Commission weighs tax hike options

Published 2:38 pm Sunday, May 7, 2023

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The nine-member budget committee is polishing off its interpretation of the new fiscal 2023-24 county budget in anticipation of passing the thick pages to the full Claiborne Commission for consideration. A substantial piece of the proposed budget – what to do about a property tax levy – is expected to surface during the regular session on May 15.

Topping the list is an ‘either/or’ – go with a 25 percent property tax hike or increase the current rate of $2 per $100 of assessed value with just a 15 percent levy. Of course, the latter choice will come with the creation of a tandem $50 per year, per vehicle property wheel tax.

The debate during the next Claiborne Commission meeting is expected to hinge upon whether to adopt the proposed wheel tax. If adopted on first reading, the tax will have to be discussed during a public hearing and then adopted on second reading – possibly during the June meeting of the commission.

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The decision to create another wheel tax is the first step in the eventual adoption of a tax rate. If the commission adopts the second option – a property tax rate of $2.30 plus the wheel tax – the county could see some $1.43 million in revenues just from the wheel tax alone.

The good news is, County Finance Director Eric Pearson has agreed to a substantial cut in what he says he was promised salary wise when he came on board. In order to help balance the budget, Pearson has agreed to a $5,000 per year increase in his pay – raising his yearly salary to $75,000 as opposed to the original request for $90,715.

Pearson was hired some six months ago at the same rate that was budgeted for the previous finance director. He was reportedly told that, come new budget time, his salary would be negotiated.

If he had been approved for his initial pay raise, Pearson would have been pulling down the same pay as all elected fee office officials once the state-mandated raises go into effect. The pay increase would have also leveled him to the current minimum for county officials established by (CTAS) the County Technical Assistance Service.

This important meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on May 15 inside the large courtroom of the Claiborne County Courthouse. The public is encouraged to attend.