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Finance director talks county budget, high school

Xavier Smith • Aug 23, 2017 at 2:03 PM

Wilson County Finance Director Aaron Maynard highlighted new additions to the Wilson County annual budget, which unanimously passed during Monday’s Wilson County Commission meeting.

The group also voted to keep the county’s property tax rate at 2.5189, along with the $141-million budget.

Maynard said the main additions to the budget are the costs of operating the new Wilson County Emergency Management Agency station in Norene at $424,100, four new patrol officers for the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office at $270,717, two new correction officers for the Wilson County Jail at $106,680 and other Wilson County Sheriff’s Office needs, which include inmate food and medical care at $120,759.

“Those things cover $815,576 of the $1.2 million new expenditures approved with this budget,” Maynard said.

During the budget process, the Wilson County Budget Committee did not take any action on Wilson County Schools’ needs assessment list, which included additional pay for bus drivers and educators, as well as money for the potential new high school in Mt. Juliet, on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School, at a cost to build of $110 million.

Maynard said the district was not the only department that did not get what they requested through its needs assessment list, noting his own department did not receive funding for an additional part-time employee.

“The information technology department list was trimmed considerably from what was originally presented, funding for a PEG channel was eliminated, and WEMA had to cut about $22,000 from their original request,” Maynard said. “There was only $1.2 million in growth money to meet all of the needs of the county without a tax increase. The total growth was not even a third of what would be needed to service the debt on the new high school as proposed.”

Maynard said it would cost 12-18 cents on the tax rate to fund a new high school in Mt. Juliet, dependent upon how the debt payment is structured.

Maynard said changes to the property tax and adequate facilities tax are the only two options that immediately came to his mind that don’t have, or potentially could be put, to a public referendum.

The county’s current adequate facilities tax is $3,000 per unit. The tax started in 2003 at $1,000 per unit and was raised a few years later. Maynard said an increase in the tax could be a possibility, but the tax is volatile with the real estate market, making the long-term impact difficult to predict.

In the last fiscal year, the county received about $5.7 million, which is mostly already used for debt service, according to Maynard. He said a $1,000 increase in the adequate facilities tax would produce about $1.9 million in additional revenues, according to last year’s figures.

“Right now, the debt service for the Mt. Juliet high school as proposed would be a minimum of $4.68 million [annually]. So, we would need to raise the adequate facilities tax by at least $2,450, making it $5,450 per unit,” Maynard said.

Maynard said the county’s growth does not necessarily pay for itself. He said the county grew 9 percent from 2010-2014, and the 2016 population estimate is 132,781 people.

Maynard also said instructional educational expenditures per student are about $7,800, with $2,400 of that local taxes. On household expenditures of $60,000, the local sales tax is $1,350, of which $675 would go to education, according to Maynard.

“As everyone should know, population increases means additional law enforcement officers are needed to protect the population and more inmates are typically in the jail which increases that cost,” Maynard said. “Certainly, we continue to expand WEMA to be as close as possible to respond to emergencies in all parts of the county [particularly for ambulance and rescue of which the entire county is covered].”

Maynard said on a $200,000 home, property tax collections would be $1,259. He said the total local taxes [property and sales tax] would be $1,934, which is less than the amount of local tax dollars expended for educating one child.

“If you have a family with two or more children, you can see easily how the growth does not pay for itself. But, that is offset to some degree by people who have no children,” Maynard said.

 

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