Cannon County Commissioners approved a 7 cent hike on property taxes Saturday as they passed a balanced budget for 2016-2017.
The vote set the property tax rate at $2.75 which breaks down into $1.40 for the Cannon County General Fund, 15 cents for Solid Waste, 18 cents for Debt Service, 17 cents for the Ambulance Service and 85 cents for Cannon County Schools. Each cent is the equivalent to approximately $20,000.
Voting in "yes" favor of the $2.75 tax rate were Commissioners Mark Barker, Todd Hollandsworth, Jim Bush, Richie Hunter, Brent Bush and Adam Melton. Voting "no" were Commissioners Russell Reed, Karen Ashford and Glenn Steakley. Absent from the meeting was Commissioner James Holloway.
Debate over the tax rate went down to the last minute as commissioners fought to balance the budget with Commissioner Barker suggesting an $11,000 cut to the Sheriff's Department's budget in the line item dealing with employee insurance.
"There's two ways to balance what we did on Thursday, take a little bit more out of the spending and I've identified one line item there that's more or put it back up to $1.40 and that's put you $10,000 to the good," Barker said.
Increasing the budget would have set the tax rate at $2.76.
Commissioners also rejected a request from the Cannon County School Board to increase their share of the county's tax rate.
"As director of our public school system, I have been asked by our board to approach you about our budget," said Director of Schools Barbara Parker. "At this past Thursday's regular meeting of the school board, the board voted to re-present their 88 cent budget.
"First of all, the school system is the largest employer in the county. We have 299 full time, 80 part time. Exactly 10 percent of those are out of county residents, so we hire Cannon County people. We are providing jobs for Cannon County people. We have a little over 1,900 clients _ students_and they deserve to have the best education that we can provide in safe and well-maintained buildings," Parker said.
"By the final state count, Cannon County had decreased in enrollment by 45 students from the previous year. With that decrease of 45 students. they didn't come from one age group or one community. They didn't attend one school. We were not able to decrease the number of teachers, the number of facilities or any transportation," said.
Parker said the 3 cent tax cut is directly related to the decreased number of students. "That's where the $60,000 or the 3 cents came in."
She also reminded Commissioners of two mandatory increases in the education budget for teacher salaries and teacher insurance.
"We are having to balance our budget by going into reserves and we have done that for several years. You know how that is, when the biggest part of your budget is salary and benefits and you keep going into reserves to fund that, eventually you are going to run out of reserves," Parker said.
Initially, Commissioner Barker, seconded by Commissioner Adam Melton, moved for adoption of the $2.75 tax rate. Commissioner Todd Hollandsworth attempted, but failed, to increase the tax by 1 cent.
During a three-month series of Budget Committee meetings, Commissioners also faced pressure from the State of Tennessee to improve its General Fund Balance.
Each county department, except the General Debt Service, saw a decrease in their share of the property tax. The committee took 3 cents off last years rate of the ambulance service and schools, 1 cent away from solid waste and 2 cents off of the general fund.