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County gives city dwellers property tax hike

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By Katie Hogin

The Roane County Commission approved a budget and set the property tax rates for the 2011-12 fiscal year during its regular meeting on Monday.

The rates will rise for city property owners while rural taxpayers get a slight reduction.

“Everyone had an 8-cent increase, and then we were able to reduce some taxes in certain funds,” Roane County Executive Ron Woody said, “so everybody then started having tax decreases, but it wasn’t equal across the county because some of the cities weren’t paying some of the taxes we were able to reduce.”

Harriman City Councilman J.D. Sampson spoke against the property tax rate increase during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“Your voters do not want this tax hike,” he said.  

The resolution fixing the tax levy passed 12-3. Commissioners Randy Ellis, Nick Forrester and George Nelson voted no.

“I had call after call from people saying we don’t want you to support that tax increase,” Ellis said. “I represent the people, and that’s how I vote.”

The budget includes a 2-percent raise for school employees. There will be no pay increase for other county employees.

“I think it’s one of the most unjust things I’ve ever voted on, but you got to do what you got to do with what you got,” Commissioner Bobby Collier said.

Officials have said they may consider giving one-time bonuses later in the year.   

Members of the Roane County Board of Equalization will continue to make $100 per day.

Last month the budget committee recommended increasing the board’s pay to $125 per day, but the commission voted to keep the pay at $100.   

“I’m happy that they’re going to be treated the same as our county employees,” Ellis said. “It wasn’t fair for them to get a 25-percent pay increase when our county employees was getting nothing.”

The budget will fund another detective for the Roane County Sheriff’s Office.

“The three detectives working now are definitely going to be relieved, and it may lift a lot of stress off of them,” Sheriff Jack Stockton said. “Splitting it four ways instead of three sure makes a difference sometimes. We appreciate the county commission supporting us on that.”