JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – The Campbell County Commission met in-person for the first time since March for its September workshop on Monday night and among the topics of discussion was a plan to at least partially reopen the courthouse in the near future.The commission began the workshop with a lengthy presentation on Zoom from a representative of Granicus, a firm that specializes in helping local governments more effectively collect taxes on short-term rental properties such as Air B&B, houseboat and cabin rentals and other properties that should be covered by the county’s hotel/motel tax.

The representative, who described himself as the “resident expert” on short term rentals, explained how his company’s extensive data base can identify all properties that are advertising online and estimate total rental income based on reservation data, reviews, etc.  He told commissioners  Campbell County contains roughly 450 “unique rental units” that should be paying around $700,000 in annual taxes while the county is only collecting around $250,000.

“Some of these owners are small and may not even be aware of the county’s tax requirement,” he said, adding his company already has contracts with other Tennessee counties, including Davidson (Nashville) which recorded $3 million in one year of uncollected revenue.  A number of commissioners had questions, beginning with Scott Kitts, who asked, “What is your company’s take?”

A long answer finally ended with Mayor E.L. Morton summing it up with, “We currently collect around $270,000 and you estimate you could help us collect $630,000.  Your part would be $45,000 for the trade off.”  Ralph Davis asked for phone numbers to check references and Chairman Johnny Bruce then referred the matter to the commission’s Delinquent Tax Committee for further study.

Morton also told the commission the time to begin plans for opening the courthouse back up for public access is coming soon.  “Property tax notices are ready to go out and we need taxpayer access to the trustee’s office,” Morton said.  He added that another bailiff and additional metal detectors need to be made available for the entrance leading to the trustee and mayor’s offices.

“Monty may need to set up a tent outside to collect taxes,” Rusty Orick said, with  Morton replying, “That’s a lot of cash involved. The courthouse is a soft target, even in a non-COVID year.”  Morton was asked to discuss the matter with the sheriff and report back on any proposals.

Another topic that will get more attention in coming months is expansion of broadband service.  Zachary Marlow asked that broadband expansion be added to the agenda and a resolution was proposed asking broadband providers to “evaluate expanding their services” into communities up the valley and eastward toward the lake along with “any area lacking broadband availability in Campbell County.”  (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 09/17/2020-6AM)

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