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Budget Committee proposes no tax hike

An agreement with the Washington County Board of Education and a positive report from Moody’s Investors Service, have the county Budget Committee ready to present a 2013-14 budget that includes no property tax increase.
“We had a call with Moody’s on Monday that confirmed our Aa2 credit rating,” Mayor Dan Eldridge told Budget Committee members during their Aug. 16 meeting. “Moody’s said the county has had an 80 percent increase in the tax base over the last 10 years.”
Eldridge said Moody’s is primarily interested in the balances of the county’s General Fund and the Debt Service Fund. “All of the other funds are considered designated funds, meaning they can’t be used for debt service,” he said.
The second big question was related to the 40 percent minimum reserve the county commission set for the Debt Service Fund. “They were adamant about our maintaining that reserve amount,” Eldridge said. “They also want us to establish a minimum balance for the General Fund.”
Coming to an agreement with the school board will enable the Budget Committee to recommend a resolution making appropriations to county funds during the August commission meeting. “I think we have arrived at a good situation that is manageable and doable,” Eldridge said, referring to the proposed transfer of 3 pennies from the Debt Service and Solid Waste funds, combined with the transfer of dollars from the schools fund balance.
Eldridge referred to a few other adjustments to the proposed budget, which include consultation services provided by the Zoning and Planning Department. “The chairman asked that the $36,000 be reinstated for stormwater consultants,” he said.
Whether the zoning department should charge fees for the services provided to residents by engineer Todd Wood was discussed during the last meeting, and Commission Chair Greg Matherly voiced his opinion on the difficulty of meeting requirements set by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation without Wood, who is a certified Stormwater Level 2 Inspector.
Commissioner Mitch Meredith asked about the nonprofit agencies. “The (amounts proposed for) nonprofits were cut 10 percent across the board, but the fire departments are budgeted at the same amounts,” Eldridge said.
Commissioner Joe Grandy made a motion to recommend the resolution for the 2013-14 budget, which was seconded by Meredith.
Commissioner Ethan Flynn said he was unhappy with the $1.6 million deficit. “It grates on my nerves,” he said.
Grandy asked the amount of budgeted money that was not spent in the previous fiscal year, and Eldridge said it was more than $2 million. “The last time we did not add to the fund balance was 2009,” he added.
“The $1.6 million is 4 percent of the expenditure budgeted revenue, and that is within my tolerance,” Meredith said.
The vote to recommend the proposed budget received unanimous support.
Unanimous approval from Budget Committee members also was given to the resolution fixing the county tax levy for 2013-14 at the current $1.9139 per $100 of taxable property.