History could repeat itself if the full county commission passes the resolution for the tax rate decided at the budget committee on Aug. 12.
The proposed rate is $2.262on every $100 of assessed value. This is 17 percent higher than the certified $1.92 rate presented by Assessor of Property John Isbell and approved by state authorities. The previous rate passed in 2014 was $2.50, a 23 percent increase.
During his presentation that evening, Isbell also went over the assessed property value of each Sumner County city. The county itself saw a 36.2 percent increase in property value. He additionally detailed the status of the appeals process which is open until mid-September. There are 183 cases pending and he gave the value of a penny in each city. In Sumner County the value of a penny is $620,000.
Commissioners will set the budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year now that the tax rate is released to the body to finalize. The budget was presented for approval at the June and July commission meetings. In June it was tabled and a continuation budget was passed. The following month it was pulled from the agenda entirely.
The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury has given a deadline of Aug. 31 to adopt a budget. In some instances of “extraordinary circumstances” they will allow for an extension. According to budget chairman Chris Taylor, this is classified as events such as natural disasters and recessions and has been denied for Sumner County.
“We must adopt a budget by Aug. 31 or our authority to spend ends,” said County Mayor Anthony Holt, in regard to a letter from Comptroller Justin Wilson. “At that point we can no longer disperse county funds which means basically the county shuts down.”
Discussed budget items
Jail pod and parking garage
Jail overcrowding has moved the jail pod from a later phase in the justice center construction project to an initial phase. Taylor reported that for the last 90 days the jail has been over crowded by 60-70 people every day. This was confirmed in a phone interview with Sumner County Sheriff Sonny Weatherford, who said this is especially true over the weekends.
“We have the beds for 832 people and there have been a few times when we have gotten up to 900,” he said and noted that he receives daily calls from the jail administrator.
Weatherford said a large portion of this is individuals that are pre-trial and cannot make bond. They transfer sentenced inmates to other jails when spots are available.
The pod is a dormitory-style building that will house 64 people. Taylor said he hopes to get the pod constructed and ready by the end of this year.
A potential funding partnership with the city of Gallatin has pushed the downtown parking garage to the front also. It was originally slated as the last item to be completed in the justice center project. It will cost an estimated $8M, according to Justice Planning Associates president Michael Thomas at the March commission meeting and presentation.
The city and county have been in discussion for about six months, guessed Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown. They have passed a resolution to help pay for the structure and delayed issuing a bond in “anticipation of learning what the county would do with a parking garage,” according to Brown.
“We just need the garage completed prior to the construction of the justice facility because our parking capacity for downtown will be seriously impacted by that project,” she said.
Allocating 4-cents for funding
The highway department has asked for two pennies and it was decided to allocate one to begin raising money to replace department trucks, three of which are over 32 years old. The department also has the financial stress of rising costs of asphalt and concrete.
Student Resource Officers
A grant recently acquired by Sumner County Schools puts a student resource officer in all schools that did not have one. This totals 18 officers and includes a supervisor. The grant pays half of their salary for two years and reimburses as each officer is hired. Two and a half pennies were requested for this and two were awarded.
Teacher salary increase
Director of Schools Del Philips introduced a $4,000 per teacher salary increase at the Aug. 6 school board meeting. This totals $8.8M and would increase the starting salary to $40,100.
Phillips’ presentation analyzed salaries of teachers from Wilson, Williamson, Robertson and Rutherford counties. A second year teacher in Sumner County with a bachelor’s degree would earn $36,750. Pay in Rutherford County for this time and education would be $41,705 and $40,652 in Williamson County. With the new pay scale that teacher would earn $40,750.
The pay raise would not go into effect until the next school year and Phillips explained that his request timing was to establish funds given cash flow that occurs in December, January and February from tax revenue.
“I felt pretty confident that all of you would want me to talk to you about it prior to showing up next June,” he also said.
Retired teacher from Gallatin, Joan Tomlin, commented that she was awarded a less than 2 percent raise on her retired salary.
“I know you want to treat your current teachers well, but how do you want to treat your retired teachers who are property owners,” she said. “…I just want you to realize that when you give to some you are taking away from those that spent 30 years in the system.”
Audio-visual recording equipment
A $15,000 allocation is reserved for audio-visual equipment to record committee meetings. This was established as part of a bid received in May from SouthCentral A/V to install a camera that focuses on the speaker and rearrange the table so that all speakers are facing the audience. Recordings would not be live, but would be put on a YouTube channel.
However, it is still being discussed in an ad-hoc committee after disagreements on a camera being in a room where early voting is held.
“If you put cameras in here, you’ve kicked us out for early voting and we have no place to go,” said election commission chairman Allen Ehmling.
At the Aug. 4 ad hoc meeting IT Director Dennis Cary stated that there is an existing fisheye camera in the room controlled by the Department of Homeland Security.
Roof repairs to the county administration building
Structural problems with the roof of the administration building were found that affected the longevity of shingles when the roof was being redone. An architect presented two possible options to correct the problem at the July 8 budget committee and it was deferred to August. At that meeting it was decided to cap what was already done and to address any leaks or problems as they occurred. It was also discovered that the boiler flue needed repairs and the committee decided to bid out the project for $30,000.
Night–vision equipment for the EMA will be added as an amendment pending the budget’s approval. It has been decided that $70,000 will be appropriated.
“This is a critical piece of equipment for our people that risk their lives every single time,” said Commissioner Jerry Foster.
There has been no mention of the geo-web access road decided as a solution for the Liberty Creek Schools sewer line. Additionally, a late-meeting resolution removed the $3.5 Comer barn line item entirely. It was still included among the revised budged but said to be a mistake that will be removed.
A motion with the $2.262 rate and penny allocation was passed unanimously except for a “no” vote from Commissioner Jerry Becker. Prior to adjusting the requested budgets, the tax rate was $2.31.
The resolution will be voted on by the full commission at the Aug. 19 meeting. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at the county administration building.