Sullivan Commission approves budget, 2-cent tax increase

J. H. Osborne • Jul 10, 2019 at 11:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Commission approved a 2019-2020 fiscal year budget Wednesday, setting a property tax rate of $2.57 per $100 of assessed value — an increase of 2 cents over last year.

The fiscal year began July 1 and covers county finances through June 30, 2020. Property taxes are due upon receipt of a tax bill from the county. Those typically go out in late summer or early fall. The deadline for payment is the last day of February.

The 2-cent tax increase equals: $5 on a $100,000 home; $7.50 on a $150,000 home; $10 on a $200,000 home; and $15 on a $250,000 home. Residential property is assessed at 25 percent of its appraised value, as determined by the Sullivan County Property Assessor’s office. Business property is assessed at 40 percent of its appraised value. So for each $100,000 in appraised value, the 2-cent increase will equal $8.

County property taxes are paid by all property owners within the county, including those inside cities.

The vote on the tax rate came after hours of discussion Wednesday in what was the second called session to try to adopt a budget and tax rate. The earlier meeting, two weeks ago, ended in a stalemate.

The budget approved Wednesday includes funding for three key things that had driven much of the debate:

• It funds school resource officers for each school in the county system. But half the money will come from school system funds, rather than 100 percent coming from the county’s general fund as initially proposed. That means it will cost a bit more because the portion of the funding channeled through school system accounts must be shared with city school systems (because city residents pay county property taxes and operate their own school systems).

• It provides funding for 10 new employees for the Sullivan County Jail. That’s down from the 20 employees included in the original budget proposal.

• It funds a 2 percent raise for all county employees.

The $2.57 tax rate is allocated: 81 cents for the county’s general fund; 1.9 cents for solid waste; 7.5 cents for the county highway department (which does no work inside the cities); $1.353 for the general purpose school fund (shared with the city school systems based on average daily attendance); 9.3 cents for county capital projects/renovation (no longer shared with the cities); and 22 cents for general debt service.

The vote on the tax rate was 13 “yes” and 10 “no.” The 24-member body is down one commissioner due to the resignation of Pat Shull upon his becoming mayor of Kingsport on July 1. That means a majority for voting purposes is 12 until Shull’s seat is filled.

Those who voted in favor of the 2-cent increase were David Akard; Darlene Calton; Michael Cole; Larry Crawford; Andrew Cross; John Gardner; Colette George; Sam Jones; Tony Leonard; Hunter Locke; Randy Morrell; Gary Stidham; and Mark Vance. Voting “no” were Judy Blalock; Todd Broughton; Joyce Crosswhite; Hershel Glover; Terry Harkleroad; Mark Hutton; Dwight King; Angie Stanley; Alicia Starnes; and Doug Woods.

 The commission’s work session scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, July 11, has been canceled.