CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The Bradley County Commission has approved the county's 2013-14 budget, which includes a 1.5 percent salary increase for full-time employees and maintains current levels of service without a tax increase.
The Monday night budget vote was not unanimous. Commissioner Jeff Yarber opposed 13 other commissioners, saying he was concerned about expected changes in the tax rate caused by the recent state-mandated property reappraisal.
Overall, property values have fallen in Bradley County, according to previous statements by Lynn Burns, the county's financial director.
Tax rate adjustments based on reappraisals ensure that local government revenues do not fluctuate.
Despite the countywide picture, property values seem to have increased on the county's south side, said Yarber, who represents the 5th District with Commissioner Bill Ledford.
"So for me, if the property value goes up $15,000 in value and the tax rate goes up from $1.77 or $1.78 [per $100 of assessed value], that equals a tax increase," Yarber said.
"I have no solutions," he said, adding that further cuts to the county budget would be difficult.
The county is waiting for state calculations for a new certified tax rate, said Stanley Thompson, assessor of property for Bradley County. Preliminary estimates place that rate at $1.86 per $100 of assessed property value.
The proposed certified tax rate should be available for review and a vote by the Bradley County Commission at its July 15 meeting, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said.
He said the 2013-14 budget achieves several goals in addition to avoiding a tax increase and providing a small salary bump for full-time county employees.
The budget will increase the general fund balance from 10 percent to 13 percent of the county's debt and decrease the county's debt by $4.2 million, Davis said.
He previously said county budgets dispel any notions that the county doesn't reduce its debt, noting that the debt has decreased by $14.2 million since 2010.
Most departments kept their requests to a minimum, Davis told county commissioners in May. Requested expenditures increased 1.83 percent overall, while revenues increased 2 percent.
Davis said some compromise still was needed, citing a Bradley County Sheriff's Office request for three new school resource officers. One officer was approved.
Bradley County Schools requested an officer each for GOAL Academy, Walker Valley High and Bradley Central High School. The approved officer's placement will be decided by the school system and the sheriff's office, Davis said.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.