By Ian Berry Staff Writer
Red Burrows and Hamilton County Commission Chairman Larry Henry are in a heated District 7 Republican primary campaign that is revolving around schools and taxes.
Mr. Burrows said he is running because Mr. Henry voted for a tax increase last year after telling him he wouldn't. He has handed out campaign cards proclaiming that a vote for Mr. Burrows would be a "vote for no property tax increase."
Mr. Henry accused his opponent of " bush-league politics."
"The only issue he has is the tax increase," Mr. Henry said. "He needs to say what his plan of action is." The county primary is May 2 for the Brainerdarea seat. There will be no Democratic opposition in the county's Aug. 3 general election.
Mr. Burrows, a retired route salesman and store manager for Colonial Baking Co., said he wants the commission to scrutinize its spending more closely.
"My plan is to get more accountability for the money they've already got," he said. "That's both with the county and the school district."
Recent new hires by the county showed there was extra money that could have been used elsewhere before taxes were raised, Mr. Burrows said.
Mr. Henry said he did not tell Mr. Burrows he wouldn't raise taxes. He said he was convinced an increase was needed during a meeting with Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Jesse Register, in which they examined the schools system's budget.
"To me, we were standing on a track, and the train was coming," Mr. Henry said.
Mr. Henry was the swing vote for a 26 cent tax increase that passed in a 5-4 vote. The previous year, Mr. Henry voted against a 55 cent increase that failed by a 5-4 vote.
He said revenue from the 26 cent increase, 16 cents of which went for the school system, provided funding for a new high school in Ooltewah and other crucial improvements. A strong school system is critical to attracting new jobs, he said.
Mr. Burrows said the Ooltewah school was scheduled to be the next new school regardless of whether taxes were increased.
The problem with county schools is not funding, he said. The system should focus more on fundamentals such as reading and math and not spend money on such things as dance, he said.
Mr. Henry said the future in Hamilton County "is as bright as it's ever been."
Mr. Burrows said tax increases will do nothing to lure new industry.
"Economic development in Hamilton County right now is two new Wal-Marts and 20 new fast-food restaurants," Mr. Burrows said.
The race has gotten personal at times, both candidates said.
Mr. Henry said his opponent has said things that were meanspirited and untrue. He said Mr. Burrows wants to focus on personal issues.
"The personal issue is the property tax," Mr. Burrows said. "And I'm focused on the property tax because the people of Hamilton County don't need any more property tax increases."
Mr. Burrows said Mr. Henry has lost touch with common people and the elderly who can't afford their tax bills.
Mr. Henry said his record as a businessman, which included ownership of a garage, automobile repair center and 24-hour wrecker service, put him in touch with the common man and speaks for itself.
"Trust me, I know what 18-hour days are," Mr. Henry said. "I've worked a lot of them."
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