Jefferson County 2020-2021 Budget Approved

Despite the difficulty of navigating budget meetings due to space restrictions associated with the Covid-19 virus, the Jefferson County Budget Committee managed to approve the County side of the fiscal year 2020-21 budget at their last April budget meeting. The recommended document, which will go before the full body for approval, came in with no property tax increase and no use of fund balance to balance the budget. Budget Committee Chairman Scarlett stated that Jefferson County Finance Director Potts had negotiated with County Department Heads and spent many hours determining revenue projections to deliver a sound budget proposal for the committee to review.

The last time the committee met they approved fire department funding at the previous year’s level, which left the remaining non profits to make their presentations, if they felt a need, at the April 27, 2020 meeting. Only a handful of representatives appeared before the Budget Committee and only a few requested additional funding above the current fiscal year’s level. Of those, CARE requested $120,000 but was recommended at a $110,000 level of funding, the Boys & Girls Club requested $80,000 and was recommended at a $68,000 level and the Jefferson County Rescue Squad requested $75,000 and was recommended at a $71,000 level. Upon a Motion from Budget Committee Member Dockery and 2nd from Budget Committee Member Douglas the Committee approved 6-3 the recommended funding proposal of the Jefferson County Finance Director concerning non profit funding. Voting No were Committee Members Langley, Solomon and Reed.

Committee Members were informed that the tourism portion of the budget that is generally part of the Chamber of Commerce budget was recommended to fund a recently approved Jefferson County Tourism Department that would be a part of County government. Those funds would be taken from the Hotel/ Motel occupancy tax that has traditionally funded tourism through the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber will still receive a portion of those funds ($185,000) but the new department would allow for transparency with the tourism allocation because it would be a functioning department of Jefferson County.

Following a review of recommended funding for County Departments, Committee Member Solomon made a motion to approve the County Side of the fiscal year 2020-2021budget as presented by the Jefferson County Finance Director and to establish a reserve fund for Covid-19 excess funds. The motion was approved unanimously. No County employee raises or bonus was included in the document but it was noted that it will be reviewed in the fiscal year to allow time for the full economic impact of the Covid-19 virus to become more clear.

Jefferson County Finance Director Potts and Chairman Scarlett informed the committee that Jefferson County will receive a grant just north of $900,000 for associated costs of the Covid-19 virus. Stipulations of the grant allow coverage for some budget items like IT upgrades, sheriff’s vehicles, ambulances, certain ADA and capital projects as they pertain to Covid-19. The balance of the funds will be held in a reserve fund to be used as needs arise. Local sales tax appears to be up for the fiscal year which will end on June 30, 2020.

In other action of the Budget Committee, Committee Member Phagan offered an amendment to Resolution 2019 (regarding the Hospital Lease Reserve Fund) to require a 2/3 majority to pass the resolution which states that future use of the funds in the Hospital Reserve Account ( currently sitting at more than $7 million dollars and increasing at $750,000 per year) requires a 2/3 vote of the full body. He was seconded by Committee Member Kesterson and the amendment was approved 9-0. The motion as amended was also approved 9-0. Several budget amendments were approved as well as an addition to the memorandum of understanding with the fire departments that will go into place prior to the 2021-2022 budget season.

Jefferson County Mayor Potts presented an opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General that stated that unless a county was exempted by the Governor, the Governor’s Directive regarding the opening and closing of Tennessee businesses and any stay at home orders supersede any locally issued mandates.

Source: Kristen Depew