BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County Commission approved on Friday a drastically reduced list of annual direct allocations and contributions to area organizations.
There are 19 organizations that within the past five years received an allocation or contribution from the county. This year, however, only four survived the cut.
Three of the four remaining agencies relate to public safety and received their full contributions.
* Greene County Emergency Communications District (911) for $120,000;
*Greene County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments' insurance for $102,448; and,
* Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad for $4,900.
The sole remaining contribution went to the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library, which is a joint venture with the Town of Greeneville.
For the past several years, the library has received $84,500 from the county, which Greeneville then matches.
This year, however, Greeneville provided the library with its normal allocation, but Greene County cut the allocation by the average cut made to departments operating out of the county's General Fund.
This cut was just over 1 percent, leaving this year's allocation to the library at $83,622.
Because the library operates under a regional agreement through the state, there is a mandate for "maintenance of effort" that requires each year's local funding to be no less than the prior year's.
Not meeting this requirement could potentially result in the state pulling hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of funding and materials from the library.
County Mayor Alan Broyles, however, has said that he has contacted Secretary of State Tre Hargett, who oversees the state's public libraries, and will soon be sending in a request for a one-year waiver allowing the county's relatively small percentage-based funding cut.
This cut, along with the complete defunding of other organizations, will save the county approximately $126,000 annually.
It was not without its controversy, however, and barely received a majority vote of 11-8, with Commissioners Tim White and Rennie Hopson absent.
Voting in favor of the change were Commissioners John Carter, Robert Bird, Lloyd "Hoot" Bowers, Phil King, M.C. Rollins, Anthony Sauceman, Hilton Seay, Margaret Greenway, Nathan Holt, David Crum and Jimmy Sams.
Opposed were Commissioners Wade McAmis, Fred Malone, Ted Hensley, Robin Quillen, John Waddle, Bill Moss, Bill Dabbs and Jan Kiker.
Dabbs was the most vocal in opposition to the cut, calling instead for the commission to "phase out" this funding. He commended the County Budget & Finance Committee for their work, but opposed this measure.
"You took money from some and nothing from others," he said. "I will not vote in favor of something like this due to the fact that you cut some and not others."
TENN. VOCATIONAL CENTER
During the public hearing held just prior to the commission's meeting, two representatives from one of the organizations that lost all county funding, the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center, requested that the commission reconsider.
Manager Michele Keffer explained that the center provides free vocational training to adults with disabilities, giving them the skills needed to obtain jobs that pay back into the tax base.
She also said that there are five positions at the center that will be in jeopardy since the majority of the center's funding comes as a federal match to the local funding -- $2.33 in federal funds for every $1 in local funds.
Commissioner Ted Hensley advised that the center should develop an alternate business plan that would allow it to turn a profit rather than relying on government funding.
Commissioner Robert Bird also objected to the use of the term "free," saying that the services are not free if the center asks for taxpayer funding to pay for them.
"It comes back in the form of taxes," Keffer replied.
The commission also heard from Doug Fezell, who serves on the center's board. He said that the center generates about $430,000 per year in the community.
"We don't have enough money to fund all these organizations without raising taxes," Bird replied. "I know that they all have some good causes. I recognize that.
"Would you propose to these commissioners that you're speaking to that they fund a property tax increase on everyone in Greene County?"
Fezell said that he would not, but that he would ask the commission to consider again the value of funding a program providing jobs to the community.
Also during the public hearing, the commission heard from Lindy Riley, of Grapevine Trail, who asked how the commission was planning for next year's budget in light of this year's deficits and dwindling savings.
"What are we going to do next year when we've spent our little nest egg and we don't have any funds to dip into?" she asked.
Broyles called on Budget Director Mary Shelton to answer Riley.
"I don't have a crystal ball," Shelton responded. "I don't know what we're going to do. Our [savings] are dwindling. It will be a very difficult year next year."
Broyles agreed, but noted that the savings are known as "rainy day funds."
"It is raining," he said.
Finally, the commission heard from Larry Parman, of Rolling Hills Road, and Judith Sexton, of Buckingham Road.
Parman questioned county spending and called on commissioners to not approve expenditures that will not be paid for in their lifetimes.
"Get your budget in shape and do it now," he said. "You people have got children to think about."
Sexton also commented on spending, calling for more cuts and consideration of those on fixed incomes.
Finally, she expressed her objection to federal grants going to the Greeneville-Greene County Municipal Airport, saying that she believes that too much taxpayer money supports the airport.