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At a special called meeting of the Grundy County Commission last Friday, September 20 at the Grundy County Courthouse, five of the nine commissioners voted to approve a new tax rate for Grundy County of 2.5054, the first tax increase in Grundy County in approximately 18 years. This new tax rate is an increase of 19 1/2 percent over last year’s rate, meaning residents will pay approximately $20 more per each hundred dollars owed for property taxes.
Voting by commissioners were as follows:
On whether to accept the budget as presented by the Budget and Finance Committee – No votes were voiced by Commissioners Michael Brady, Kelly Gibbs, and Dennis Jones. Voting yes were Commissioners David Griswold, Wayne Harris, David Lockhart, Emily Partin, Carl Prater, and Charles Rollins.
On whether to accept the 101 General Fund tax rate of 1.4900 – No votes were voiced by Michael Brady, Dennis Jones, Kelly Gibbs, and Charles Rollins. Voting yes were David Griswold, Wayne Harris, David Lockhart, Emily Partin, and Carl Prater.
All nine commissioners voted to accept the budget for the Courthouse/Jail Maintenance Fund.
All nine commissioners voted to accept the Solid Waste budget.
All nine commissioners voted to accept the Industrial Fund budget.
All nine commissioners voted to accept the Drug Control Fund budget.
All nine commissioners voted to accept the Highway/Public Works Fund budget.
All commissioners voted to accept the General Purpose School Fund except Kelly Gibbs, who passed due to a conflict of interest.
All nine commissioners voted to accept the Debt Service Fund budget.
All commissioners accepted the Non-Profit Resolution Budget except Dennis Jones who voted no.
By a five to four vote, the Overall Tax Levy Resolution was accepted with David Griswold, Wayne Harris, David Lockhart, Emily Partin, and Carl Prater voting yes and Michael Brady, Kelly Gibbs, Dennis Jones, and Charles Rollins voting no.
By a five to four vote, the 2.5054 Tax Distribution Resolution was accepted with David Griswold, Wayne Harris, David Lockhart, Emily Partin and Carl Prater voting yes and Michael Brady, Kelly Gibbs, Dennis Jones, and Charles Rollins voting no.
Grundy residents that had packed the courtroom voiced their opinions and concerns at the end of the meeting about the new tax rate.
“I just don’t see how people on a fixed income will be able to afford higher taxes,” “Is this extra tax going toward the building of the new jail,” and “Is there no place to cut the budget to avoid raising taxes,” were the three main questions most residents asked the commissioners.
“Anyone on a fixed income and that is eligible for tax relief, needs to apply now at the Trustee’s office,” said Mayor Cleek. “A portion of this tax increase is to catch up with cost of living increases. Minimum wages, cost of living raises, and state mandated raises have increased over the last 18 years. A portion of this tax increase will also be used to operate and maintain (not build) the jail as well as other Grundy County owned facilities.”
“Due to time constrains, a wheel tax could not be considered this year, but next year if a wheel tax is passed, we will look at this tax increase and do our best to lower this rate,” said commissioners.
Some commissioners also explained why they voted as they did.
“My “no” vote on the charities was not because of any one issue,” said Second District Commissioner Dennis Jones. “I am not against charity. I just felt like with the tax increase issue that any cuts we could make should be made. Most of the items in our budget are there for county business to operate. I felt the charities were a place we should and could have made cuts. All in all, it is my belief that the taxpayers should be able to make their own decisions about charities. I hope that my “no” vote will at least generate discussion as to how the taxpayers’ money is spent.”
“We looked at cutting some charitable contributions that the county provides, but programs such as The Imagination Library, Mountain T.O.P., Rescue Squads, the Historical Society, Food Bank, Hospice, and the Arts Council, are needed and necessary in Grundy County,” said Second District Commissioner Kelly Gibbs. “I would have liked to have seen if cuts could have been made in some of the county offices to see if there was any way to save some money there. No one doubts that revenue needs to be generated. I just would have liked to have taken a different avenue.”
“I appreciate everyone coming to the meeting. I have to vote on what I think is best after studying every scenario,” said Third District Commissioner Emily Partin.
The meeting was adjourned. If Grundy residents have concerns or need answers to any questions, the Grundy County Commission meets on the fourth Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the courthouse in Altamont.