Submitted by Smith County Mayor, Jeff Mason.
I wanted to update the citizens on the budget plans we have worked on this Spring. Each year, we begin internally discussing budgets in January and February. Budget work sheets are sent to elected officials and department heads in February each year. Elected officials and department heads compile their projected budgets for the next year and return the forms. The Budget and Finance Committee, which is made up of 11 county commissioners, begins budget meetings in March. During these meetings, elected officials and department heads present their proposed budget, explaining why they have requested the funds they have for the next year. This year we ended those in late May. Below I will lay out some of the high points of the proposed budget the Commission will vote on June 27th. We are mandated by the state to pass a balanced budget by July 1st. If a budget is not passed, then a continuing budget based on the previous year’s budget is in place until a new budget is passed.
The state certified tax rate will be $1.7331. This rate is set by the state and determined by the new property values and what the rate should be set at to bring in the same amount of property tax dollars as the previous year. As all of you know, our property values increased significantly in the past 5 years. I believe the actual increase in values was 43%. Our property tax rate last year after reducing it 25 cents was set at $2.48. In full transparency, I will use my home as an example of how this effects your tax bill.
- Total Appraisal $229,000
- Assessment 25%
- Total Assessment $57,250
- $57,250 X .0248 Tax Rate= Tax Bill Due Oct 1, 2021 -$1419.80
- Total Appraisal $329,900
- Assessment 25%
- Total Assessment $82,475
- $82,475 X .01731 Tax Rate = Tax Bill Due Oct 1, 2022 -$1429.37
I know this will be different for every parcel across the county and some will go up more and others may decrease.
We had several different allotments state and federal money that was directly allocated to the county over the past 2 years from the Pandemic. There were heavy restrictions placed on some of the money and others were not. Some of those restrictions have been eased and others have not. Below I will lay out the plan I proposed and that has passed the Budget and Finance committee.
From our Federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Funds, $1.5 million will be placed in a Highway Capital Projects account. This money will be only used to buy oil and rock for road improvements, a chip spreading machine, and an engineering study to develop a master road plan.
Also, I am proposing to shift 17 cents from the General Fund to Highway Capital Projects account which will add another approximately $1 million into the Highway Capital Projects account for the 2022-2023 budget year. This is only for one year and it is because we have a healthy enough fund balance to support this for one year. If revenues are more than expected and costs are less than projected for 22-23, we may be able to do that again in the 23-24 budget.
I know how bad our roads are and how much work that needs to be done. This not enough to fix them all but it is a start. Road Superintendent Mickey Barrett will develop a list of roads that this money will be used on and will develop a plan to fix those roads. He will then report on the road improvement progress to the Road and Bridges Committee and full Commission as it is made.
We will allocate $512,000 dollars of our American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to either match a grant that DTC has applied for or directly pay DTC a portion of the total project. DTC has agreed to either use grant funds and the local match, or their own capital dollars and the local match to finish supplying fiber internet in Smith County. Within the next two to three years, every home should have access to high-speed fiber internet. DTC, North Central and Twin Lakes have worked hard to get grants or have spent their own money to high-speed internet throughout Smith County.
TDEC ARP Water, Sewer, and Wastewater Grants
I have proposed to set aside another $700,000 of ARP funds to provide match money to utility districts to do water line extension or upgrade projects. Smith County has been allocated $3.9 million from the state ARP Funds to do these projects. We must match up to 35% of that money with our own federal ARP money. My plan will be to split that 35% with utility districts to get their projects done. My one desire is to make sure this money is used to get water to people that do not currently have access to water.
State of Tennessee Direct County Grant
We received $342,000 dollars in a one-time direct allocation from the Governor and the State Legislature in July of 2021. I have proposed to set aside that money to make the needed repairs and or replace the playground equipment at Kidz Central and other projects at Crump Paris and the Ag Center complex.
County Capital Project Fund
We started a Capital Projects fund in the 19-20 budget year. The purpose of this fund was to avoid the county having to borrow money to replace police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, etc. We place approximately $400,000 per year in this fund. This year we will buy the sheriff’s patrol 3 cars, which cost more than $40,000 each and an ambulance remount, which is over $160,000 and fund the match portion of the CDBG (Community Development Block) Grant that is purchasing a new rescue squad truck for the south side of the county, for which our match portion will be approximately $60,000. We do not spend every dime in this fund. We are trying to meet our needs but also build a balance for future purchases of fire trucks and turn out gear that will be needed in the next 10 years.
This proposed plan does not fix every need we have in the county, but it does make some improvements. The library, the old courthouse and the Turner Admin building still need updates and repairs. I will continue to try and make those happen as we have the funds.
Thank you for allowing and trusting me to lead our County. I love my job and I love this county and its people. – Jeff Mason