Kingsport Times News Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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Proposed Sullivan budget projects revenue increase

July 21st, 2014 10:40 pm by J. H. Osborne

Proposed Sullivan budget projects revenue increase

BLOUNTVILLE — Property across Sullivan County is worth $63 million more this year than it was last year, according to a county budget proposal unveiled to the public Monday.

The proposal covers county finances for the fiscal year that began three weeks ago and runs through June 30 of next year.

Distribution of the budget document to county commissioners on Monday is considered the required "first reading," and a vote could take place next month.

The county must submit a comprehensive budget plan to Nashville by October or risk the loss of state funding for its school systems.

The budget proposal handed out — but not discussed — on Monday is based on the same county property tax rate as last year: $2.3054.

But it projects each penny of the tax rate is worth about $6,000 more than a penny was worth last year.

That's because the estimated countywide assessment has grown $63 million in the last year, according to the budget proposal — from $3.601 billion to $3.664 billion.

This year's estimated countywide assessment has not been discussed, at least not publicly, by the county commission during budget development discussions prior to Monday.

Last year, each penny of the county's property tax rate was projected to generate $345,716 in revenue, based on an estimated collection rate of 96 percent. Total take: $79.7 million.

This year, with the same estimated collection rate, each penny is projected to generate $351,769 in revenue. Total take: nearly $81.1 million.

The biggest chunk of that property tax revenue — more than $50.5 million — will go to schools.

The second biggest chunk will go to the county's general fund. The general fund, which includes such services as public safety, courts, and administration, will receive $23.27 million from the county property tax rate, up from the $22.87 million appropriated at the start of last fiscal year.

Including state, federal and other funding, the budget proposal projects total revenue for the general fund of $48.7 million — up from $47.6million last year. Those figures include money directed to the general fund from the account's "surplus."

The proposed budget balances the general fund with more than $2 million from surplus, compared to $1.2 million in surplus used to balance the general fund last year.

The $1.1 million increase in proposed general fund spending ($48.7 million, compared to $47.6 million last year) reflects the figure longtime Budget Committee Chairman Eddie Williams has presented as mandated increases that cannot be avoided. Those have been described by Williams and others as the only increases in the proposed budget.

The Sullivan County Highway Department, which does not perform work inside the cities, will receive an estimated $2.77 million from the county property tax (which is also paid by city residents) for the current year, based on the budget proposal.

Because city property owners do pay county taxes — and Kingsport and Bristol operate their own school systems — county property tax revenue is split among the school systems based on average daily attendance.

That split means that although the overall portion of the county tax rate going to schools is increasing, based on the budget proposal, the share going to the county's school system will drop slightly — because attendance continues to shift from county schools to city schools.

The split last year: Sullivan County Schools, 50.85 percent; Kingsport City Schools, 30.33 percent; and Bristol City Schools, 18.82 percent.

The split this year: Sullivan County Schools, 49.61 percent; Kingsport City Schools, 31.3308 percent; and Bristol City Schools, 19.0592 percent.

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