Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Erwin BMA passes budget

The Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen officially passed the 2015-2016 fiscal year budget on second and final reading during a meeting on Monday, Aug. 10, at Town Hall.
The budget, which includes a 33-cent property tax increase, passed with a 4-1 vote.
Mayor Doris Hensley was not in attendance for the meeting due to a family illness. Vice-Mayor Gary Edwards, along with Alderwoman Sue Jean Wilson and aldermen Gary Chandler and Virgil Moore, voted in favor of the budget. Michael Baker was the lone vote against the measure.
The 33-cent increase will raise the current $1.0796 property tax rate to $1.41 per $100 of assessed property value and allows the town to balance a more than $400,000 budget deficit.
Prior to the vote, members of the community were allowed to voice their opinions on the measure. Some individuals expressed their opposition for the 50 percent cut in funding to the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center.
During the budget process, the BMA decided to cut funding to all non-profit organizations all together in an earlier work session. Later, town officials agreed to cut funding to the organizations to half of what each received during the 2014-2015 fiscal year. This decision moved the senior center’s funding to $15,500 from last year’s $31,000.
“On behalf of the center, I’m asking you reconsider the budget,”said Tonia Cook, executive director of the facility.
Cook went on to state the center serves over 300 members of the community and has helped in transportation for individuals, is the home site for Meals on Wheels, has actively helped combat depression with socialization and allows senior citizens physical activities to stay healthy.
Chandler questioned the funding the center receives from the county’s other two governments. Cook answered by mentioning the county funds $25,000 and the town of Unicoi adds $3,000 to their facility. The majority of its members come from Erwin, she also said.
“I’ve only been in office since September,” Baker said, “but I have never seen the budget for the senior center. (We) hate the situation that we’re in, but our work sessions have been well advertised.”
Baker went on to add the only non-profit organization that attended the work sessions was the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce, who provided a presentation of their budget needs.
“I was under the impression I submitted the proper paperwork,” Cook said.
Other members of the community also addressed the board, including Erwin Nine member George Hatcher, who stated he uses the senior center for exercise and that it needs help. Becky Trotter also voiced opposition, as did John Day who discussed moving back to the area to care for his parents going through illness. He added the center is one of the bright spots of senior citizens’ days and that the economic board is funding a program to bring new retirees to the area.
“We need to take care of the citizens we have here,” he said, adding that not all non-profit groups are created equal.
Mary Wiltrout also added that every time a tax increase happens, her mortgage would cause her to have to leave her house that she lives in by herself and added the town should look at implementing a wheel tax.
Wilson, who previously voted against the budget, replied by stating that the increase would be the first by the town in 10 years and that the county would be in charge of implementing a wheel tax. She also mentioned that during her time as a county commissioner, she actively worked to bring a wheel tax to the county but that it was a “no-go.”
The funding cuts could have the potential to be reviewed, officials added. The budget will be visited quarterly, Edwards said, to his understanding and read a statement from Hensley during the budget’s first reading on Monday, July 27.
“It is with a heavy heart these cuts were made,” Edwards read, “and hopefully they can be revisited Dec. 31.”
• • •
At the beginning of the meeting, alderman Baker asked town officials about the status of the skate park being constructed on Nolichucky Avenue.
Public Works Director Riki Forney responded to Baker by stating a request has been put into the state for final approval and town is awaiting a response back. The skate park will officially be opened following final approval.
• • •
In other business, the Erwin BMA:
• Approved a resolution to authorize the town to participate in the TML Risk Management Pool 2015-2016 “Safety Partners” Loss Control Matching Grant Program. The estimated $3,000 program has been budgeted to allow safety training for county employees and the grant matches $1,500 that Erwin will provide.
• Approved an open road salt bid from Detroit Salt Company for $92.97 per ton for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Erwin received two bids; from Detroit Salt Company and from Composite Mineral International for $96.83.