County passes budget with tax hike ...

Anderson County Commissioners passed its 2019-2020 budget Thursday night, setting the property tax rate at 2.9728-cents per $100 assessed value.

Aboutand additional $46 per $100,000 of property value.

During the discussion before the final vote on the budget new revenue sources — real and envisioned — were brought forth and discussed; the idea of handing the proposed budget back to the Anderson County Budget Committee was talked about; putting off passing a budget until a finance director can be hired and has time to go over the 2019-2020 proposal; and the impact an 18.25-cents increase would have on citizens were listened to.

There was even a motion (but no second) after the budget was approved to cut a penny from it. Commissioner Denver Waddell made the motion to take one cent off the 18.25-cents, but the motion did not receive a second.

Voting “yes” for the 2019-2020 budget with an 18.25-cents property tax increase were Chuck Fritts, Catherine Denenberg, Robert McKamey, Shane Vowell, Jerry Creasey, Bob Smallridge, Robert Jameson, Steve Mead, and Rick Meredith.

Voting “no” on the proposal were Josh Anderson, Denver Waddell, Tracy Wandell, Theresa Scott, Tim Isbel, Jerry White, and Phil Yager.

After passing on a 9-7 margin, the 2019-2020 budget — with an 18.25-cents property tax increase — was made null and void by a technicality, a glitch, an overlooked item in a process that was called “grueling” and had been, almost literally, hammered at since February.

Before the final vote was taken there was much discussion about revenue the county could and/or should be receiving.

Among the items listed were litigation taxes — some of which are collected at nearly 100-percent (civil cases) and some witch a collection average of about 25-percent.

But that amount would only put a dent of about $100,000 into the county’s coffers.

There was also discussion on the expected growth in Anderson County with new homes being built, as well as revenue from internet sales tax, and funds that will be garnered from the county’s monthly payments plan for property tax payments.

Commission Chairman Tracy Wandell said all of the new or untapped sources of revenue were great news, but added those should have been brought before the county’s budget committee at the beginning of the process and not right before a final budget was set to be voted on.

But Chuck Fritts reminded his fellow commissioners these expected revenues are well and good, but, “We’re coming up with pipe dreams and this, that, and the other,” Fritts said.

“We started last February looking at a 52-cent tax increase and we whittled and we whittled.”

Fritts listed all the needs the county is facing, from the jail to the schools, to employee raises.

“We are hurting and here we are trying to pipe dream things,” Fritts said. “We need it now and we have to address it now, and we have to stop pushing things off. The Commission acts to do what’s best for the citizens of this county.”

That sentiment was echoed by Robert Jameson, who after almost two hours of discussions said, “All of this … We’re politicking. We’re posturing. If you think we’re gonna pull a rabbit out of a hat today I’d like to see it.”

Jameson said he knows some people will be financially burdened by a tax increase, but he added County Commission didn’t just represent those people, but everybody.

“We need to vote it up, or vote it down,” he said.