BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Many Greene Countians may wonder just how much money the recently approved 20-cent county property tax increase will produce, and how those funds will be distributed.
On Monday, Aug. 13, the County Commission voted 10-7 to approve a 20-cent property tax increase that had been proposed by Commissioner Bill Moss.
In his proposal, Moss detailed the following breakdown of the uses to which the additional 20 cents would be put:
* 15 cents of the increase was to go to local education, divided between the Greene County School System and the Greeneville City Schools on the basis of average daily attendance, as state law requires;
* 1.88 cents was to go to the county's General Fund: the fund from which most of the county government's departments operate;
* 0.12 cents was to go to the Solid Waste Fund; and,
* 3 cents was to go to the County Highway Fund.
Each cent of the county's property tax levy, according to County Budget Director Mary Shelton, currently brings in just over $131,300.
The total estimated revenue the tax increase will produce is therefore nearly $2.63 million ($131,300 times 20).
Before the 20-cent increase, the county tax rate on property outside the Greeneville town limits was approximately $1.51 per $100 of assessed value.
The county tax rate on property inside the Greeneville town limits was approximately $1.31 per $100 of assessed value.
The difference between the two rates is that property-owners inside Greeneville do not pay the $.19 per $100 of assessed value that goes to the county school system's Education Debt Service Fund.
Prior to the 20-cent increase, the total anticipated expenditures of all county budgets was approximately $85 million.
COUNTY SCHOOL DEFICIT
Of the county school system's 15-cent allotment from the 20-cent increase, 13 cents was designated to cover the county school system's anticipated $1,189,000 budget deficit.
While 13 cents should bring in an estimated total of $1,706,900, by state law the money must be split between the county and the city school systems based on average daily attendance.
In recent years, this split has been approximately 70 percent/30 percent, with the majority going to the county school system.
Factoring in this split meant that exactly 12.94 cents would be needed to cover the county school system's anticipated deficit: a number that Commissioner Moss then rounded up to 13 cents.
The remaining 2 cents of the 15 cents allocated to the schools was to provide 2 percent raises to the county school system's classified, or non-professional, employees (those who are not teachers, principals, etc.).
These raises in salaries, and the related benefits, cost the county school system approximately $108,000 of the nearly $184,000 that will be received from the 2-cent portion of the tax-rate increase.
The county school board had already budgeted a state-required 2.5 percent raise for certified, or professional, employees.
The 2.5 percent increase was mandated for the part of certified employees' salaries provided by the state, which is by far the largest part.
But the school board chose to apply the 2.5 percent to the employees' full salaries, including the locally-provided portion.
The remainder of the portion of the tax increase proceeds that comes to the county school system was budgeted between three areas of the county schools that had experienced budget cuts in previous years, including:
* $30,000 for library books,
* $20,000 for instructional supplies,
* and just over $30,000 for building improvements.
Greene County Director of Schools Dr.Vicki Kirk described the replacement of funds for library books as "much, much needed."
Building improvements were also important, she said, because all such funding had been cut in recent years, allowing no monies to be set aside for even emergency improvements.
Kirk also noted that the system tries each year to save remaining funds in the fund balance.
"That's good; that's responsible management," Kirk said.
Revenues such as these, however, must be budgeted, she explained.
CITY SCHOOL DEFICIT
As for the Greeneville School System, the approximately $591,000 received from a 30 percent portion of the proceeds of the 15 cents from the 20-cent tax increase will aid in balancing what would have been the system's $500,000 budget deficit.
The Greeneville Board of Education budgeted for enough funding from the revenue increase to cover the deficit rather than using the system's savings.
Another portion of the city school system's revenue from the additional tax will go to the Greene Techonology Center, for which the Greeneville City Schools serves as fiscal agent.
City Schools Chief Financial Officer Nicole Buchanan said she has not yet calculated the exact amount that will go to the Technology Center.
But she said she anticipates that, after the allocation to the Center, some portion of the $91,000 will remain.
Such remaining funds may be used for maintenance or capital projects, Buchanan said.
GENERAL FUND DEFICIT
The 1.88 cents of the 20-cent increase designated for the County General Fund will provide $247,000, Budget Director Shelton said.
Commissioner Moss designated this portion of the increase to provide a 2 percent raise for county employees who were not elected officials or school system employees.
(Editor's Note: The state mandated a 1.6 percent salary raise for almost all elected county officials this year.
(That raise affected those holding the offices of County Mayor, Sheriff, County Clerk, Circuit Court Clerk, Trustee, Register of Deeds, Assessor of Property, General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge, Criminal Court Judge, Circuit Court Judge, Administrator of Elections, Road Superintendent, and Clerk and Master.
(There was no increase for County Commissioners, who receive small token payments for their service.)
The county employees' raise provided in Commissioner Moss's successful motion is expected to consume $223,500 of the amount derived from the tax increase, leaving $23,500 to use to help reduce the county's deficit.
This amount would reduce the projected County General Fund deficit for 2012-2013 from $820,600 to just over $797,000.
"So we're better off, but not by a whole lot -- not when you look at the grand scheme of things," Shelton said.
SOLID WASTE SAVINGS
The Greene County Commission alloted the County Solid Waste Department an 0.12-cent increase, which Shelton said should produce almost $15,800 in new revenue.
Of this amount, the 2-percent salary increase for Solid Waste Department employees consumed nearly $15,500, leaving about $300, she noted.
This money (about $300), the director said, was allocated to the Solid Waste Department's reserve fund, bringing the reserve fund up to an anticipated $386,500 by the end of the 2012-2013 fiscal year on June 30, 2013.
Moss's proposal, which was approved by the County Commission majority, allotted 3 cents to the County Highway Fund -- not only to cover the 2-percent raises for employees, but also, he said, to boost dwindling Highway Department reserve funds.
The 3-cent increase is expected to bring in about $394,000, of which just under $50,000 will go to the employee raises.
The remaining $345,000, Shelton said, has been added as revenue to help offset the Highway Fund's $1.4 million anticipated budget deficit, which was to be covered from the Highway Department's reserve funds.
With the increase, the Highway Department deficit was reduced to just over $1 million, leaving the Highway Fund reserve with an anticipated total of just over $2,280,000 at the end of 2012-2013.