Note: This story was last updated at 11 p.m.
CLINTON—The Anderson County Commission has again approved a 10-cent tax rate increase for 2 percent pay raises for county employees, teachers, and school staff, and this time the result is final.
The first attempt in July ended in a legislative stalemate when commissioners failed to raise the tax rate by 10 cents, even though the budget they had passed earlier anticipated that increase. Commissioners first vote on the budget and then vote on the tax rate.
In their second attempt on Thursday, August 13, commissioners first approved budgets with the total 10-cent increase and then raised the tax rate by 10 cents. That ended a long process that began as early as May and included seven meetings, according to one official.
“We’re just relieved that the process is finally over,” said Rachel Minardo, president of the Anderson County Education Association.
The higher tax rate is expected to provide another $700,000 for Anderson County Schools, an extra $423,000 for Oak Ridge Schools, and $134,000 more for Clinton City Schools, according to earlier estimates.
Eight cents of the 10-cent increase was for the schools. The vote to approve the school budget with an eight-cent increase was 9-5.
Voting for it were Anderson County Commission Chair Robert McKamey and commissioners Mark Alderson, Jerry Creasey, Chuck Fritts, Myron Iwanski, Steve Mead, Rick Meredith, Theresa Scott, and Philip Warfield.
Voting against it were Commission Vice Chair Steve Emert and commissioners Zach Bates, Whitey Hitchcock, Tim Isbel, and Jerry White.
Commissioner Tracy Wandell was absent, and former Commissioner Robin Biloski resigned August 3 because she and her husband Bill moved to Madeira Beach, Florida.
The two-cent increase for the 2 percent raise for county employees, with the exception of county commissioners and elected officials, was approved in an 8-4-2 vote.
Voting in favor were Alderson, Creasey, Fritts, Iwanski, McKamey, Mead, Meredith, and Warfield.
Voting against it were Emert, Isbel, Scott, and White.
Bates and Hitchcock abstained. Bates works for the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department.
The August 13 budget was similar to the July 20 budget, but there were some differences. This time, commissioners made about $59,000 in cuts that allowed a “true 2 percent pay raise,” including for Anderson County Emergency Medical Services, McKamey said.
He said the budget is now set, although further cuts could be made later. But the tax rate can’t be changed, McKamey said.
Oak Ridge school officials had been waiting for the Anderson County budget process to be resolved, not knowing if they could count on the additional $423,000 in the budget for this fiscal year, which started July 1.
While the budget and tax rate were still under consideration, Anderson County officials said they continued to operate under last year’s spending levels.
Teachers had advocated for a larger 4 percent pay raise earlier this year. They said all the surrounding school districts pay more, except Campbell County.
A second attempt to cut the chief of staff position in the Anderson County mayor’s office failed again on Thursday, again on a close vote, this time 7-7. Cutting that position, which is held by Richard Burroughs, could have produced an estimated savings of about $65,000-$70,000, Mead said.
An effort by Fritts to reduce the mayor’s budget by roughly $64,000 also failed, again on a 7-7 vote.
There were again some adjustments to salaries in the Anderson County law director and veterans services offices and for Anderson County Commission Chief Deputy Mary Murphy.
Mead estimated the tax rate increase could cost the owner of a $100,000 home another $2 per month, or $24 per year.
With the 10-cent tax rate increase, the tax rate in Clinton will be $2.7589 per $100 of assessed value. It will be $2.5945 in Oak Ridge and $2.7903 in Oliver Springs, Rocky Top, Norris, and rural Anderson County. The tax rate varies because of school debt obligations.
The tax increase approved Thursday is separate from the recent change in the certified or tax-neutral rate that resulted from the five-year reappraisals completed this year.
Before the special meeting on Thursday, commissioners heard from supporters and opponents of the tax increase during a 20-minute public hearing.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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