JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – The Campbell County Commission met in a special called budget & finance meeting on Tuesday to reverse an earlier vote that would have effectively increased the county’s property tax rate by nineteen cents.

Scott Kitts quickly made a motion to set the tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year at $2.0659, which is the certified rate set by the Tennessee Dept. of Revenue as a result of the recent property reappraisal.

Property Assessor Brandon Partin was asked to explain the process for setting the certified rate, telling commissioners, “Anything above the certified rate set in a reappraisal year is an increase.” Partin pointed out that state law requires any rate approved above the certified tax rate to be publicly announced and public hearings held before the final rate is approved.

Last Thursday, at what was supposed to be the final budget & finance meeting, the commission approved a budget with a tax rate at the same level, $2.25, as the previous year. Public criticism came quickly, with Internet and talk show critics blasting the commission for increasing taxes.

It appeared on Tuesday that most commissioners did not understand how a property reappraisal works and voted last week without realizing that they were actually passing a tax increase.

Partin told the commissioners that the $2.0659 rate reflects the increase in property values. The certified rate set by the state is calculated to bring in the same amount of revenue as the previous tax year. Anything above the certified rate amounts to a tax increase.

Rusty Orick observed that the state had set the certified rate on May 24 and asked why commissioners were not informed at that time. Partin replied that the rate could not be finalized until the county board of tax equalization completed its work of hearing any appeals from taxpayers.

Ralph Davis criticized Partin for not keeping the commission informed but Partin responded, “I’m not here to argue. Don’t tell me I’m not doing my job. Technically I’m not supposed to announce the certified rate until after the county board adjourns.”

Davis continued, at one point even exchanging words with someone in the audience, until budget committee chairman Johnny Bruce intervened, calling for order.

Dewayne Baird then brought up several homes that he found had been appraised at values considerably below the sale price. Partin explained that the process of reappraisal takes four years. In order to treat all taxpayers equally, new homes must be appraised at a rate equal to those that were appraised at the beginning of the process.

“Anything else is a spot appraisal and will result in a state audit,” Partin explained.

Kitts finally called for the question on his motion, cutting off debate. Tyler King seconded the motion, which passed unanimously. The commission then voted 15-0 to approve the $2.0659 tax rate.

Orick then made a motion to request the assessor’s office to provide the commission with information on the past five years of changes in appraisals. That motion passed 14-1 with King voting “no.”

The commission, now faced with a deficit in the budget they had approved last week, approved a resolution authorizing a budget change to the county’s capital projects fund to offset the $1.4 million in lost revenue. A budget line appropriating $1,908,989 for hot mix asphalt was cut to $500,309 to make up the deficit and balance the budget.

Finally, Orick made a motion to approve the revised consolidated 2019-20 budget for Campbell County, with the commission approving that motion unanimously and quickly adjourning.    (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 06/26/2019-6AM)