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County budget passes with no new taxes for school plan

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An anticipated addition to the Roane County budget for 2018-19 failed to materialize on Monday, when County Commissioners voted unanimously to keep the property tax rate the same for the coming fiscal year. A standing-room-only crowd attended the regular monthly meeting at the Courthouse in Kingston. While more than a dozen people spoke about the proposed $67 million school plan, Commission made no mention of it when it came time to vote on the property tax rate.

“The votes just aren't there,” Commissioner Darryl Meadows said. 

Rumors had been rampant throughout the community that proponents of the school plan would slip in a last-minute tax increase to fund, among other things, a consolidated K-14 facility near Roane State Community College that would combine high schools in Harriman, Kingston and Rockwood. A wheel tax referendum is still on the ballot for Nov. 6. Voters could at that time choose to implement a $50 tax that would help fund the school plan.

“I think it needs to be on pause a little bit, but at the same time there could be a push by education, you would anticipate, to pass the wheel tax,” Roane County Executive Ron Woody said. 

Interim Roane County Director of Schools Gary Aytes was asked about the upcoming wheel tax referendum following the meeting. 

“We'll support it, but right now it's not a choice of do you want a wheel tax or a property tax,” Aytes said. “The choice is do you want a wheel tax. Has that ever passed anywhere?”

• • • This is a developing story. See Wednesday's Roane County News for more details.