Loudon residents cry foul over funding switch

Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com

LOUDON Loudon County residents pulled no punches during a public hearing Monday on the subject of how to best spend 8 cents of a 20-cent property tax increase that was enacted last year to fund the $43 million school building program.

County Commission scheduled the hearing after a budget committee recommendation last month to move 8 cents from the school building fund to the county general fund was met with vocal opposition.

During the budget meeting last week Commissioner Don Miller explained that it is the committee's feeling that the county has too much money in the school debt fund and not enough money in the general fund.

"The objective of the budget committee recommendation is to fix the general fund deficiency without increasing property taxes," Miller said.

Many of those who addressed the commission said they were angry, accusing the commission of using "bait and switch" tactics to help cover up mismanagement.

"It looks like a scam," said Loudon County resident John Sang.

"Nobody would have approved 20 cents if only 12 cents was needed," said Tellico Village resident Pandora Vreeland.

Loudon County resident Wayne Schnell suggested that the solution to the general fund shortage was to cut county spending. He pointed to $300,000 on the budget for renovation of the county office buildings as an example of excessive spending.

Ashley Fletcher said he was deeply troubled by the commission's attempt to move the school money to the general debt fund.

"If I tell my wife I need $600 for four new tires when I really needed only two new tires and then bought a new shotgun that's deceitful," he said.

Commissioner Sharon Yarborough said she agreed with many of the residents' comments.

"We voted for the money for the school building project. The 8 cents should stay in the school fund," she said.

Yarborough suggested that the commission look to spending cuts to solve the problem with the general fund balance.

"I don't feel we have reviewed expenses enough," she said.