published Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Marion County commissioners approve budget

Marion County Mayor John Graham
Marion County Mayor John Graham
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

JASPER, Tenn. — Marion County commissioners have approved a new budget for the fiscal year, but one commissioner is not satisfied.

The board passed the budget Monday on a 13-1 vote. The budget shows a $4.9 million fund balance by the end of the next fiscal year in June 2014.

Commissioner Tommy Thompson, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said more could be done to help overburdened taxpayers after the board raised property taxes last year to overcome a $1.5 million shortfall.

While it's nice to have "big fund balances," he said, the county has historically operated on roughly $2 million.

"I wouldn't feel like I was doing my constituents right if I didn't speak up," Thompson told the board. "We could probably reduce those [property] taxes by some."

County Mayor John Graham said he appreciates Thompson's thinking, and it has "some degree of truth to it."

"One year's budget does not conclude that we are in good financial shape yet," he said. "We need at least one more budgetary cycle, and probably one more after that, so we can see how the economy is reacting to its ebb and flow."

County leaders need to be "assured that the money we are receiving is adequate to run the county," Graham said.

Thompson said he understands where the mayor is coming from, but that doesn't change his position.

"I know these are estimated figures, but these property owners are having a hard time coming up with this extra money," he said. "That's my concern."

The budget includes raises for county employees, who haven't had salary increases since 2009, and the county tax rate will remain at 2.1686 per $100 of assessed value, officials said.

Graham said he promised that as mayor he "will look at this every year" to see if there is a way to reduce the financial burden on Marion County residents.

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