After two nights of attending the Kingsport BMA meetings about the new garbage fee and hearing all the arguments for and against, I had just about resigned myself, once again, to give our leaders the benefit of the doubt, that the cost increase was going to somehow make life better for ordinary working or retired folks in Kingsport. Property taxes had already been raised 6.7 percent in 2014, and water and sewer rates are going up slightly with this year’s budget, as well as an increase in power bills of anywhere between 5 and 13 percent because of the new franchise agreement with AEP. This in addition to the new $8 garbage fee. Take into account last year’s 11.7 percent increase in the county property tax rate, and it has gotten more expensive to live here the last three years in row. Again I was resigned to hope and change and perhaps some direct benefit would become apparent at some point in the future. Then, tucked away on the last page of Wednesday’s Times-News is a report that the county budget committee has decided to leave open the possibility for another property tax increase this year to cover the $8.8 million budget increases the sheriff wants.
By the way, the sheriff is suing the county for that money, giving Sullivan County residents the ridiculous distinction of suing themselves to raise their own taxes. If you live in Kingsport there are only 18 cities in Tennessee that pay higher combined property taxes. Only 13 cities have a higher property tax rate than you, and most are in or near the large metropolitan areas. My belief in 2014 was the city had already spent the tax increase before it went into effect and in 2015 I believed the same of the county. I believed then and still believe, they will have to alternate tax or fee increases every year for the foreseeable future to fund everything they want. Unfortunately, my prediction seems to be coming true and my worry is, with loads of ONE Kingsport projects and new schools on the horizon, we may be headed for the top 10.
F. Bond Porter Jr., Kingsport
Ask for your tax cut
The Sullivan County Commission is on a glide path to pass a budget well after the beginning of the fiscal year. Unlike last year when they increased the tax rate, it appears that no new increases are forthcoming. However, that doesn’t mean the budget could not be improved. Using approximate figures, the county projects to have $2 million above the amount budgeted for the year ending June 30, a result of savings from changing the employee medical benefits plan provider and additional revenue. The budget committee is poised to recommend $1 million be allocated toward various increases requested by other committees on behalf of county departments and non-profit organizations. Apparently the budget committee wants to devote the remaining $1 million to a 2 percent raise in employee pay. Granting 2 percent after a 4 percent raise last year appears not only excessive, but extremely cynical.
Eight months ago the commission voted down a resolution to fund a formal, comprehensive study of employee staffing and benefits. Some cited the estimated cost ($75,000) as too high and unnecessary even though this review is a routine management function in most businesses; and the study may have easily paid for itself through potential cost savings it might reveal. It is helpful to note that five commissioners are full-time county employees and others have direct ties to the county work force. In short, county employees comprise an inordinately influential interest group in competition with other groups for county funding. Here’s an alternative to the pay raise: reduce the tax rate three cents. What could be wrong with letting taxpayers keep more of their own money? Taxpayers, the ball is in your court. Call your county commissioner and Mayor Venable and ask where is your tax cut?
Patrick W. Shull, Kingsport
Killing our town
The city is going to tax residents of Kingsport for garbage pickup. They say this is a vision for better quality of life for Kingsport. I take my dogs to the city dog park and pay a fee. I go swimming at the aquatic center and pay a fee. But now with this new tax looming I will have to stop visiting our fine city parks. Why is the quality of life of One Kingsport more important than my quality of life? Why can’t these very intelligent people come up with ways to bring money in instead of taking it out of our pockets?
The very meaning of the word initiative is an introductory step, a self-reliant enterprise, a process which may be introduced or enacted by a vote of the people. Well I vote no. We have the richest history in Kingsport bar none. Long Island of the Holston. The boat yard. Christianville and much more. Why is this not being promoted? Why have the homeless and less fortunate not been mentioned? It’s better to be blessed than smart. I fear your progressive ideals will kill this town like Detroit and Baltimore.
Gregory Hurt, Kingsport