Emergency session called

By Lesley Hughes
star staff

Carter County Commissioners are preparing for two busy nights dealing with the proposed budget and a class action lawsuit regarding the Carter County Jail. On Monday evening, a public hearing will be held on the 2004-2005 budget and on Tuesday evening an emergency meeting of the commission has been called in regards to the lawsuit.
   Tuesday's emergency called session will begin with an executive meeting at 7 p.m., which is closed to the public. The called session will be opened to the public following the executive session and no earlier than 8 p.m.
   According to County Mayor Dale Fair, the called session will regard the approval of an agreement of the lawsuit. Both meetings will be held in the Main Courtroom of the Carter County Courthouse, 801 E. Elk Avenue, Elizabethton.
   A public hearing will be held on Monday at 6 p.m. for the proposed budget for Carter County. Commissioners will have the chance to hear from citizens in favor or against the tax increase. However, commissioners will have the chance to vote on the budget on July 19 at 10 a.m. during the regularly scheduled commission meeting.
   The proposed budget asks for a 44 cent property tax increase. If the motion passes, the property tax rate could increase from $2.22 per $100 of assessed value to $2.66. The budget committee made the motion on June 17 for the County Commission to consider on July 19.
   The 44-cent increase was broken down with 26 cents going to fund the purchase of portable inmate housing units at the Carter County Jail and 18 new jailers to staff the facility; 11 cents to cover approximately $500,000 of overages and operating costs associated with medical coverage, food and other necessities concurrent with the overcrowded jail; 3 cents toward anticipated increases in the cost of health insurance and retirement packages; 5 cents for a 3 percent pay increase for county employees in non-teaching positions; and 1 cent to fund requests from the 911 Communications Center for an additional dispatcher as well as matching grant money for the volunteer fire departments. In addition, the group had previously approved a litigation tax to tack on additional fees to the court costs. This would allow $0.02 to be freed up on the property tax rate and to also fully fund the General Sessions Court judge's salary through the tax.
   The proposed property tax increase of 44 cents per $100 of assessed property value would generate approximately $2.11 million in new revenue for the county.
   According to County Finance Director Jason Cody, state law requires that the county publish the proposed budget in the local newspaper for at least 10 days prior to voting on it as well as hosting a public hearing on the budget at least five days prior to voting on it.