Educators ramping up support for more taxes

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By Damon Lawrence

Director of Schools Gary Aytes is encouraging people who support a property tax rate increase for schools to show up in droves for a public hearing on the county’s 2013-14 budget.
The meeting is scheduled for today – Monday – at 6:30 p.m. at the Roane County Courthouse in Kingston.
The actual vote on the budget, however, is expected at the regular monthly commission meeting on July 8.
“We encourage all board members to be at that meeting — and we will certainly be encouraging the public to show up for that meeting,” Aytes said last week.
The county’s budget committee is recommending the property tax rate remain at $2.18 per $100 valuation for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Roane County Schools, however, is requesting a 14-cent increase to make up for a budget shortfall.
Numerous people who supported the increase showed up at last week’s budget meeting, but the public wasn’t allowed to speak.
That won’t be the case for the public hearing.
As chairman of the budget committee, Roane County Executive Ron Woody is in charge of the public hearing. The ground rules may include a sign-in sheet and rotating between speakers who are for and against the tax increase.
“We’ll probably alternate, so it’s not all one side speaking for 30 minutes,” Woody said. “If you’re speaking for, the next person we want to be in opposition, just so we can try to keep it somewhat balanced.”
Several members of the public who attended the June 10 commission meeting spoke out against a tax increase for schools.
Aytes said commissioners need to hear from the other side.
“They said that all they’ve heard was this group  – the tea party – that came to say no,” Aytes said. “They need to hear from some people who support it.”
A budget committee meeting and commission work session will follow the public hearing.
“Part of the ground rules we’ll just have to wait and see how big the crowd is and how many people want to speak,” Woody said about the hearing.
“If we just have five or six from each side, we can handle that, but if we have a lot of people who want to speak, we’ll need a few more ground rules.”