BREAKING: Anderson budget vote “null and void”

BREAKING: Thursday, the Anderson County Commission voted 9-7 to adopt a budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year that included an 18.25-cent property tax rate increase.

Friday, County Commissioners were informed that their vote is “null and void” due to an error in how the budget resolution was written, and will have to be reconsidered.

According to an email to commissioners from County Mayor Terry Frank, who said this morning she did plan to veto the tax increase adopted on Thursday, the tax resoultion provided to commissioners for their consideration was incorrect, “Clinton and Oak Ridge were mistakenly excluded from the line on the tax levy that is for debt service.”

Mayor Frank explains in the letter that last fiscal year, 10 cents had been taken out of the debt service fund to help “fund capital needs across the county with the understanding that the dime would have to come back this year in order to fund debt.” When this year’s budget resolution was drafted, the Mayor says that when that dime was put back in to the debt service fund, it was only recorded under the county portion, but not the Clinton and Oak Ridge sections. This was why Commissioner Steve Mead mentioned numerous times during Thursday’s meeting that Oak Ridgers would only be taxed an additional eight cents rather than the full 18.25 cents.

The next steps in the process remain unclear, but one thing is certain: the budget process in Anderson County is not done yet, and Commissioners will have to vote on the budget again. When the Budget Committee announced Thursday’s special called meeting, they did set aside Thursday, July 11th as a second meeting of the full Commission to consider the budget in the event that the process was not completed during this week’s meeting. That said, it is not clear exactly how county officials will proceed. Once that information becomes available, we will pass it along to you.

he new fiscal year begins on Monday, July 1st, and under the 1981 budget act, the county has until no later than August 30th to adopt its budget.

You can read the mayor’s letter to commissioners on our website, as well as our original story recapping Thursday’s Commission meeting.

(Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank’s letter to County Commissioners)

Last night Commissioner Mead raised the issue that the tax increase would only impact Oak Ridge by approximately 8 cents.  According to the tax resolution that was presented in your packet, Commissioner Mead was correct.  However, the resolution is incorrect.  Clinton and Oak Ridge were mistakenly excluded from the line on the tax levy that is for debt service.

If you will recall, last budget year a dime was taken out of debt service to fund capital needs across the county with the understanding that the dime would have to come back this year in order to fund debt.

When putting the dime back, it was only recorded under the county portion.  This is no doubt purely and honestly accidental, however, Clinton and Oak Ridge must be part of the debt service taxation.  Of course, they are not included in High School Debt Service or Rural Debt Service.

I have already discussed this with Robby to make sure I was reading this correctly.  

PREVIOUS STORY: Thursday, the Anderson County Commission voted 9-7 in a special called meeting to adopt the budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year as proposed by the County Budget Committee, meaning property tax rates will increase by 18.25 cents.

The additional revenue from the increase will be allocated as follows:

  • 6.75 cents will go to the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department to fund the opening of Unit 1 at the Jail as well as new jailers and additional patrol deputies;
  • 6 cents to the Anderson County school system;
  • 3 cents will fund employee pay raises;
  • 1.5 cents will be allocated for capital projects;
  • And 1 cent will go to the Solid Waste Department.

The vote on the proposal came after a two-hour long discussion, during which some commissioners pushed for one more meeting of the committee to see if there were any potential revenue streams that might have been missed. Those possible revenue sterams include money generated by the implementation of sales taxes on internet purchases (which could total roughly $625,000 for Anderson County), the expected property tax revenues from over 250 homes either currently being built or in the planning stages, and sales tax revenue generated by the growth in the county’s retail sector. Commissioner Tim Isbel urged commissioners to look at uncollected litigation taxes to see how they might improve the county’s financial situation, a proposal he first introduced on WYSH’s “Ask Your Neighbor” program on Wednesday.

Budget Committee Chairman Jerry White said that if it was the will of Commission to have the budget committee meet again, he would call a meeting as soon as possible to continue that panel’s efforts. Other members of that committee indicated they felt that even if they were to go back and look at it again, they did not believe there were any other options.

Commissioner Denver Waddell made a motion to eliminate the one cent from the tax increase going to the Solid Waste Department after County Mayor Terry Frank said that she thought there were still ways for her to make enough cuts that the extra penny on the tax levy unnecessary, but the motion died for lack of a second. Frank made clear in her comments to the Commission that she did not think a tax increase was in the county’s best interests, but did not indicate during the meeting whether or not she would veto the budget resolutions.

Voting for the increase were Commissioners Chuck Fritts, Robert Jameson, Rick Meredith, Shain Vowell, Robert McKamey, Catherine Denenberg, Steve Mead, Jerry Creasey and Bob Smallridge.

Voting against the tax increase were Commissioners Tracy Wandell, Denver Waddell, Josh Anderson, Tim Isbel, Jerry White, Theresa Scott and Phil Yager.

The new fiscal year begins this Monday, July 1st.

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