As Wilson County enters the 11th hour of budget season, that budget took its next step toward approval — and with it a new certified tax rate — during the budget committee meeting Tuesday, and will now make its way to the full County Commission for final approval.
As expected, following the state property assessors’ recent increased valuations, the new tax rate will be set at $1.9089 per $100 assessed. The current tax rate is $2.5189.
Revenue collected from those property taxes will be distributed among the county’s departments, with the school districts receiving the lion’s share, the general fund getting nearly a third and public works, highway capital projects, and solid waste/sanitation combining for about 10%.
Discussion of the tax rate turned to reducing it as a way of easing county residents coming through what Commissioner Bobby Franklin described as “possibly the worst year I can remember.”
Since the county seems to be doing well, Franklin wanted to know what could be done to help his constituents who were still suffering from flood and tornado damage on top of the pandemic’s impact on the local economy.
County Finance Director Aaron Maynard admitted that while it would make him out to be the bad guy, he could not recommend lowering the tax rate below the certified rate even if the county had in Franklin’s observation “done pretty well.”
“I think the sentiment is admirable,” Maynard said. “But what concerns me, as charged with looking out for the finances of the county, is that if you drop the tax rate down a nickel, you give away the recurring money you just gained in growth. So new recurring expenses are not going to be covered.”
He said it’s the only way to ensure the county continues to operate in service of its constituents, as sales tax revenues are capped out in Wilson County.
There were a few last minute budgetary amendments introduced that Maynard said would be “covered by revenue over and above what was budgeted.”
These items included things like phone communications bills in excess of what was expected for some of the departments.
Commissioner William Glover asked why all these bills had gone up. Maynard said it likely had to do with phone system changeover, there may have been some duplication. “The phone bills are the phone bills,” Maynard said, “That is what we are being charged.”
Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said that with change over between systems sometimes there is overlap which can cause extra charges to be accrued.
The next county commission meeting will be held in the commission courtroom at the Wilson County Courthouse, 228 E. Main St., Lebanon, on June 21.