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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Cocke County budget discussions continue
The Cocke County Finance Committee has been working on the development of a 2019/20 budget and is concerned that currently the draft budget has expenditures that exceed anticipated revenue by $800,000. So at a recent meeting the commissioners proposed raising the current three percent hotel/motel tax up to seven percent. That likely would double the current annual collection of about $300,000. But at Tuesday's meeting of the committee, Chair Forrest Clevenger said it may be wise to hold a town hall meeting to weigh the pros and cons of increasing the tax. No date has been set for such a meeting. Any increase would have to be implemented through a Private Act passed by the Tennessee General Assembly. Clevenger again raised the issue of funding for the Cocke County Fire Department. He pointed out that the Department was established in 1999 with a requirement that it be funded with revenues other than the property tax,collected outside of Newport and Parrottsville. County Mayor Crystal Ottinger pointed out however that the collection of those taxes currently provide adequate funding for the fire department. The committee chair who represents the Sixth District which takes in both Newport and county residents, argued that Newport residents should not pay to fund the county fire department through their county property taxes because Newport has its own fire department. Although city residents also pay toward the funding of county roads, even though Newport has its own street department, Clevenger said the departments are different in that the county road department is mandated under state law but a county fire department is not. County Attorney Brittany Vick said she addressed the legality of the current funding mechanism, and state auditors have no issue with it. Mayor Ottinger also reported work to close out the current landfill is progressing, along with efforts to open the expanded area.

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