Financial issues face commission

Friday, February 20, 2009

Marshall County commissioners on Monday are scheduled to consider borrowing $3.9 million, hiring a tax attorney, protesting a prospective state budget cut, and doubling money for low income residents' heating bills.

Those are just four of the topics set for the 6 p.m. meeting in the second floor conference room of the Marshall County Courthouse Annex on Lewisburg's public square. It's the monthly session of the commission, for which recommendations have been forwarded from a series of committee meetings.

Some of the particulars of those four items are as follows.

The sale of $3,950,000 worth of water revenue and tax bonds is to finance part of the construction of water pipelines being laid by and for the county's Board of Public Utilities. The debt, which is to be repaid by water customers' bills, carries an annual interest rate of 3.625 percent.

Hiring a tax attorney is required because Smurfit-Stone has filed for protection against creditors by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. While the petition to the court is to provide time for the company's reorganization, Smurfit-Stone continues its business of manufacturing boxes here and the case requires the county to ask the court for payment of property taxes by the company. Lewisburg-based attorney Roger Brandon was recommended as the tax attorney. A hiring decision is anticipated Monday night.

State budget cutting is seen as threatening the continued operation of the University of Tennessee Education and Research Center in Marshall County and so County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett has drafted a resolution "to protest the removal of the Jersey cattle herd and eventual closure" of the U-T dairy farm on New Lake Road.

"The center provides a stimulus to Marshall County's local economy of $750,000 to $1 million" annually, according to the resolution to be introduced by Commissioner Tony White. The center was established in 1929 as the U.S. Dairy Experiment Station "and has played a significant role in the improvement of dairy livestock and the dairy industry in Tennessee," according to the resolution.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Mickey King, chairman of the County Budget Committee, is sponsoring a resolution to provide another $4,000 from the county treasury to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

The federally-funded program comes through the state's Department of Economic and Community Development which announced in December that local communities' donations could be tripled with a set aside of LIHEAP funds to pay power bills for households with incomes that are lower than certain income limits.

The commission was asked last month if it would fund $10,364, then the administrating agency could apply $20,729 in LIHEAP funds that would increase the assistance in this county. Commissioners last month decided against funding the entire $10,364 and offered $4,000.

According to County Budget Committee discussion Wednesday evening, other agencies, notably the Duck River Electric Membership Corp. which provided $3,750, have contributed to the LIHEAP fund.

Members of the Lewisburg City Council have provided $2,500 to be matched by LIHEAP so customers of Lewisburg Electric Service could be helped by LIHEAP, and the city's power board has voted to participate the same way by funding $3,000 per month for four months.

Even with those contributions, the South Central Human Resources Agency has spent the lion's share of the funds for residents beyond the city line, according to discussion during the Budget Committee meeting Wednesday when a second resolution was recommended to the Commission for adoption Monday.