Dandridge Says Yes

editorial-logo3This week the Town of Dandridge accepted the funding level proposed by the Jefferson County Budget Committee and laid the issue of fire service outside the city limits of the Town to rest, at least for the upcoming fiscal year. A hot topic issue since the Town, along with the City of White Pine, proposed going to a city only fire department to answer funding problems due to inadequate County contribution for service in the County. Last month, the Jefferson County Budget Committee offered a compromise in funding that would increase the County contribution to Dandridge, White Pine and New Market. Nobody got exactly what they requested and the County ended up hitting the general fund balance $25,000 in addition to the overall funding after moving other funds around to get to a total increase of $55,000 spread across those three departments. Like I said, it wasn’t a windfall but it was a step in the right direction and what is important is that the County’s good faith effort was taken in good faith by the Town and now the potentially impacted citizens can rest easy.

I have watched from the cheap seats as the fire department funding drama unfolded and it has been quite a show. Truth is that nearly as much work and compromise went into that $55,000 increase as has gone into much, larger financial deals. The win for the Town of Dandridge and the City of White Pine is two fold. One, they broke a dozen year stalemate on increasing fire department funding which is no small feat. The second is that they set the precedent for the County recognizing the municipalities as being separate from non profits. Both are big wins and, even though the increase in funding is shy of their requests and is not yet equitable, Rome wasn’t built in a day. For the County, the wins is that the increase in funding, which by consensus was needed, came without an increase in property tax. And, for those that have been watching the budget process, that was the goal. No property tax increase. The Budget Committee went back and forth on amounts to increase and smaller amounts were brought to motion but, in the end, a compromise was struck.

Some worried that Dandridge would hold tight to their $100,000 funding request but they worried for naught. The decision to accept the $85,000 offered in the proposed budget was unanimous and it was clear that the Town leaders were glad to be able to keep servicing outside the city limits now that some of the financial responsibility had been lifted from the City Property Tax payers.

Commissioner McGraw spoke about the compromise and the bond that exists between the municipalities and the County. When one succeeds, we all succeed. And he is right. To pit White Pine or Dandridge or any of our municipalities against the other or the County is akin to your arm waging war against your chest. It is counter productive and only ends in unnecessary pain.

I, for one, am seriously glad to see this hot topic put to bed. Of course, the full body of the County Commission could derail the compromise but I find that highly unlikely. We skirted the edge of the fire and came out a little scorched but without any real burns. It could have turned out much differently if cooler heads had not prevailed. So, thanks to the power that be in both the municipalities and the County. We have good, strong first responders in Jefferson County and I am thankful everyday for their service.

Now that the County and Municipalities have modeled the art of compromise, perhaps the lesson can transfer to other decisions. Every debate does not have to end in war and every opposing view pointed does not have to create an enemy. A new concept as we move on to discuss economic development and the direction for Jefferson County? Perhaps we are finally learning our lesson.

Source: K. Depew, News Director

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