Little uproar over tax increase

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By Damon Lawrence

The Roane County Board of Education’s request for a 9-cent increase in the property tax rate didn’t get a nod from the Roane County Commission’s Budget Committee on Thursday.

The committee voted to send the request to the full 15-member commission without a recommendation.

When County Executive Ron Woody, who chairs the budget committee, asked for a motion on the tax increase, the committee was silent until Bobby Collier spoke up.

“We were just sitting here, the world was spinning by and nobody was doing nothing,” Collier said, when explaining why he made the motion to send the request on without a recommendation.

The sparse crowd consisted mostly of county and school officials.

Crystal Cove resident Teresa Brown and Roane County Tea Party Co-Chairman Gary Johnston were the only two non-officials who addressed the committee during the public hearing.

“I paid $4,000 in taxes last year, so I don’t think we need another raise,” Brown said, “and I don’t think these older people need another tax raise.”

The commission’s next regular scheduled meeting is Sept. 8.

The agenda for that meeting has not been set, so it’s not immediately known if the tax increase will be taken up at that time.

Collier told school officials they should consider other options besides a property tax rate increase when they need money.

“Have you all considered an alternative to come to us, like X amount of dollars in a wheel tax, or a sales tax increase,” Collier said. “Every time you increase the sales tax, you get half of it.”

School business manager Eric Harbin said those kind of decisions are for the County Commission to make.

“It’s not,” Collier responded.

“The school board can recommend a wheel tax?” Director of Schools Gary Aytes asked.

“You have recommended to the commission a 9-cent property tax,” Woody responded.

“You all could have recommended a wheel tax, a sales tax — you could have recommended anything.”

Last year, the school board requested a 14-cent increase in the property tax rate. The commission didn’t approve it.

“They only look at one thing, and that’s property tax,” Collier said. “What about wheel tax? What about an increase in the sales tax?”

The county’s proposed budget calls for a 3-percent raise for employees who get paid out of the general, solid waste, ambulance, fire and animal control, recycling, road and wastewater treatment funds.

“I love it for my employees,” Trustee Wilma Eblen said.

“I think it’s long overdue.”