Tax Increase Possible For Coffee County 2015-16 Budget

Graphic credit: DonkeyHotey/Flickr.

Graphic credit: DonkeyHotey/Flickr.

Coffee County EMS Director Michael Bonner appeared before the budget and finance committee recently to request $175,000 more than last year for the upcoming 2015-2016 fiscal year budget, which begins on July 1st. EMS costs and revenues are now captured in a separate fund known as the 118 Fund to keep better track of the actual costs and revenues of the ambulance operation. Since ambulance service revenues generally fall short of expenses by roughly $500,000 or more each year, the county general fund is required to cover any of those deficits. Because of this, the annual property tax bill shows that 5 cents worth of property tax is dedicated to the ambulance service. Accounts and Budgets Director Marianna Edinger said that the additional $175,000 would require a 2-cent tax increase unless certain expenses can be covered by other available sources of revenue. Bonner said that nearly all of the additional funding needed for next year is for items he has no control over such as salary increases that were adopted by the commission last year.
In other county news, Dr LaDonna McFall director of county schools recently requested an additional $1.4 million over last year’s budget to pay for four new teachers, four new school buses, salary increases across the board and more.
A $1.4 million budget increase for non-school departments would require a 14-cent tax hike. When it comes to schools, annual budget increases for the county school system require twice as much due to the state-mandated revenue sharing requirement with the school systems in Tullahoma and Manchester, even if the other schools are not requesting additional funds. This makes the actual budget request climb to $2.8 million.
County departments other than schools and the ambulance service are asking for around $625,000 in extra funding for their budgets for 2015-16. If all request are granted this could mean a property tax increase of approximately 36-cents.
One measure the Budget and Finance Committee hopes the full commission will do is to establish a capital projects fund for vehicles and other equipment costing $5,000 or more using surplus revenues of $325,000 available in the General Debt Service Fund. The new funding mechanism would improve cash flows, smooth out annual operating budgets for several departments and prevent a tax rate increase of 3.25 cents.
The county commission will meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. to further discuss the budget.