County budget and tax rate set

·5 min read

Aug. 4—The Cumberland County Commission finalized its 2022-'23 budget Tuesday afternoon, setting a property tax rate of $1.135 per $100 of assessed value.

No members of the public spoke during the public hearing proceeding Tuesday's special-called meeting.

County Finance Director Nathan Brock said, "The budget you are about to consider tonight, there is no increase over the certified tax rate that was approved by the state of Tennessee."

All property in the county was reassessed this year. A brisk housing market the past couple of years pushed the value of many properties up, with an average increase of 40% countywide. Some homes and properties had a greater increase in value.

The state uses the new property values to set a certified tax rate that allows the county to bring in about the same amount of revenue as the year before, avoiding a windfall to the county when values increase significantly.

The new tax rate of $1.135 per $100 of assessed value is less than last year's tax rate of $1.5653 per $100 in assessed value.

"The budget you are about to consider, the total for all funds is almost $161 million," Brock said. "Schools, food service and federal programs comprise about 64% of that dollar amount."

The county's general fund budget includes new positions in the county property assessor's office, at the Art Circle Public Library and up to four new deputies for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, pending grant funding.

Brock said the county's budget committee faced significant challenges in developing the budget, including a desire to adhere to the certified tax rate, an increase in required retirement contributions of about 45%, an 8% increase in health insurance premiums, increasing fuel costs, and an additional payroll in the coming fiscal year.

"They budgeted increases of about 100% on projected fuel prices," Brock said.

Finalizing the county's budget requires multiple resolutions. First, the commission must set the tax rate and distribute the tax rate to various funds:

—General Fund Tax Rate, 69.17 cents

—Sanitation Fund Tax Rate, 12.38 cents

—General Purpose School Fund Tax Rate, 13.10 cents

—General Debt Service Fund Tax Rate, 18.85 cents

The property tax is projected to bring in $24.4 million in revenue for the various budgets.

Kyle Davis, 2nd District commissioner, moved to approve the tax rate, supported by Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner. The motion was unanimously approved.

Next, the commission approved an updated wage scale for the county. Changes include a 6% increase for all county employees and classification changes for the Cumberland County Emergency Medical Services department.

Kyle Davis moved to approve the new wage scale, supported by Sue York, 1st District commissioner. The motion was approved with Chad Norris, 1st District commissioner, and David Gibson, 4th District commissioner, abstaining as they are county employees.

Then, the commission sets appropriates for the various funds and departments funded by the county. In addition to the four funds that receive property tax revenue, the budget includes the highway department budget, funded by state gas taxes; the railroad budget, funded by grant revenue; the drug control fund, a restricted account that holds proceeds of certain money and property seizures related to illicit drug activity; and the courthouse maintenance budget, funded by specific fees that can only be used for upkeep of the courthouse and the justice center.

Deborah Holbrook, 8th District commissioner, moved to approve the budgets, supported by Colleen Mall, 9th District commissioner. The motion was unanimously approved.

The county general fund budget comes to $37.1 million. The school budget is $66.3 million, and is funded in part with property taxes, an estimated $20.9 million in sales tax revenue and the balance in state funding.

The highway department budget is $6.5 million, and the sanitation budget is $3.7 million.

The commission also approved donations to various nonprofit organizations.

—Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce, $52,500

—Cumberland County Rescue Squad, $12,000

—Fair Park Senior Center, $30,000

—Hilltoppers, $17,100

—Veterans Honor Guard, $4,500

—Wags and Whiskers, $5,000

—Fairfield Glade Fire Department, $36,100

—Cumberland County Young Marines, $3,000

—Avalon Center, $8,000

—Court Appointed Special Advocates, $5,500

—Cumberland County Playhouse, $17,000

—Upper Cumberland Veterans Cemetery, $6,396

—Military Memorial Museum, $1,370

—Roane State Community College, $150,000

Hyder moved to approve the donations, with Jerry Cooper, 7th District commissioner, seconding. The motion was unanimously approved.

The county's general fund budget includes about $3.2 million million in capital projects. The commission approved a resolution to issue $2.9 million in capital outlay bonds, essentially allowing the county to borrow the money for those projects and immediately pay the loan off using the debt service fund balance.

Norris moved to approve the resolution, supported by York. The motion was unanimously approved.

The commission also approved an increase in pay for election workers ahead of the Aug. 4 county general and state primary election.

Machine operators will be paid $120 per day, as will the absentee counting board members, election day precinct judge/registrar, nursing home registrars, jail registrars and election cycle extra helpers.

The election day precinct officer will be paid $140 per day. The machine technicians will be paid $500 per month during the months of the election cycle and $200 per month retainer for months with no election cycle.

The election commission members will be paid $175 per month.

Hyder moved to approve, supported by Holbrook. The motion was unanimously approved.

The following commissioners were not present for the meeting: Rebecca Stone, 3rd District; Joe Sherrill, 6th District; Jim Blalock, 8th District; and John Patterson, 9th District

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.