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Property tax increase, school system cuts proposed in Carter County

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Jun 28 2013 05:09:25 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 28 2013 08:17:27 PM CDT

Property taxes could rise as much as ten percent in Carter County to close the gap on a budget millions out of balance.

CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. -

Property taxes could rise as much as ten percent in Carter County to close the gap on a budget millions out of balance.

The books in Carter County are $2.5 million in the red.

To fix the problem, commissioners on the budget committee are recommending residents pick up the tab by paying an extra 23.5 cents to their property tax. That's about a 10 percent increase.

"We pay what we have to pay," said resident Leota Holsclaw. "We don't like it. We might gripe a lot, but we'll pay it."

This comes along with all departments in the general fund slashing their budgets by five percent; not an easy task if you ask Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes. "Somewhere down the line it's services [that have to be cut]. Whether you lose officers that are working drug cases, or you're working people that's been a victim of crime investigation, do we not feed inmates?" said Mathes.

Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey wants to see even more done so that property tax doesn't stick. He said suck a hike would deter business. "That would put Carter County as being the second highest rate of all the counties in the First Tennessee Development District," said Humphrey.

The solution, he said, lies somewhere in the school system's $42 million budget. "It also has grown and is somewhat out of control," said Humphrey.

News 5 reached out to Kevin Ward, Carter County's director of schools, to hear what he had to say about the mayor's proposal. "Over the past two years we have cut approximately $2.2 million out of our budget understanding tough times were coming," said Ward. "To blame a tax increase or to try to deflect this county tax increase on the taxpayer on the school system is just very unfair."

One of the ways the school system is actually trying to save money is by using modular units as classrooms instead of building new schools. The school system also recently closed range elementary to save $500,000 a year and cut 35 teaching positions over the past two years, according to Ward. "I think we've cut our fair share," Ward added.

We've learned there will be a meeting on Tuesday to discuss ways to cut costs further.

Nothing will be final until the full commission approves it.