The Bradley County Commission passed a resolution to establish an inability to participate in future projects “due to potential loss of sales tax revenue.” The resolution passed with 11 commissioners in favor. Commissioners Jeff Morelock, Bill Winters and Mark Hall voted against the resolution.
This resolution had been put off at two other meetings before Monday’s vote. The resolution had been recommended by the finance committee, but was delayed to see if the Cleveland City Council would further appeal the current ruling in the sales tax issue. The City Council has voted to move forward with the appeal process.
“I am adamantly opposed to what the city is trying to do … and I’ve expressed that to several of the city councilmen,” Morelock said. “I think this (the resolution) is just pouring a little more gasoline on the fire.”
Finance committee chairman Connie Wilson said the resolution was meant to notify the city the county does not have the funding to continue to plan jointly funded capital projects.
This resolution does not affect agreements that have already been made.
Fouth District commissioner J. Adam Lowe wanted to amend the resolution to look at current proposed projects the county could nullify based on potential lack of sales tax revenue.
Lowe said the Commission needs to begin thinking about what it would cut if the appeal process overturns previous rulings changing how all sales tax is distributed. Lowe said this is important because the county would be required to pay back sales tax revenue that had been collected from the time of appeal, not the time of the ruling.
“If we made commitments and they are to be paid within the next year or so, I think they’re on the chopping block if possible,” Lowe said.
Fifth District Commissioner Jeff Yarber said the Commission had tried numerous times to reach out to the city to work together but the resolution was a chance to make a statement.
Winters, who represents the 7th District, said looking at current agreements would be premature because back revenue would only be required if the city wins its appeal.
“There’s not going to be any winners in this,” Winters said.
The 2012-13 budget proposal presented by Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis does not include new money going into the capital projects fund, except for interest that is accrued. Revenues are being reported as flat again this year.
“We didn’t ask for cuts this year, but we did have to ask each department to get back to this year’s bottom line and no increases,” Davis said.
The budget achieves three goals the mayor had established for this year’s budget — increasing the fund balance and increasing county salaries, without any increases in taxes.
“This budget shows we can live within our means, and we don’t have to raise taxes,” Davis said.
However, some department budgets have increased. The largest increases in the 2012-13 budget are funding for Bradley County Schools and the Bradley County Justice Center. Increases in the school budget are paid for out of increased revenue in the school portion of sales tax and state funding.
The fund balance increased to 10.4 percent of the total budget. Davis said he eventually wants this to be 15 percent.
Bradley County will have a balanced budget with a 1.6 percent pay increase for county employees, if the budget proposal is passed.
Bradley County 911 Communications center funding issues were once again discussed at Monday’s meeting. The Commission postponed a decision on additional funding for the center in order to ask other counties in danger of being labeled distressed to join Bradley County in not providing additional funding in hopes that the state will see the need to change the way it distributes the 911 tax.
This motion was made by Yarber.
Morelock had offered a resolution to give the center the $173,145 needed to keep the district from being labeled distressed. He pointed out the county had the money in its 2012 fund balance to provide the additional funding.
Davis said the money was there, but if it was given to the 911 center it would impact next year’s general fund totals listed in the budget proposal. The Commission is set to make a final decision on whether to grant the additional funding at its next work session. This will be the last chance to pass the additional funding since it is the last time changes can be made to the 2011-12 budget. The new fiscal year begins July 1.