of a better term, the county’s savings account. The other item of concern is the Debt Service as expenses are estimated to be $6,585,402 against $4,305,603 in revenue. This equates to $2,279,772 being drawn down from the Debt Service fund balance. I have no problem with drawing down this fund balance to some degree and as long as it doesn’t change our bond rating.
The total of the fund balance draw downs comes to $3,574,043 in recurring expenses (excluding the previously mentioned capital items). This is not a sustainable situation for a personal household, a state government, the federal government, or our local county government. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not calling for a huge property tax increase. The Mayor mentioned last year that he had ideas for increasing revenue that did not include property tax, and at some point we will have some sustained growth again, but I do not believe it is fiscally responsible to be funding such a large amount of recurring debt from our fund balances. In the near future this could become a serious problem for our county.
You may remember discussion of the County Archives from the May edition of this article. According to State law, certain governmental documents must be archived. The Library has been fulfilling archive services for the County for some time and a resolution was passed 11 – 7 putting the agreement into writing. The agreement includes archiving County government documents to State standards as well as genealogical archiving of private documents. I voted in favor of the resolution as did Brian Houston, Harry Sabine, Nancy Hyder, Robert Safdie, Joe Koester, Jan McNeil, Jeff Brown, Sonya Rimmer, Clyde Cramer, and Carmin Lynch. David Hassler, Johnny Presley, Charles Seiber, Larry Allen, Terry Carter, Mike Harvel and Roy Turner voted against.
Other items passed at the meeting included the sale of heavy and equipment and scales no longer used by the county due to the closing of the land fill, as well as the election of several notaries. A resolution was also passed seeking a litter and trash collecting grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
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