CC Notes – December 21st 2015
All members were present for the final regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Cumberland County Commission for 2015 except David Gibson and John Kinnunen. The December meeting agenda was short but contained a couple of controversial topics to be discussed.
The first item for the evening was declaring the First District County Commission seat currently occupied by Jeff Dyer as vacant. Commissioner Dyer is about to move out of the first district and is resigning effective December 31, 2015. Anyone interested in filling the seat should submit their information to the Mayor’s Office. The deadline for interested applicants to submit their names to fill the vacancy is Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 4:00 PM. Everyone seeking the seat will be afforded an opportunity to speak to the Commission at the January 19, 2016 meeting. The appointment will be made at that time.
The first resolution was one in protest of the privatization of Cumberland Mountain State Park. It was submitted by Commissioner Nancy Hyder. The State of Tennessee was looking at the possibility of having a private company take over the management of the restaurant at the park. The Joint Economic Community Development Board discussed the situation with an opportunity for public input on November 30, 2015, at 4:00 PM in the meeting room on the fourth floor of City Hall. Since that time, it has been revealed that there were no bidders for taking over the restaurant management. The resolution failed 9-6-1. I voted against the resolution, as did commissioners Dyer, Scarbrough, Claflin, Rimmer and Geisler. Commissioner Farley abstained. I voted against the resolution because it doesn’t appear to be needed since no bids came in. I want to continue to see the park operating and used, and I believe it is the Governor’s decision on how to best handle that.
The State Comptroller’s Office advised the county that it would be better to take the third party billing fees for ambulance collections from a line item that is separate from the income line item. Currently, the county nets out the fees from the collections. A resolution was unanimously passed to separate the income from the fees. Now there will be two line items, one for the gross income from EMS billing for services, and another for fees owed to the third party billing company. This is actually a best practice and will make for cleaner recordkeeping.
The next resolution was for the implementation of a Solid Waste Collection Fee. The fee in question would be charged to all customers in the County, with residential customers paying $5 per month and commercial customers paying $14 per month. The electric company would be charged with the billing for this fee, in essence adding the amount to the monthly electric bill. Only habitable residential dwellings would be subject to the charge. Businesses which have a business license or a state sales tax collection number or that provides services for a fee, and places where people come together to share a common interest would be assessed the $14.
I voted against this resolution for many reasons during the Budget Committee meeting. Currently, tax collections are ahead of projections for the year and the budget is reasonably sound. If the Solid Waste Fee were implemented, the property tax money currently allocated to the Solid Waste department would be returned to the General Fund and the new Solid Waste Fee would then be allocated to the Solid Waste department. No reason has been stated for why we need the new funds and how they would be spent. I don’t believe the Commission should be taxing the public with no clear direction on the need of the funds. The resolution to create this new tax was removed from consideration by Tom Isham, the sponsor.
Sales tax collections for the year continue to be strong. November collections for the BOE were $748,454 against a budget of $706,989 for a net positive of $41,465. Year to date, collections are $140,987 above revenue estimates. Property tax collections are at 24.9% year to date verses 23.3% at this time last year. The Hotel/Motel tax collections are $346,359 compared to $293,662 this time last year. Ambulance collections are $900,510 against a $3,200,000 annual budget which is 28.1% of the budget. October receipts were $274,725. Prisoner boarding for three months is $186,961 which is 37.4% of the $500,000 annual budget.
Thank you for allowing me to serve the 4th District and Cumberland County. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at any time.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!
Board of Commissioners
4th District Representative