Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22, 2010 Stancil Cancels Tax Levy and Budget Vote

During public comments at the beginning of yesterday's meeting of the Hamblen County Commission, I pointed out to Chairman Stancil Ford and all commissioners that there is currently no certified tax rate for Hamblen County. I noted that Commissioners could not vote on a tax rate or budget yesterday since they are still waiting for the certified tax rate. [Ironically, it was Stancil Ford who had changed Commission's regular meeting date to June 21 just so he could try and push a tax and budget vote through quickly.]

As the tax rate and budget discussion begain toward the end of the meeting, Ford acknowledged that there is no certified rate and admitted that the budget and tax rate could not be voted on at this meeting.  Bill Brittain said that appeals of appraisals were just ending, and he thought that a proposed certified tax rate might go to the state on Friday and perhaps be approved by the state on Monday, June 28, after which a vote on the tax rate and budget could be taken.

What's funny in all this is that it was Chairman Ford who created all the uproar by changing the regular meeting date from June 24 to June 21. As usual, haste makes waste. No matter how quickly Ford wants to push a budget and tax rate through, state law requires that certain procedures be followed and, in re-appraisal years, the certified tax rate must be set prior to tax rate and budget votes. 

Stancil and all commissioners need to realize the importance in taking time to do things right and even check the math before attempting to pass a tax rate levy and a budget.

Just how important is it to get the certified tax rate and check the math in Hamblen County? In 2005, it was worth ONE MILLION DOLLARS in savings to taxpayers.

During the last re-appraisal year (2005),  I was on County Commission.  We received the certified tax rate in our budget packets, and the Finance Director, Trustee, Assessor, and County Mayor were using that certified tax rate in budget calculations.  Just after one quick look at the "certified" tax rate that was being used, I knew something was wrong. It was clearly too high. I pulled out the old pencil and paper, checked the math, and found that the certified rate was indeed incorrect and that the miscalculated rate would result in overtaxing the property owners in Hamblen County in the amount of more than ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

I brought this miscalculation and tax overcharge to the attention of Assessor Keith Ely. Ely then pointed out the miscalculation that I had found to the state. After my one question, the 2005 tax rate was recalculated and the certified tax rate was reduced  by about 10 cents, saving the taxpayers of Hamblen County over ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Haste makes waste. Trust but verify. Follow state law--it is there for a reason.

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