County examines new tax plans

Published 8:56 am Friday, November 10, 2023

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The Claiborne Commission will be doing a deep dive into just how much it can change up the way in which the county currently does taxes – and the school district could be hugely affected by the mash up.

Three of the four more critical resolutions will incorporate different tax scenarios. These hefty documents could greatly affect virtually every resident inside the county. These and other items will be on the table during the next Commission meeting on Nov. 20.

First up is a plan to redistribute revenues generated from the 2.25 percent local option sales taxes. This tax is currently a 50/50 split between the county and the school system.

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2023-121 suggests redistributing the sales tax so that all collected within the unincorporated areas of the county could drop into the county coffers instead of being used for the schools. According to the resolution, the county initially gave up the unincorporated sales tax so that the school district could have the benefit.

The resolution claims that the school system had received in excess of $1.533 million that was not accounted for in its FY2023 budget.

“Claiborne County wishes to have a more equitable revenue stream for both the county and the county school district thus reducing the county’s dependence on property taxes solely as a funding source,” reads the resolution, in part.

Tennessee Codes Annotated 67-6-712 is referred to in the resolution as a statute that provides for this scenario.

Commissioners Whitt Shuford, Haley Barker, Nathan Epperson, Gary Poore and Eric Jones co-sponsored this document.

The second resolution, if adopted, will allow the public a say via referendum vote whether to increase the county sales and use tax by half a percent. The tax would increase from its current 2.25 percent to 2.75 percent. If Resolution 2023-122 is adopted, it will be placed on the ballot for the Aug. 1, 2024 General Election. It would take a simple majority vote to enact the referendum.

If adopted, a third resolution will allow the voters to decide by referendum if they would rather pay an additional $71 wheel tax or keep in place the current property tax rate of $2.30 per $100 of assessed value. This issue came up more than once during the laborious budget process earlier this year.

The question for voters is, do we want to pay an extra $71 per vehicle in wheel taxes to see a .30 cents decrease in the property tax rate? If so, property taxes would be reduced back to its former rate of $2.00 per $100 of assessed value.

If adopted, the referendum would come up for vote during a called election in March, 2024, at the county’s expense.

Commissioner Shuford is the sponsor for this resolution.

The commissioners could be playing chess with the current committees, if another resolution is adopted. Resolution 2023-123 would allow county government to restructure the commission and committees to “improve the efficiency and effectiveness” of those entities.

According to the resolution, the county is looking to drop some or all the committees that are not deemed mandatory by state law. This would streamline governmental processes while reducing costs associated with the various committees, according to the resolution. The document states the savings would amount to approximately $30,546 each year.

The resolution suggests establishing two commission meetings each month – a workshop that would dive into details of upcoming issues and a regular meeting in which items for official action would be handled. The resolution sets monthly salaries at $225 per workshop and another $225 per regular meeting, per commissioner. The current pay is $350 per regular meeting and $175 per committee meeting per commissioner, per month. Commissioners currently sit on at least two committees.

Here’s where the chess game begins. The resolution calls for eliminating the Solid Waste, the Buildings, Grounds & Personnel and the Senior Citizens Committees along with the all-important Budget Committee.

Retained would be the Planning, Financial Management and Audit Committees. However, those sitting on these committees would be doing so without pay.

The resolution states that the main reason for this move resulted from the arduous and protracted negotiations during the Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget committee meetings. Those meetings began in early March and dragged heels through late August – just days prior to the mandatory deadline to have an adopted budget in place.

Several of the 21 commissioners sponsored this resolution including Carolyn Brooks, Haley Barker, Nathan Epperson, Gary Poore, Rosemary Barnett, Steve Brogan, Eric Jones, Quintin Rogers, Dustin Wilson and Anthony Rowe.

The Claiborne Commission will meet on Nov. 20, beginning at 6:30 p.m. inside the large courtroom of the Claiborne County Courthouse.