Sullivan County commissioner proposes no tax increase

J. H. Osborne • Apr 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Forget that old chicken-or-egg riddle.

The question Monday in Sullivan County was which comes first — the spending plan or the tax rate?

In a potential reversal of standard operating procedure for the county, Commissioner John McKamey proposed the latter.

At a meeting of the Sullivan County Commission Monday, McKamey introduced a resolution to declare a “no tax increase” philosophy from the get-go this county budget season, asking the commission to OK a 2008 tax rate of $2.53 “or less” before any departmental budget requests are considered.

That’s the current tax rate.

The commission’s committees are set to begin budget talks next week. McKamey said those talks — which include review of various departments’ and organizations’ requests for county funding in the year ahead — typically result in public speculation on how much of a tax increase would be needed to fully fund all requests.

He suggested sending everyone a simple signal right up front by setting the tax rate before it all gets started.

McKamey said other counties have proceeded that way. His proposal was placed on first reading, meaning it will be up for discussion by each committee before coming back for a potential vote by the full commission May 19.

Also Monday, the commission:

•Heard on first reading a proposal to give some “surplus” county property — namely, four dump trucks and a piece of paving equipment — to the county’s “sister community” in the Central American nation of Honduras. In the weeks ahead, the issue will be up for discussion by the commission’s various committees. It could come back for a commission vote May 19.

Asked by the Times-News what the items in question might be worth, County Purchasing Agent Nelda Fleenor said while it’s difficult to place comparison values on property without having them side by side, her search of Internet listings found similar items with average selling prices of $4,000 to $5,000 each.

“But we could sell it at auction locally and get $200,” Fleenor said, pointing out the county’s usual method of disposing of property declared surplus is to offer it at absolute public auction.

•Approved funding for a new part-time employee (30 hours per week) to the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office payroll for additional staffing of the county’s animal control program and animal shelter. The move will eliminate 11 hours of overtime currently paid each weekend (in the budget at $11,360 per year) in favor of a new part-time position at $10.50 per hour, with no benefits ($16,380 per year — or just over $5,000 more than what’s already budgeted).

•Saw withdrawn a resolution to support a change in state law to ban county employees from serving on the County Commission. Sponsoring Commissioner Bill Kilgore pulled the resolution before it came for a commission vote after Commissioner Buddy King said the proposed change in state law recently stalled in the legislature.

•Approved an amended plan to install a traffic signal at a railroad underpass on Summerville Road. The resolution OKs $13,000 to put a red light on either end of the one-lane tunnel, located at a curve in the road. It was amended on the floor Monday by sponsoring Commissioner Darlene Calton to have the county’s highway department first look into using mirrors to make the route safer for traffic.

That move came after public comment, during which one person presented a citizen petition against installation of the red lights and another person spoke for adding the lights, citing a similar petition in favor of the plan.

•Approved spending up to $50,000 to buy new chairs for the Sullivan County Justice Center in Blountville.

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