Commissioners end last session without spending plan

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

County commissioners reset the property tax rate at $3.09 Monday, but no budget was approved because the school board hadn't delivered its part, so new commissioners face that task next month.

The 15-minute meeting was the last for a panel with members who'd been elected four years ago, as well as several who had been appointed as a result of several resignations arising from reasons as simple as change of address and as complicated as conflict of interest.

Acknowledging the end of a set of commissioners -- with 10 new members to be sworn in at 4 p.m. Thursday, outgoing Commissioner Billy Spivey thanked his fellow commissioners for the opportunity to serve as their chairman.

"We may not have been able to agree on every topic, but we could ... move on to the next," Spivey said, wishing all "God's speed" in their next endeavors.

He's running for a seat in the state House, so he didn't seek re-election as a commissioner.

Spivey then turned to Commissioner Tony White who's enjoyed making motions to adjourn.

Commissioner Jimmy Stitt, who's leaving the panel to spend more time with his young children, seconded the motion by soon-to-be former Commissioner White.

Commissioner Mary Ann Neill, Spivey's predecessor as chairman, interjected that there are keys to the Courthouse Annex that must be returned to Budget Director Freda Terry.

Amid comments from others that perhaps the keys could be returned to County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett, Neill pointed out that some committees had not filed their final set of minutes.

"You have a motion," White reminded Spivey. Stitt reasserted his second and the meeting dissolved after a few announcements such as a committee meeting to start immediately after the session.

Re-elected Commissioner Mickey King, still chairman of the Budget Committee, was asked what would be done about the budget that, technically, was to have started on July 1, the first day of this fiscal year.

"I don't know," King said during a committee considering grants to the Emergency Management Agency.

Schools Director Roy Dukes was present Monday night, but he made no announcements to the commission. After the meeting, he was talking with Liggett.

The schools budget is the largest single part of the county budget. It's been late in previous years, largely for the same reason. Commissioners declined to appropriate more money, claiming there wasn't enough, and school board members, therefore, couldn't get a recommendation for their budget from the Budget Committee because it exceeded funding from the previous year.

As the officials and some of their successors were dispersing, Commissioner Wilford "Spider" Wentzel was advising his successor, John Richard Hill Jr., that given the combination of accounting rules enforced by the Comptroller of the Treasury and the Basic Education Program enacted by state lawmakers, it's impossible to cut the school budget.

Only 17 of the 18 commissioners were present Monday night. The missing man was Larry McKnight, executive director of the Tennessee National Guard Association, who's said that when he retires he wants to buy a motorcycle and grow a ponytail like Wentzel's.