CC Notes – July 21st 2014
The July 21st meeting of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners was held with all members present. The agenda was short but included a number of items significant to Cumberland County. A public hearing was held concerning the annual budget at 5:15 PM, with the regular meeting following at 6:00 PM.
The first resolution was to officially set the Cumberland County property tax rate for the 2014 – 2015 fiscal year. The total property tax rate, which was unchanged, is $1.4975. This should generate approximately $19.9 million in net revenue for the county. The following is a breakdown of the property tax allocation.
An additional $10.5 million in revenue is estimated to be generated from sales tax. Ninety four percent of all sales tax revenue to the county is allocated to the Board of Education (BOE) for operating expenses and school debt services. The vote to set the property tax rate was unanimous in favor.
The next two resolutions dealt with legal requirements in dealing with the BOE budget. You may have heard that the Budget Committee voted to give the BOE one time money in the amount of $208,821. Originally this money was designated to go toward school books, but when the State got involved, it was decided that the money would be used for computers. These funds were to come from the General Fund of the County. The Commission wanted to provide for students without increasing the Maintenance of Effort required annually. This was handled with an agreement between the BOE and Commission. The resolution passed unanimously. The BOE is also currently recouping back taxes owed by the City of Crossville for liquor by the drink sales. A resolution was unanimously passed adding these funds into the BOE budget without increasing the Maintenance of Effort as well.
The next resolution dealt with increasing the wage scale for Cumberland County Employees. In essence, $600 was added to each level on the pay scale. It has been many years since the scale has been revised. While a detailed look into the county wage scale needs to be undertaken, the intent of the motion was to provide some relief for County employees. The vote passed 12-5-1. I voted in favor along with Brian Houston, Harry Sabine, Nancy Hyder, Caroline Knight, David Hassler, Johnny Presley, Charles Seiber, Joe Koester, and Larry Allen. Terry Carter and Roy Turner voted in favor after declaring a conflict of interest as they are employees of the County, and Mike Harvel abstained for similar reasons. Voting against the resolution were Jan McNeil, Jeff Brown, Sonya Rimmer, John Kinnunen, and Carmin Lynch.
Next, the actual budget was up for a vote. The budget process began this year on April 24th when the members of the county Budget Committee held a day long budget work session. Most Tuesday and Thursday evenings for the months following were spent with the Budget Committee working through the various departmental budgets in great detail. The process is long and can be difficult at times, but is necessary in order to make the best financial decisions for our county. Finance Director Nathan Brock, Jennifer Turner, and the rest of the Finance Department work many hours during this time in an effort to make sure the committee has all of the information needed to make informed decisions. I want to publically thank them for their efforts. As always, they did an outstanding job. This fiscal budget is $89.7 million. The BOE budget is 62 percent, the county General Fund is 26 percent, and the Highway Department is 3 percent as is the Solid Waste Department. As mentioned earlier, there is no tax increase in this budget. Capital outlay from the General Fund is approximately $461,000 and includes items such ambulance remounts, Sheriff Department vehicles, and larger scale maintenance items. Three full time positions were created in various departments after each agreed to reduce their part time budgets to help absorb the costs. Full time county employees will be getting a step raise, and part time employees will be getting a 20 cent per hour raise. Money for the SRO program was approved and is in the BOE budget as well. The budget passed 16-1-1 with Lynch voting no and Harvel abstaining. Keep watching my website as I will post a PDF of the entire budget when I receive it. Feel free to contact me with any questions you have about this budget.
The next resolution was one relating to the issuance of Revenue Refunding Bonds by the Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board of the County of Knox with respect to financing for Cumberland Medical Center (CMC). CMC is currently using the financial stability of Covenant to restructure debt. Restructuring debt can be an excellent way to save significant money for an organization, just as it has been for Cumberland County. There is a Tennessee law that seems to require that local governments approve bonds when they are issued by a county other than the one in which a hospital is located. CMC and Covenant are going to use the Knox County Health, Education and Housing Facility Board to issue these revenue refunding bonds. So, in essence, even though Cumberland County had nothing to do with the original bonds, State law seems to require approval for another county to help in the issuance of the new bonds. During discussion, some questioned why the county had to do this when we were not involved in the original bond issuance. Others wondered why the financial consultant with Covenant was requesting this on behalf of Covenant and CMC. Commissioner Roy Turner said that he did not like the apparent new ambulance transport policy of CMC since the Covenant affiliation. As we seem to be able to do with striking frequency, the County Commission made a simple matter into something unnecessarily complex. In a somewhat ineloquent manner I addressed the Board and mentioned that the County Attorney didn’t have a problem with the resolution, the resolution created zero liability for the county, and it will result in significant savings for CMC. I also fail to see how a supposed ambulance transport policy has anything to do with the resolution that was at hand. The vote was 12-5-1 with Commissioners Hyder, McNeil, Carter, Turner and Rimmer voting against and Commissioner Lynch abstaining.
The next resolution was to amend Commission rules to require a copy of the package for the monthly meeting sent to each Commissioner be posted to the County website no later than one week prior to the meeting. This should help to keep everyone informed of exactly what is going on in Cumberland County government. The final resolution was to reappoint Joyce Rorabaugh as Cumberland County Archivist for a term expiring September 30, 2015. Both resolutions passed unanimously.
A full report on the year end closeout will be provided next month.
Thank you for allowing me to serve the 4th District and Cumberland County. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at any time.
Board of Commissioners
4th District Representative