Sullivan County’s Budget Committee is expected to finalize their recommendation for a six-cent property tax increase Wednesday.
If passed by the entire county commission, the owner of a property with an appraised value of $100 thousand dollars would have to pay an additional 15 dollars per year in taxes.
When asked what he would say to people tired of tax hikes, County Mayor Richard Venable said, “I think when the public understands where the money is being spent they’re more likely to support that.”
The first portion of that increase was approved in September. County commissioners unanimously supported spending one million dollars to add school resource officers to all county school campuses.
“We have safer schools for our children in Sullivan County today,” said County Commissioner Mark Vance. “The people wanted that, and we heard them.”
Vance is among the many who also supported a resolution seeking one million dollars to fund 20 new employees, including officers and nurses, at the overcrowded county jail.
“Our staffing is below what’s needed to ensure the protection of both the inmates and the officers,” said Vance.
“We’ve always been understaffed in the medical end of the jail so this will relieve some of that pressure,” Venable added.
Vance said the rest of the increase would fund raises for county employees to keep pace with the cost of living.
“We have to at least try to recognize the employees that work and keep their salaries going up based on the cost of inflation,” Vance said.
Venable said incremental raises are critical to keep county wages competitive with the private sector. He said, “We right now have some openings that are difficult to fill just because of the low wage level here.”
Venable said elected officials will not benefit from raises funded through the proposed property tax increase. He said raises for ‘constitutional officers’ are mandated by the state whereas raises for EMS providers, for example, are funded through the county commission.
Venable said at least two special called meetings with the full county commission will take place this month to discuss the budget. The first is scheduled for June 13th.