County Commission Approves Block Grant, Unfunded Mandates Resolutions

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Meeting is a special called session Thursday night, the Cannon County Commission voted to approve two resolutions.

One resolution is to apply to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development for Community Development Block Grant funds.

Cannon County is eligible for a maximum grant of $500,000 to extend water lines to unserved parts of the county to provide a source of drinking water.

Cannon County is applying for the grant to assist the Town of Woodbury in the extension of water lines to low and moderate income persons within the Lake Anne, Basham Ridge, Claude Gaither and Finnie Simmons road areas.

The Town of Woodbury has agreed to pay the 11 percent required match to match their grant amount received in the amount of $61,800. Cannon County would not have to pay any matching funds if the grant application is approved as the county does not provide water service, and the city would receive all income from rates charged to customers.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the grant application, 8-0, with two of its 10 members being absent.

The other resolution the commission approved, also by an 8-0 vote, concerned unfunded mandates imposed by the state government.

An unfunded mandate is a statute or regulation that requires a state or local government to perform certain actions, yet provides no money for fulfilling the requirements.

When a state government imposes a law or regulation without necessary funding, it becomes the responsibility of the local government to pay for the implementation of the law. In the end, it is local taxpayers who end up footing the bill.

With passage of the resolution, Cannon joins counties from across the State of Tennessee in sending a strong request to the state legislature as it continues work on next year's budget: don't pass your problems along to us.

The Association of County Mayors, an organization which works to secure cooperation among County Mayors and Executives to develop more efficient economical and uniform administration of county departments, developed the resolution opposing new unfunded mandates.

"Part of the charge to the ACM is to make certain that the legislature does not allow bills to pass which would forward costs (historically inherent to state government) to county government," Executive Director Fred Congdon said.

"When working on the state budget sometimes this sort of thing happens," Congdon said. "Our association is constantly looking for bills that would put an additional burden on the property owners by causing counties to be forced to raise property taxes to fund programs which the state should be paying for. We occasionally do statewide resolutions supporting or opposing particular legislation. This is pretty generic in that it just states opposition to any unfunded mandates period."

Gannon said he supports passage of the measure.

"I'm in favor of it because in my theory the states complain all the time about the federal government handing down unfunded mandates, and what happens is it's the same principle, just on a smaller scale," Gannon said. "The state does the same thing many times, they'll say the counties have to do something, but they don't provide the money to do it so then the local taxpayers get hit with the bill."

Gannon is unsure how much impact the resolution will have on legislators.

"Will it influence the legislature to do this, I don't know, but if all 95 counties pass it I would think they would look at it."

A lot of times mandates are needed, Gannon said.

"I'm not saying there are not good mandates, but if they are going to pass them in Nashville the county mayors' opinion is that they should fund them in Nashville and don't put it on the local taxpayers' backs. It's easy to pass something if you don't have to pay for it. We are in a recession, and everything they pass down in Nashville, that hurts our budget."

The unfunded mandates resolution reads as follows:

"WHEREAS, counties have been hit hard by the economic downturn and are struggling to fund their budgets in the face of drastically diminishing revenue collections, just as the state is doing; and

WHEREAS, county governments in Tennessee are fundamental political divisions of out State and already are the primary providers of numerous essential government services including, but not limited to, public K-12 educations, jails and law enforcement, road building and maintenance, election administration and voter registration, property assessment. solid waste disposal, record keeping and administration for the various state courts; and the many services provided by the offices of County Clerk, Circuit Court Clerk, Clerk and Master, Register of Deeds, Property Assessor, Elections Administrator, Trustee, Sheriff and Highway Superintendent; and

WHEREAS, counties are required under existing laws to maintain certain levels of funding for numerous services they provide, including but not limited to education, law enforcement, highways and roads, and libraries; and

WHEREAS, county governments have limited taxing powers under state law and have limited sources of revenue available to them to fund the services they provide; and

WHEREAS, property values and income are declining; and increases in property taxes will be especially difficult in the current economic environment; and

WHEREAS, even before the current economic downtown, counties were struggling to find sufficient revenue sources to meet the growing demands of their citizens for services which are vital to the health, welfare, and safety of the people of this state, to provide improvements to infrastructure required by population and economic growth, and to meet constitutional responsibilities and state legislative mandates such as those required by the state's Basic Education Program; and

WHEREAS, the Tennessee Constitution, in Article II, Section 24, provides that no law of general application shall impose increased expenditure requirements on cities or counties unless the General Assembly shall provide that the state share in the cost; and

WHEREAS, in dealing with the State's budget crisis it must be remembered that county governments are facing the same budget crisis coupled with an inability to secure alternative sources of revenue; and

WHEREAS, in balancing the state's budget, the General Assembly should not cut state funding to programs and pass the cost of funding those programs to counties; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of County Commissioners of Cannon County, meeting in special section on this 18th day of February, 2010, that:

1) The General Assembly is strongly encouraged to pass no new laws imposing increased expenditure requirements on counties unless the General Assembly provides additional funding to cover the increased expenditures; and

2) The Tennessee General Assembly is strongly urged either to eliminate programs or continue to fund them at the state level, rather than passing these responsibilities to county governments; and

3) The Tennessee General Assembly is strongly urged to pass no laws that would increase about current levels any maintenance of local funding requirements ("maintenance of effort"), including but not limited to education funding.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the county clerk shall mail certified copies of this resolution to the Governor, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor; and the members of the Tennessee General Assembly representing the people of Cannon County."
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