No increase in property taxes

Published 10:29 am Monday, July 22, 2019

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Claiborne property owners will continue to pay their taxes at the same rate of $2.5777 per $100 of assessed value. The Claiborne Commission voted 20 to one to amend the original resolution, which called for a tax levy of $2.58. Commissioner Brent Clark was the lone no vote.

Commissioner Zach Mullins requested an amendment just as the commission prepared to vote on the levy. Mullins said he had double-checked his 2018 tax receipt to make sure the new rate was the same as last year. He said he noticed that it was not the same.

“Even a fraction of a percent is still a raise,” said Mullins.

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County Attorney James Estep III suggested the commissioners make sure the amended tax rate would not affect the budget.

County finance officer Angelia Tucker assured the commission that “it’s not enough to make a difference.”

The commission unanimously adopted the resolution, as amended.

In other action, the 2019-20 New Fiscal Year budget was unanimously adopted. The commission then turned to the list of nonprofit organizations slated for charitable contributions. Commissioner Steve Brogan said he would like to have the Claiborne Rescue Squad pulled from the list until county officials received the organization’s financial statement.

“I brought up, during the budget meeting, about the contribution to the rescue squad, which had been increased from $22,000 to $26,000. I asked a question about a for-profit ambulance service using the rescue squad,” said Brogan.

Wayne Lee, who was present in the audience during the meeting, said the for-profit Lifeline Ambulance Service had been renting one bay inside the rescue squad building at a rate of $200 per month.

Lee said Lifeline had also rented two bays at the Springdale Volunteer Fire Department.

“These volunteer fire departments and the rescue squad probably welcomed the contribution,” said Lee.

Brogan agreed with the assessment.

“But here’s my problem. It’s a for-profit organization. You drive by there and you see rescue squad equipment sitting outside and you see a for-profit ambulance service sitting inside what they built (the new addition). Now, I have a problem with that,” said Brogan.

He asked Estep if he could amend the resolution reflecting his request.

Both Estep and county commissioner David Mundy said the Claiborne Rescue Squad is not on the list of charitable contributions. Both men agreed that the contribution to the organization had been approved earlier, at the time the budget was adopted.

“It’s my understanding that everything that receives money was supposed to turn in a financial statement,” said Brogan.

Estep said the financial statement must be turned in prior to receiving any funds from the county. He said the organization is responsible for submitting only what projects or expenditures that are done with the contribution money.

Brogan asked just who owns the rescue squad building. None of the commissioners seemed to know whether the building is county-owned.

Lifeline recently moved into its new building, located nearby Ellen Myers School in Harrogate. Which means, the funds from the bay rentals will cease.

Barry Thomas, who is a former paramedic with the Claiborne EMS, runs the for-profit organization.