Will property tax rate increase?

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

Expect a property tax rate increase before July 1. With two major capitol projects on the desk to consider, Carter County commissioners will have a tough time keeping the property tax rate at the current $2.22 per every $100 of assessed value for the tax year.
   At the budget committee meeting on Thursday evening, commissioners looked at numerous situations that could increase the property tax rate to more than $2.69, and that figure doesn't include the long-term solution for the overcrowded Carter County Jail.
   Of that increase, 18 cents would go to funding the temporary jail solution - a modular facility and renovations to the current jail to ease overcrowded conditions that resulted in a class-action lawsuit.
   Jason Cody, county finance director, also told committee members that, in order to continue funding health insurance coverage, retirement, a 3 percent raise for county employees, as well as fund the Shore Up Fund for the jail, and cover additional operating costs from the previous year, an additional 17 cents could be tacked onto the tax rate.
   These figures don't even include the added costs of requested funds from outside agencies, like E911, volunteer fire departments, the public library, Dawn of Hope, Parks and Recreation, Red Cross, Holiday Lighting, the train, and many more. These agencies will probably be the first line items to be cut or completely denied.
   Cody did inform committee members that if a litigation tax is imposed, then 2 cents would be freed up on the tax rate. The litigation tax would go towards paying a state-mandated raise to the General Sessions Court Judge. A $25 fee would be incurred in court costs if a person is found guilty.
   Theoretically, a speeding ticket that once cost $105 could cost $130 if the litigation tax is approved.
   The capitol projects, a new jail and two new schools might raise the tax rate to close to $3.00. Of course, the amount the commission agrees to fund for the school project or the new jail will effect how much the tax rate rises.
   At press deadline, the committee had not made any official decisions. Please look for an in-depth story in Sunday's edition of the Elizabethton Star of the county's budget meeting.