County passes budget

Loudon County Commission during a special called meeting Thursday approved a budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year that is quite similar to last year.

General fund expenditures amount to about $18.5 million, which will require a dip in the fund balance of about $1.8 million.

Commissioners Henry Cullen and Leo Bradshaw motioned and seconded, respectively. The budget passed 8-2 in favor, with Commissioners Van Shaver and Kelly Littleton-Brewster the opposing votes.

Highlights include a 2 percent raise for all employees, a $5,000 increase in contributions to nonprofit organizations, a new Clerk & Master employee at $25,500 and a raise in minimum salary to $25,500.

“The important thing is we maintain our tax rate as related to the certified tax rate,” Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said, which is $1.8035. “So there’s no tax increase per se — it actually will be cheaper than last year, which I think is very important for us to maintain.

“We’ve been able to expand some services as well,” he added. “So I think for this to be such a unique situation and, of course, our goal every year is to have it done before July 1 but with the whole (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement and reassessment happening at the same time then that made things a little more complicated than normal.”

Commissioner Matthew Tinker called the county’s budget “pretty similar” to last year’s.

“I think the budget was a good solid budget,” Tinker said. “Everybody had what they need, and I thought it met all the needs of the county, and we didn’t have to cut too much. We had a lot of good growth. We were able to absorb Tate & Lyle money that won’t be coming in and hopefully we can make up the rest of that next year with more growth.”

The county will receive $1,026,396.84 from the Tate & Lyle PILOT agreement, which totals $1.7 million annually over 10 years.

Salaries an issue

Most of the commission was in favor of boosting the minimum salary of county employees to $25,500.

Tinker said the increase was only fair considering the lawsuit with Loudon County General Sessions and Circuit Court Clerk Lisa Niles.

Shaver thinks differently, which is partially why he opposed the budget’s approval.

“I felt like we ought to wait and do that after all of the legal issues are settled and done,” Shaver said.

Another reason he said “no” Thursday was because he believed the mayor, sheriff and road superintendent should not have received a 5 percent raise and instead should have aligned with other county representatives at 2 percent.

“The state sets minimum salaries for all elected officials and ... for our county the state says you have to pay at least this much,” Shaver said. “Well those three individuals are already 5 percent above the minimum. Every other elected official in the county is right on the state minimum, but these other three are 5 percent above and then this year they also got another 5 percent raise on top of their already 5 percent above the minimum.

Nonprofits get boost

Commissioners saw the need to increase the amount given to area nonprofit organizations from $66,100 to $71,100.
Contributions go toward eight organizations this year, including Loudon County Health Improvement Council, Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County and Kids First Child Advocacy Center of the Ninth Judicial District, which proved to be the largest donation at $37,500. The second highest was Good Samaritan Center at $12,000.
“These are community services that really I think it’s important for the county to back,” Bradshaw said. “Our Loudon County Fire & Rescue as well as our other volunteer fire departments, our Children Advocacy Center ... I don’t consider these to be run-of-the-mill nonprofits. I think these are valuable, valuable assets to our community, and I think it’s important that we support them.”