Phase I Passes

The drama, the tension nor the stakes could have been higher at Thursday's commission meeting. Of course the biggest issue commission faced was the Phase I building plan and the tax increase needed to fund it. In the end, commission passed by the narrowest margin the twenty cent tax increase to fund the building program.

Cheers and tears rolled as commissioner Don Miller cast the deciding vote to secure the funding. Not everybody at the standing room only meeting was happy with the vote but the vast majority let their feelings be known with their applauses.

This is the short version of a very long meeting and we'll get into the details more next week.

This concludes years and years of planning and preparation for the building program. Now with funding in place the next step will be to let the bids for the three projects. If everything goes as it should, the bid process could be completed in maybe sixty days, maybe less. After that, it will be time to move dirt. 

At last!

You all have a great Forth Of July Holiday.

Loudon County Commission OKs 20-cent property tax increase to fund school building program

By Hugh G. Willett

LOUDON - The Loudon County Commission voted 6-4 Thursday night to approve a 20-cent property tax increase intended for a proposed school building program.

The standing-room-only crowd erupted in applause following the vote that has come after more than five years of stops and starts for the building program.

"I know this was a tough decision for the commission," said school board Chairman Scott Newman. "I'm glad they decided to do what's right for the kids."

Others in the room, many wearing blue tea party T-shirts and carrying signs reading "$43 million loan equals $75 million payback," expressed their disappointment after the vote.

"I'm really concerned about a lack of fiscal responsibility at all levels of government," said Loudon resident Teresa Strang.

Voting to increase the county tax rate from $1.58 to $1.78 per $1,000 assessed value were Bob Franke, Harold Duff, Brian Jenkins, Don Miller, Steve Harrelson and Sharon Yarborough.

Austin Shaver, Dave Meers, Roy Bledsoe and Earlena Maples voted against the measure.

The increase is supposed to fund a $43 million building program that includes a new pre-K through 12 school in Greenback, a new middle school in Loudon and improvements to the cafeteria at Philadelphia Elementary.

A second phase of the building program, targeted at schools in the north end of the county, has yet to be funded.

Commissioner Steve Harrelson, whose district includes the north end of the county, made a motion to put aside 4 cents of the property tax increase toward Phase 2. The motion failed 8-2.

Commissioner Don Miller said he was against allocating any of the increase for projects outside the first phase. He said money might be needed to fund other projects, including a mandated expansion of the county jail.

Loudon resident Pat Hunter said she was disappointed that the commission did not take more steps to ensure that all the money for the tax increase went into the building program.

"They know they don't need all 20 pennies to borrow $40 million," she said. "They're going to use the money for other projects."

The commission passed by a 7-3 vote an amendment that would allow Sheriff's Office deputies to retire early and begin drawing pension. Officers would be allowed to begin drawing benefits after 30 years of service.

The change would allow older officers to retire early before medical problems prevent them from performing certain tasks, according to Dan Raper of the Tennessee Fraternal Order of Police. The extra benefits the officers would draw would be offset by hiring younger officers, who make less, to fill the vacancies, he said.

A new medical insurance benefit plan that would move the county away from the current 92 percent paid to a system where the county pays 70 percent of the cost of insurance was discussed at length. The commission voted to make no changes until the issue could be discussed at greater length.

Loudon County commissioners approve property tax increase

By JOSH AULT WATE 6 News Reporter

LOUDON (WATE) - The Loudon County courthouse annex was packed Thursday night as commissioner decided on a 20 cent property tax increase.

People on both sides of the issue were there. 24 of them were able to voice their opinion before commissioners made theirs.

In the end, commissioners voted six to four to approve the property tax increase.

The main reason for the hike was to build several new schools throughout the county.

The focal point was the school in Greenback, which has been in disrepair for decades. Many of the schools have become too small, and portable buildings have been brought in to ease the student population.

Schools officials were thrilled over the positive outcome of the vote.

"This is great," said Scott Newman, Loudon County school board chairman. "We are finally going to get our kids out of mobile homes, trailers, whatever you want to call it. They are not safe with all the weather we've had the last few months. It is a concern to us starting school back in August."

"This is an exciting point in our life," said Jason Vance, Loudon County director of schools. "We are so excited about this. We have been working on this for the past six or seven years. It is just a point for us to move forward and provide better educational facilities for our children."

Those who had opposed the hike feel this tax increase will become a financial burden for those living in the county.

School officials say the tax increase will provide more than $40 million for the first phase of new school construction.

Vance says they already have plans to start the new projects in July.

In other county business, commissioners voted to not give any new raises to county employees, and discuss that issue at a later time.

There was also a proposal to increase what county employees pay for their insurance. That was also put on hold after several commissioners voiced their concerns.

Commissioners vote on tax hike to fun new schools in Loudon County
Loudon County Commissioners voted on 20 cent tax hike to fund the building of new schools in the area.
Lorena Estrada (WVLT)

LOUDON, Tenn. (WVLT)-- After more than three hours, Loudon County Commissioners voted on a new budget Thursday.

In a 6 to 4 vote, commissioners voted on a 20 cent property tax increase to fund the building of new schools in the area, including one in Greenback.

The tax proposal divided people in the community: some opposed the hike while others supported the plan to build to new schools for their children. But the majority of the people at the meeting were people in support of the tax hike, who cheered and cried once they heard the news they've been longing to hear.

One of them, Patsi Llumbet. She's a parent and teacher who's been teaching in Loudon Co. for the almost two decades. She said the decision is life-changing.

"I've taught 24 years and we've wanted this for most of those 34 years," she said. "They've finally come together and agreed. This is amazing for our children and community."

New Loudon Co. budget includes controversial tax raise Loudon County now has a new budget. Commissioners voted 6 to 4 to approve the budget in a meeting lasting more than three hours on Thursday.

The new budget includes a controversial 20 cent property tax increase. The money will go toward funding new schools including one in Greenback.

Commissioner Don Miller voted with the majority in supporting the plan. He said it was the right thing to do in spite of the tough economy. "It's not a good time to be raising some point could not let conditions in these two schools continue," said Miller. 

The property tax increase amounts to about 50 dollars more for a person with a $100,000 home. 

That rate is still far lower than what property owners paid for much of the last two decades. Rates have fallen during that time due mainly to inflation and reappraisals.