Jefferson County Commission Chairman Carmichael Talks Budget, Priorities and Making Ends Meet
Jefferson County Commission Chairman Jim Carmichael sat down with the Jefferson County Post for a brief interview about hot topics of interest in Jefferson County.
JCP-Budget season is about to get underway in Jefferson County. This year you sit on the Budget Committee as well as Chairing the County Commission. What do you think the biggest hurdle will be this budget season?
Chairman-The biggest challenge could be a slight decrease in sales tax. There has been a two month decrease for November and December of 2016 and we will have to see if that continues over the next few months. There are also several school projects that don’t have adequate funding and that will be impacting to the budget this year.
JCP-Do you anticipate any changes in non profit funding this year or will it stay the same?
Chairman-I think that non profits will pretty much stay the same as last year. Any additional funding will be hard to come by with the way the budget is right now. We need to shore up the County fund balance and I hope that we will be able to maintain the non profit funding that we did last year.
JCP-What about the Commerce Park that has been proposed at White Pine, is there money for this project?
Chairman-There is not enough money right now for this project. I think that it would likely take a tax increase to pay for the project. I am concerned about the infrastructure that is available. Infrastructure is high dollar cost and this project just doesn’t have it available. It would be smarter to locate closer to the four lane and the infrastructure would likely be better there. I would like to see a Commerce Park for Jefferson County. I question if we have already missed the boat because other neighboring counties already have opportunities in place. We need to look for specific businesses that can have the most impact with the least impact. We would have to make some deals with abatement to fill any Commerce Park and it may not be profitable in the long run for Jefferson County.
JCP-In your capacity as Chairman of the County Commission you also sit on the EDA Board and there have been some changes in that area. How are things going in that area?
Chairman-I think that it is going great. Hiring Scott Faulkenberry was a good move and we are establishing our identity as a marketing arm for the economic benefit of Jefferson County. The difference in transparency is astronomical. The separation from the Chamber of Commerce in regard to duties has made it easier for citizens to know what we do. All of the members of EDA are more than willing to do what is necessary for the people of Jefferson County for growth. We are exploring more options for Jefferson County and are always willing to listen. There has been talk of going to open meetings and I am in support of that move. I will always support open meetings and transparency. We don’t lock the door and there is nothing to hide.
JCP-What is on the horizon for the Jefferson County Commission?
Chairman-We have the Commerce Park proposal on the schedule. Nyrstar issue has been hot topic in Jefferson County but that is really outside the scope of the County Commission. I have no idea what is going to happen when and if Nyrstar comes for a renewal on their tax abatement. I am not in favor of how the residents of that community were treated and believe that it has been communicated to Nyrstar that it is not how we want to have our citizens treated in Jefferson County. My biggest concern is our taxes. Is Jefferson County getting our money’s worth for what we are spending? The only way that I would ever support a tax increase is if it is necessary for something of the up most importance to Jefferson County. It would have to meet that test for me to even consider being on board for a tax increase and right now I just don’t see that kind of need. I would like to see the people of Jefferson County communicate with their Commissioners on a regular basis and not just when it is a hot button topic. We need to keep the lines of communication open and the people need to be more involved with their government. It is better to act on the front end than complain on the back end. Come and see us. Get involved.