SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A disagreement involving education spending halted the Sullivan County Commission meeting Tuesday night.
Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable hoped to get the $207 million budget approved Tuesday night, but those plans soured after District 5 Commissioner Dwight King proposed the adjournment due to $8.8 million being unlisted in the school budget.
The decision to adjourn followed an at-times contentious meeting over the $8.8 million listed by Sullivan County Schools as one-time expenditures.
Dozens of Sullivan County teachers were in attendance because the proposed budget included a 4% raise for district employees. The budget also included a 5% raise for county employees.
Many commission members said the one-time expenditures did not include line-item specifications saying where the money would be sent.
Immediately following public comment, King made his concerns known to the commission.
“I don’t see how we can move forward with any of this until we get those facts and the figures,” King said.
This follows after a budget committee recommended raising property taxes by 9 cents last Wednesday.
That tax increase would offset debts tied to the construction of a new jail.
Venable said the jail improvement is a top priority for the new budget.
“We’ve had overcrowding at times and we were subject to some action by the courts, but we’ve issued those bonds and now we have to issue a tax increase to pay for that,” Venable said.
The tax increase would also help pay for the debts incurred by the construction of two new schools, including the West Ridge High School in Blountville.
During the debate, King called Sullivan County School Board Chairman Randall Jones to the podium to ask him about the one-time expenditures.
Jones said he would bring a line-item list of the expenditures before the commission’s next meeting.
Jones told WJHL the $8.8 million comes from the district’s fund balance.
He had concern the delay in approving the budget could jeopardize the school employee pay raise.
“We know that the salary equalization plan is a major part of this year’s budget, and it’s crucial for our teachers and other employees that the salaries be increased,” Jones said.
The Sullivan County Commission will discuss the budget again next week on Thursday, July 8 at the Sullivan County Courthouse.