All funds approved totaled $125,292,000. Commissioners voted 13-1 to pass the budget.
The budget does not necessitate a tax increase. A change in the tax rate will come to the county as a result of the state-required reappraisal of property. Property values in many areas of Bradley County decreased. The state will certify a new tax rate for the county for the coming year to ensure the same level of revenue is brought in next year as this fiscal year.
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said the state has not released the rate to the county, yet. Because of this, commissioners delayed setting the tax rate and the fire tax rate.
Fifth District Commissioner Jeff Yarber was the lone vote against the motion to approve. Yarber said this was the first time in his 11 years as a commissioner that he has voted against the budget.
“I can’t support the budget with the tax rate the way it is,” Yarber said.
He said he understood that the certified tax rate would have to change but said passing the budget based on current revenues meant some county residents would be paying more.
“I know you (Davis) said no tax increase and I respect that, but not everybody’s property taxes stayed the same,” Yarber said.
Yarber said many property values in his area actually went up.
“I know I’m one of those guys [who says] if you have a problem you need to have a solution. I don’t have a solution [other than] cutting the budget, which is something we’ve said we’re not going to do,” Yarber said.
Also during the meeting:
- Covenant Hills subdivision homeowners association president Gary Nowlin and secretary Elizabeth Pace expressed concerns over the Ocoee Utility District requiring backflow valves on sprinkler systems.
“Ocoee Utility is saying that state law has [made this a] requirement, however we cannot seem to find the appropriate law on the books that they are quoting,” said 4th District Commissioner J. Adam Lowe.
County Attorney Crystal Freiberg said many law search databases are a paid subscription service, making it difficult for specific laws to be found on the Internet.
“Our issue primarily is it is a requirement that is not in the code,” Pace said.
She said a resident in the subdivision found a copy of the law being cited by the district. The information said the law was not enforced.
Pace said the law is not being enforced anywhere else.
“We have not seen any evidence that this is being enforced anywhere else,” Nowlin said
“It is to the tune of about a $1,000 repair,” Pace said.
The utility has listed possible contamination of the water system from sprinklers and hoses as the reason backflow systems are needed.
“They are claiming that fertilizers that are used on lawns could get into the irrigation system and then back flow into their water system,” Pace said
Nowlin said the utility is also requiring residents to have the system inspected on a yearly basis by a Ocoee Utility inspector for a $75 to $100 fee.
“There are some things here that are of concern,” Lowe said. “The appearance is not always the reality but at the very least there needs to be a little PR behind this to clarify if there is a misunderstanding.”
Lowe said since it was citing a state law, he would like to see from the utility a larger-scale, long-term plan for implementing the systems, rather than just a plan from one subdivision.
Nowlin said the utility has given subdivision residents 90 days to make the changes.
The Commission asked Freiberg to find the law. Yarber also suggested having a representative from the utility talk to then Commission about the issue.
- Animal control was again discussed. Yarber asked if the county had a plan to put in place to address animal control. Chairman Louie Alford said no proposal has been made at this time. He said there are 45 Tennessee counties that do not have local government-backed animal control. During communication from the audience, resident Dan Rawls said private industry should fill the void. He said those who desire an animal shelter for Bradley County animals should get together to create a solution. Cleveland Animal control is no longer responding to calls in the county.
Some have worried about who to call in emergency wildlife situations. In an email interview, Gene Smith of Cleveland Animal control said the department has responded to emergency calls in the past. However, the department deals mostly with domestic animals and responded to calls of snakes in houses, for example, “only a couple times a year.”
“The only other calls pertaining to wildlife that we would respond to are where the animal is injured or sick. There are licensed wildlife services that assist the TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency) in removal of wildlife, such as Allied Wildlife Management and Trutech Wildlife Removal, for all wildlife problems,” Smith said.
The TWRA can be contacted for a list of other resources available in dealing with wildlife issues.
- A rezoning request to change a piece of land from agriculture (FAR) to commercial (C2) was passed. Sixth District Commissioner Mel Griffith said the lot is next to a gas station and the change was made so that an underground gasoline storage tank could be put on the property.
- The Commission also passed a policy pertaining to departments receiving county funding that are run by a board of directors. The policy instructs boards not to hire replacement county positions for retiring personnel unless they are sure there is enough county funding in the department budget to cover the salary.