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Twenty two cent tax rate increase proposed

The Unicoi County Commission approved the recommendation of the proposed 2012-2013 fiscal year budget, which in its current state suggests a 22-cent increase in taxes, at a special called session on Sept. 6.
The commission will meet Monday, Sept. 24, to consider the budget.
The county’s current tax rate was set at $2.4638 after the county’s 2012 property reappraisal. With the proposed increase, the county could see the tax rate rise to $2.6838 per $100. Last year’s tax rate was approved at $2.55 per $100.
During a work session before the called session, Commissioner Doug Bowman said, “It’s hard to swallow,” regarding the amount of the tax increase. Bowman said the only options the county has are reduction of services or a tax increase. “If we don’t do this then we have to cut services,” Bowman said.
The proposed tax rate includes five funds: general, waste and sanitation, highway and public works, schools and debt service. The general fund tax rate is currently proposed at $1.1663 with waste and sanitation at $.1394, highway and public works at $.0486, schools at $.8127 and debt service at $.5168.
The county’s general fund net estimated collection of taxes is proposed to be $3,531,273, with a five-percent revenue delinquency totaling $185,856 factored in. The proposed budget leaves an estimated $163,636 in the end fund balance for June 30, 2013.
Unicoi County Bookkeeper Phyllis Bennett previously said, “In the past, they have tried to leave us with about a $150,000 balance, so that if something comes in that’s not budgeted, we would have the money for it.”
The finance committee met on Tuesday, Sept. 4, and discussed further cuts and changes to the 2012-2013 budget before Thursday’s vote by the full Unicoi County Commission.
Bowman provided the committee with several revenue increases, which totaled $34,500.
“Keep in mind, last year our revenues we projected were roughly $200,000 short of what we projected,” Commissioner Loren Thomas said after the total revenue increases suggested by Bowman were calculated.
However, Thomas also pointed out that Bowman sent an email to the commissioners which contained information from the County Technical Assistance Service regarding revenue collections in Tennessee.
“Tennessee revenue collections continued their upward trend in July, but continued at a much slower pace than recent months,” Thomas read from the email.
“The trend is going up,” Thomas added. “We’ve just got to hope that [the project revenues] come in.”
Since beginning the budget process this year, Thomas said during the Sept. 14 committee meeting that almost $250,000 was cut out of the 2012-2013 proposed budget. He also said that $54,500 in revenue increases have been added to the proposed budget.
“We are still almost three-quarters of a million dollars away,” Thomas also said.
This estimated $750,000 was the result of several factors: a $100,000 increase in workers’ comp; $131,000 for the 911 lawsuit; $77,000 for two School Resource Officers; $50,000 for the trials of former Sheriff Kent Harris; $10,000 increase in property insurance; $28,000 for elections; $23,000 increase in employee health insurance; $151,000 for debt service (five cents on the tax rate); and $181,000 to provide a fund balance (six cents on the tax rate).