Sullivan County's assessment: Nearly flat growth

J. H. Osborne • Aug 10, 2018 at 2:55 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County commissioners will have to “start juggling things around” to balance a 2018-2019 budget without property tax increase, the county’s top finance official said Thursday.

Accounts and Budgets Director Larry Bailey said a tax increase isn’t an option, based on his discussion with county commissioners and other officials.

Bailey presented the county’s budget committee with its first public look at the countywide property assessment and what it means each penny of the tax rate will generate for the fiscal year that began July 1. The Sullivan County Commission must approved and submit a budget to the state by Aug. 31 or risk the loss of state funding for education.

Sullivan County’s total countywide property assessment for 2018 is more than $3.95 billion, according to information distributed to budget committee members. But nearly $72.38 million of that is for properties developed under tax increment financing (TIF), which means the property tax revenues from those parcels isn’t available to fund the county’s budget.

That drops the 2018 assessment for county budgeting purposes to about $3.88 billion — which means each penny of the county’s property tax rate will generate an estimated $372,439. That’s based on 96 percent of property owners paying their taxes on time.

At the current county property tax rate of $2.55 per $100 of assessed value that means only about $239,000 in new revenue for the county’s general fund.

“We’re in a bad situation,” Bailey said. “Revenues aren’t going to pull us out.

One thing on the table: the budget proposal will include taking $1.7 million per year from the county school system — money earmarked in prior years for the system’s renovation account — and directing it toward debt service for the $140 million bond issue that is funding the system’s long-range plan to build new schools, ultimately reducing its systemwide costs by closing and combining multiple underutilized schools.

The county took that renovation money from city systems in Kingsport and Bristol last year.