After weeks of deliberation, Loudon County Commission on
Monday approved its $17.3 million budget for fiscal year
2016-17, which includes a 2 percent wage increase for all
employees except commissioners and no property tax increase
for residents living in unincorporated areas of the county.
“I think it’s a good budget,” Commission Chairman Steve
Harrelson said. “The budget committee was trying to put
together a budget that would fit the needs and services of
the county, but also keep in mind that the economy is tight,
and we don’t want to put anymore restraints on the taxpayers
as far as a tax increase. So, I thought overall we did a
good job of providing a good budget that wouldn’t require
any kind of a tax increase for the citizens.”
Commission voted in favor of the budget after a number
of amendments were considered.
Lenoir City tax increase
While the county as a whole will not see a change in
property taxes, residents in Lenoir City limits can
expect a 2 cent increase because of an adjustment the
county made in revenue allocations. Commission voted to
move four pennies from the general purpose school and
education debt service funds and to the county general
fund to make up for anticipated shortfalls.
Commissioner Van Shaver motioned, and Commissioner Kelly
Littleton-Brewster seconded. The vote passed 6-4 in
favor, with commissioners Matthew Tinker, David Meers,
Harold Duff and Earlena Maples opposing.
Harrelson said the decision was made to help offset
costs in this year’s budget, including an additional
$300,000 in insurance premiums for county employees and
a $200,000 hole left by the Hall income tax, in hopes of
lessening the blow to the county’s fund balance.
“That hit us a pretty good lick this year,” Harrelson
said about health insurance premiums. “... I know that
was a big factor in trying to fund some more money
sources for this year. The Hall income tax too was
probably going to hit that county about $200,000 this
year, so that was definitely another factor.”
The county’s estimated fund balance for the coming year
is about $5.2 million.
“Of course, in order to keep the tax rate the way it is
in the future, the way to do that to keep our fund
balance as healthy as possible, our reserve money, and
one of the ways to do that was to shift four pennies
over to our general fund and hopefully keep us from
having to look at a tax increase anytime in the future,”
Harrelson said. “But when we did move money out of the
education debt service, which is paying for our school
building program, the budget committee decided to then
move a couple of pennies over because we were still
meeting our debt obligation with the money that’s in
there and were able to move those two pennies over to
our fund balance.
“But in return, as part of that, the two pennies were
added onto the Lenoir City citizens,” he added.
The tax rate for Loudon County currently stands at
1.8587, which is unchanged from last year. The proposed
rate for Lenoir City residents is 1.5587, up from 1.5387
in 2015-16. With the change, the penny distribution for
general purpose school and education debt service funds
will be 0.9063 and 0.3000, respectively. The county
general fund will be boosted to 0.5100 pennies.
“Residents of Lenoir City do not pay on education debt
service, and if their (budget committee members)
recommendation was to move two pennies out of education
debt service and add them to the county general fund,
residents of Lenoir City do pay on the county general
fund,” Tracy Blair, county finance director, said.
“Therefore, it would be a 2-cent property tax increase
for residents inside Lenoir City. The overall tax rate
didn’t change. It did not change, so all the residents
would have paid the same amount. But that’s why because
it’s taken out of a fund that they don’t pay on and to a
fund that they do pay on.”
Blair said a 2-cent hike for Lenoir City residents is
worth more than $300,000.
“I just hate to see us put that on Lenoir City citizens,
but the reality is on a $100,000 house in Lenoir City
the two pennies will be about a $5 increase per year, so
it’s not a substantial tax increase, but it still is a
tax increase on Lenoir City citizens,” Harrelson said.
During the meeting, Tinker motioned for an amendment to
place two pennies back into the education debt service.
The vote failed with 5-4-1 split.
Commissioner Bill Satterfield abstained. Commissioners
Littleton-Brewster, Shaver, Leo Bradshaw and Henry
“That’s a number incurred by all members of the county,
not just Lenoir City,” Tinker said during the meeting.
