CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Carter County Budget Committee members meet Thursday night to continue discussing the terms of next fiscal year’s budget, which includes a possible property tax increase and cuts for non-profit organizations.
The current county property tax rate is $2.03 per $100 of assessed value. The potential rate increase has dropped to 27 to 28 cents after the county received American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding, according to Budget Committee member Bob Acuff.
Acuff says the committee is dealing with the decisions of past commissioners with this proposed tax increase.
“We should’ve not accepted the state’s recommendation at $2.03,” Acuff said. “We should’ve increased it, maybe a 10 or 15 cent increase and this wouldn’t be such a heavy lift.”
While the committee plans to cut funding for non-profits, Acuff says they hope to receive around $3 million from the increased property tax revenue. That money will be earmarked for increased pay for the sheriff’s office and county employees.
This is to continue the increased wages for sheriff’s office workers that began last year.
Acuff says the committee is considering an increase of $2.50 for county employees.
The committee has suggested that non-profits return after the budget has been set to ask for money from the county’s unassigned fund balance.
“We have to wait until our 2023-24 budget is approved from the comptroller’s office before we can make any disbursement of funding,” said Acuff.
A wheel tax has also been suggested to bring in more revenue, but Acuff says it’s something that the county has tried in the past and it failed.
During the meeting, Acuff says the committee will review which outside agencies will receive funding from the 2023-24 budget. After that is decided, commissioners will have a better idea of what the final property tax increase rate will be.
Acuff says organizations like the Elizabethton/Carter County Senior Citizens and Loaves & Fishes Outreach Ministry have come before the committee asking them to continue funding, claiming they are the only avenues for the services they provide to the community.
“We depend on every penny that we get and (the county budget has) been a huge part,” said Serena Miller, director of Loaves & Fishes.
Miller says they serve a total of 700 people in Carter County and are the only organization that offers hot meals five days out of the week.
“Prices continue to rise,” said Miller. “We see new people each night. We see people we haven’t seen before. We see repeat people. People just can’t make it.”
Non-profits go to the Budget Committee every year to ask for funding. Miller says the money from the county makes up one-sixth of their monthly budget.
She says they receive donations, but not a lot of places provide a set amount like county funding.
“And that’s a huge chunk if we don’t get money from the county this year,” said Miller. “I know that it’s important where they want to spend the money, but it’s also important that we take care of our people here in the community as well.”
Acuff says the budget needs to be turned in to the comptroller’s office before August.