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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Cocke County property tax rate to be hiked
Members of the Cocke County Finance Committee, meeting Tuesday, decided to present two options for a 2017/18 budget to the full county legislative body at it's August meeting. Option A provides for a property tax increase of 31 cents onto the current $2.59, aimed at funding the $1.6 million shortfall that would be created if the current tax rate was maintained. Option B will be a 41 cent increase, up to $3.00. That level would fund the shortfall, with the additional nearly $600,000 being placed into the Capital Projects fund, to provide funding for a jail or industrial park, or both. The committee will continue to meet to hammer out a budget which will be voted on August 21, following a 5:30 pm public hearing. Finance Committee Chair Andy Tritt argued that the 31 cent increase would fund the budget but not leave revenue to address other pressing needs. "We must raise taxes if we are to grow and repair our roads," he said. Tritt suggested it is time to develop a five-year growth plan for the county. And Commissioner Terry Dawson pointed out that the smaller increase would not provide funds for an industrial park or a jail, both of which have price tags of about $30 million. Sheriff Armando Fontes again argued that unless the county shows progress toward addressing the current jail over-crowding issue, the current jail will be de-certified. The committee also heard from Randy Boyd, a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor. He dropped in on the discussion. The former Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, dropped in on the discussion during a visit to Newport. After listening to the committee discussion, the candidate said he is frustrated that he is not in a position to help with the county's financial issues. "As governor, my priority will be to assist rural communities. We have 19 economically distressed counties including Cocke County." He said while in his Nashville position he created a Rural Task Force to help rural counties. "You have so many great assets here, the Smoky Mountains, the interstate, you go to Hancock County and they don't have the interstate, a railroad or a national park." Boyd said the state has consultants to assist with identifying and formulating a five-year plan. There also is state funding available to develop an industrial park because,"because if you don't have a ready site, companies will not come." The candidate argued that the community is better situated for tourism than for manufacturing jobs, "so I am optimistic. You are in a tough spot but I am optimistic over the next five years."

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

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