April 16, 2014 - 15:13
County eyes sales tax increase
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If voters agree to raise the sales tax, the local portion will be raised to 2.75%. The total sales tax will then be 9.75%.

With the budget on the agenda for September, County Commissioners didn’t have a lot to do last Thursday, but a resolution for a local option sales tax was unanimously approved, allowing the item to be placed on the November election ballot. A resolution for a capital outlay note to purchase buses for the school system was also approved.

If voters agree to raise the sales tax, the local portion will be raised to 2.75%. The total sales tax will then be 9.75%. The local portion of sales tax collections is designated for the school system. While the county commission cannot tell the school system what to do with the money, commissioners hope any increase in revenue from the tax will be set aside for the purchase of more school buses.

This year, Director of Schools James Jones asked commissioners to help with the purchase of six buses. Commissioners agreed, and voted unanimously on a capital outlay note to pay for the buses. The note for the buses will be for $425,000 and payments will continue for no longer than a 5-year period. Payments will be made through the county’s debt service fund. Commissioners were able to vote on the note without first having the budget in place because it will be a one-time expense and not a recurring budget item.

Buster Lewis asked what the schools were doing now without having the new buses yet. John Pippenger said he believed some buses were leaving early and some were leaving late and that two of the buses were doing four of the routes. According to state law, buses must be retired after 15 years. Ten more buses will need to be replaced in 2014.

The City of Ducktown is also seeking a sales tax increase. 50% of local sales tax collected in cities goes toward the schools. If the county does not act to raise the local option, all new monies collected within cities remains there. The City of Benton raised their local option sales tax several years ago.

In other business, Dwight Ingle, a deputy with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department who “fell and busted his shoulder all to pieces” asked commissioners to allow him to receive his vacation pay. He told the board he didn’t know he could get paid for his vacation days until he found out Dennis Waters had gotten paid for his while on worker’s compensation.

Sheena Gaddis asked Ingle what the total amount of his request was. Ingle said he didn’t know he needed a total. He said employees of the sheriff’s department were allowed to carry over 18 vacation days but that he had a total of 27 unused days. Ingle said he earned a day and a quarter every month.

Daren Waters explained to Ingle that because they did not have a budget in place, a budget amendment could not be done this month in order to allow for the payment. He said Ingle could speak with the sheriff’s department of the county budget director to get a total amount and it could be approved at the next meeting, one a budget is set in place.

A letter was sent to County Executive Hoyt Firestone from Scott Brown, the attorney handling the Tennessee Chemical Company’s bankruptcy case. According to the letter, the Turtletown Ruritan Club building was deeded to the club by the copper company with a reversionary clause. Brown said in his letter the property would have been dealt with sooner but it had only recently come to his attention. He said he felt it would be more cost-effective to just give the land to the county rather than auction it off.

A bid for a new concession stand at the Copper Basin ballfields was awarded to J.S. Construction of Blue Ridge. While the bid was accepted, commissioners asked if the process could wait a month because of the lack of budget. Jewell Smith said he wanted to set up a draw-down system for the construction costs and would work with the board.

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