Greg King

The tax increase is coming.

Franklin County’s Finance Committee met Monday morning to consider the budget that the full Commission had rejected.

Although not a member of the committee, I like to attend whenever possible to be better informed. The end result of this meeting was that the exact same budget is now going back to the County Commission for approval on Aug. 19.

No changes were made.

The only motion on the budget was to add 3 cents to the tax increase to pay for raises for the School System’s employees. That motion did not pass.

Mayor Alexander pointed out the following: The middle school project accounts for 11 cents. The last jail bond accounts for 3 cents. The additional corrections officers needed to staff the expanded jail are going to cost 5 cents.

The County Commission has agreed to a 19-cent increase between the school and jail projects. There is no way around that.

I had hoped some budget cuts would be made at the meeting to soften the blow.

Most of our county departments operate on salaries and office supplies.

The state requires what is called “maintenance of effort” with salaries and positions. Those can only be cut if a department head wishes to cut a position.

Many departments are running on minimum staffing already.

I had hoped some purchases might be delayed for a year, but that was not discussed. The only cut that could be done at this point would be to eliminate the 2 percent raise for non-school system employees. That would take 2 cents off the tax increase.

Commissioner Eldridge made a very valid point. While these expenditures have combined to cause the coming tax increase, other expenses over the past few years have eaten up the county’s roughly $1 million yearly growth in revenue.

The school resource officers cost about $500,000 per year.

Inmate medical costs have risen astronomically.

Solid-waste disposal fees have skyrocketed over the past few years, and we have had no other option but to pay them.

I commend Director Anderson’s efforts on the incinerator project. Such forward thinking could have saved a lot of money if it had been applied to other areas in the past.

To continually lament such mistakes is not conducive unless we take those lessons and apply them going forward.

Where do we go from here?

The School System’s budget needs a course correction. I hope the School Board and Director Bean continue working with the commission to come up with a plan to avert the looming tax increase that would be necessary without such a correction.

We need to be proactive in recruiting new industry and growing the tax base.

When it comes to this budget, I still cannot support it as there were no cuts made.

However, it, along with the requisite 20.5-cent tax increase, is almost certain to pass.

Greg King is the Franklin County District 4, Seat A commissioner and a Decherd police sergeant.