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Claiborne budget committee begins budget process

The nine-member county budget committee sat down on May 8 to begin the annual battle to crunch the county budgetary numbers for fiscal year 2018-19. The first order of business was the election of county commissioner Steve Mason as chairman.

The members spent the next hour approving the initial numbers for a portion of Fund 101 – a first step in the laborious process to balance the full budget. Once the committee has placed its seal of approval upon that proposed budget, it will go before the full Claiborne Commission for adoption. That must occur by the end of August, per state law.

If the county budget does not make that deadline, the county could very well lose its ‘spending ability,’ according to Claiborne finance officer Sam Owens. This would mean no bills could be paid and no salaries distributed until the state deems the budget in good order.

The committee has scheduled weekly meetings beginning on May 22 and running through the end of June. However, the process could continue well into July and August, depending on the speed with which the committee finishes its work.

Owens said during the meeting last week the county has whittled down the number of bonds to just five. No additional tax funds will be needed to pay off these bonds, due to the way in which the county’s structured debt service is set up, he said.

As a ‘bonus,’ the county should realize some $600,000, he added.

The budget committee began its long process by approving the proposed numbers in 51100. A portion of this balance includes the costs of holding 13 Claiborne Commission meetings along with two Claiborne Justice Center and six Buildings, Grounds and Personnel committee meetings.

The budget provides $103,900 for this purpose.

The total estimated budget for 51100 is set at $160,885, the same as the current fiscal year.

For voting purposes, the committee lumped together the County Commission with the Equalization Board, the Beer Board and the Budget and Finance Committee.

There are no increases for the Equalization and Beer Boards. These two balances are estimated at $7,125 and $1,200 respectively.

The Budget and Finance Committee will be allotted $33,273, if the proposed budget is adopted by the county. A total $29,400 of those funds will go toward the costs associated with holding one Audit, seven Finance and 12 Budget Committee meetings.

The proposed budget, as currently estimated, sets aside $56,332 in funds to retain the services of the office of county attorney James Estep III. This is slightly down from the current year, by some $878.

This amount will pay the salaries of Estep and his clerical personnel. Those funds will also cover the costs associated with social security, retirement, medical insurance and dues and memberships, to name a few.

Fund 51600 will provide the Claiborne Register of Deeds Office an estimated $196,154 to perform its annual duties. This is slightly up from the current year.

It is estimated the county will spend $31,240 to pay the costs of keeping the Claiborne Regional Planning Commission going for another year. The cost is up by some $9,700, due in part to the contract with the East Tennessee Development District, who is providing a part time planner.

Owens said during the meeting last week this additional cost is still saving the county money, when compared to some five years ago, when a state planner was hired to perform the same services.

The budget also proposes $254,418 be approved to maintain the various county buildings. The document also provides for the preservation of Claiborne County records, at a proposed cost of $20,437 – a slight decrease from the current fiscal year.

The proposed budget also sets aside $5,000 in the event the county agrees to contract with other public agencies.

The members of the budget committee are commissioners Mason, Charlton Vass, Shawn Peters, Mike Campbell, Dennis Estes, Mitchell Cosby, David Mundy, Bill Keck and James Hatmaker.

The next budget committee meeting is scheduled for May 22 at 6:30 p.m. inside the large courtroom of the Claiborne County Courthouse. These meetings are open to the public.