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Commission moves ahead with budget; discusses hiring of environmental services director

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By Jennifer Caldwell

With only one item on the agenda Monday evening’s budget and finance committee meeting went off without much fanfare.

As commissioners and citizens were given the opportunity to discuss the proposal to raise the certified tax rate by five cents, Commissioner Bobby White was one of the most vocally opposed to the increase.

“I feel like there is more of the budget we can cut, but time restraints will not allow us to do it.”  White said.  “The only reason I am voting for it (the increase) is that people can get the two percent off their property tax if they pay it in October.”

Committee chair Marie Ayers, agreed with White and said the commission needs to continue to examine the budget even after its passage in an effort to find savings for the next budget cycle.  To that end, Ayers said the committee would continue to review the budget at bi-weekly meetings to be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. throughout the month of October.

As the group moved into it’s workshop session discussion turned to the appointment of a new director for the environmental services department to replace Clifton “Tip” Jones.

When Mayor William Baird said he would be bringing a recommendation to the commissioners at the Oct. 18 meeting, some members expressed concern about how little input they would have in the hiring process.

According to Baird, the function of the commission is to vote his recommendation up or down without being privy to information including the list of applicants and their qualifications.

“I don’t hire nobody without knowing their qualifications,” Commissioner Tom Hatmaker said.

Baird told the group his hands were tied on the issue and he is simply following what state law mandates.

“I don’t make the rules.  State law dictates the hiring process,” Baird explained.

The commission will revisit this issue on Monday night at 6 p.m.

In an effort to wrap up work on the 2010-11 budget commissioners met in special session on Tuesday evening to vote on the certified tax rate.  As a way to spread the cost to taxpayers around, the commission voted to raise the tax rate from $1.71 to $1.76.  The wheel tax will also see a $10 increase from  $35 to $45 beginning on Nov. 1.