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County budget could get second look

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By CURRENT BOXHOLDER

At Monday’s workshop, Campbell County commissioners responded to county resident Jim Slusher, who voiced concerns about the proposed budget.

“I want to talk to you tonight about the budget,” Slusher said. “Many critical decisions for funding of projects were discarded.”

On July 24, the budget and finance committee approved a budget that included no property tax increases. But in order to accomplish this, some requests for funding were eliminated.

Slusher voiced concerns over some of the cuts made to eliminate the tax increase, including the industrial recruiter position, the $1 million road improvement funding and $106,532 to match a grant to fund a railroad spur at an industrial park in Jellico.

Commissioner Rusty Orick pointed out the cuts were made in order to pass a budget with a zero tax increase, and Slusher had been critical of the tax increase that would have funded the items had they been left in.

“(You) gave us a speech for about 15 minutes telling us how bad a job we was doing,” Orick said. “You’re wanting $1 million for roads. Where do you want that to come from? We came up with a zero tax increase Jim. We can’t wave the magic wand and make everything fall in place.”

In June, Slusher addressed the commission and expressed dissatisfaction with a 16 percent property tax increase Jeff Marlow, Campbell County director of finance, had proposed to finance some of the proposals in the budget

“Mr. Marlow, director of finance, has proposed a (16 percent) increase in property taxes, the largest tax increase in the history of the county,” Slusher had said.

Slusher doesn’t favor a tax increase, nor does he support the cuts the budget and finance committee made to avoid one. He feels the county should cut positions instead.

“We’ve got to tighten the belt,” Slusher said. “We’ve cut no positions.”

He pointed to the school system, which eliminated 20 positions.

“If we cut people’s jobs, those are taxpayers,” Commissioner Steve Rutherford said. He pointed out that people who lose their jobs could lose their homes, which would lose the county property tax revenue.

“If we cut these people’s jobs, who’s gonna pay taxes?” Rutherford asked.

It isn’t the government’s job to be the biggest employer, but industry’s, Slusher said.

“I’m not saying fire people,” Slusher said. “I’m saying let’s address the priorities.”

Slusher asked the commission to reopen the proposed budget for reconsideration of the funding priorities.

 While commissioners Tom Hatmaker and Marie Ayers asked to reopen the budget at the meeting Monday, some of the other commissioners responded differently to Slusher’s request.

Commissioner David Adkins stood by the budget and finance committee’s decision.

“In my mind, at the time, it was the best thing to do, and it still is, because there was no (loss of services) and nobody lost their jobs,” Adkins said.

County Commissioner Marie Ayers asked to again put the sales tax on a referendum in the November election.

“I want the taxpayers to understand the financial condition of our county,” Ayers said. “It’s the only place I can find in the budget to make a dent in our road system.”