No cap for tourism revenues
Commission approved two amendments, including $3,000 for
the Little Tennessee Valley Educational Cooperative and
allocating 29 percent of hotel-motel tax revenues for
Loudon County Visitors Bureau with no cap for the coming
Commissioners initially considered capping the visitors
center allocation at $125,000.
While Shaver said the visitors center was a “fine
organization,” he said he had an issue with removing the
cap for the year.
“We had voted to set it at a fixed (amount of) $125,000,
that’s what they asked for in their budget,” Shaver said
during the meeting. “It’s a fixed amount. It’s set. It
doesn’t change. There are several problems with this
open-ended percentage thing. It’s all based on a
percentage of the hotel-motel tax, so no matter how much
would be collected they would get the 29 percent. ...
It’s been well above their budget each year. That in
itself I have a little problem of how much is going.”
Shaver said that each year auditors note that the county
is unable to place a fixed number on how much the
visitors center spends.
“My concern is the fact the county is carrying the
absolute lion’s share of this one,” Shaver said, adding
that visitors center officials should encourage
municipalities to give a little more this year.
Shaver said last year Lenoir City received $345,000 from
the hotel-motel tax. He said $125,000 from the county,
not including funds received from either city, would be
a “pretty good chunk of change when we know essentially
it’s not coming back to us.”
Commission also voted against an amendment made by
Littleton-Brewster to transfer funds from the Loudon
County Clerk and Master data processing account to a
separate line item for the office’s chief deputy in an
amount equal to the amount earned by the Loudon County
Trustee’s chief deputy, including Social Security,
Medicare and retirement.
The amendment failed 6-4 against, with commissioners
Tinker, Harrelson, Duff, Shaver, Cullen and Maples
Shaver presented a letter from the University of
Tennessee County Technical Assistance Service advising
that the county should seek an opinion from County
Attorney Bob Bowman. CTAS questioned the legality of
taking funds out of a data processing line item.
“CTAS said you can’t just pay everyday employees with
it,” Shaver said. “This is somebody tasked strictly to
deal with data and to deal with their computers and
stuff, that would be a consideration, but a day-to-day
employee waiting on customers, you could not use this
money to pay them.”
The dispute came last year after Loudon County Trustee
Chip Miller paid about $4,000 more to his chief deputy
after additional room appeared in the department’s
“The big problem on why this had so much conversation
was if Mr. (Fred) Chaney does it, Ms. (Darlene)
Russell’s (county clerk) setting right there and the
rest of them will be here wanting theirs,” Shaver said.
“It came to about a $24,000 increase just for the pay.
If you have to add the Social Security and retirement
stuff on that, his $4,000 comes up to about $5,000 I
think is what we figured out in the budget committee.”
The amount received would be $5,736, Blair said.
“If we do it this year for Mr. Chaney, Mr. Chaney could
come next year and say, ‘Hey, my old computer system
crashed. I have to buy a new computer system with my
data entry fee money. I can’t pay my employee’s raise
anymore’,” Shaver said. “So we would be faced — this
body — the commission would be faced with either picking
up that additional $5,000 just in the one office this
time, or he would have to tell his employee, ‘I don’t
have that money in my data anymore to pay for it’.”
Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said the consideration
will likely be brought back up next month.
“I think just the legality of being able to take money
out of that technology reserve fund to use it toward
salaries, I know there were a couple of commissioners
that that’s the reason they voted against it,” Harrelson
said. “Just want to check with our attorney to make sure
that that was legal as far as state law is concerned and
just want to feel better about that before we move
In other business, commission:
• Reapproved a resolution for the county to act as a
fiscal agent for the remediation of the Poplar Springs
• Authorized the sale of property in Sugarlimb
Industrial Park to Del Conca USA. About two acres will
be used for the company’s expansion, and in total
amounts to $15,000 per acre.
• Gave approval to sell eight acres in Sugarlimb
Industrial Park to Restoration Services Inc. The land
will be used for solar panels, and in total amounts to
$7,500 per acre.