BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — The Sullivan County Commission on Wednesday voted to increase the property tax rate by 2 cents to offset spending out of the county’s fund balance, or surplus fund, to pay for 14 school resource officers, additional jail employees, a 2% raise for eligible county employees and $297,000 in combined new funding for the Bristol and Kingsport fire departments.

That spending comes to around $2 million with the 2-cent increase offsetting the spending by $738,000. The estimated fund balance at the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year is just over $8.2 million.

Commissioner Hershel Glover proposed a plan to keep the tax rate at $2.55 per $100 of assessed value, contingent on a resolution he said he’ll introduce next week to take $600,000 back from Sullivan County Schools for sewer infrastructure work already underway at Sullivan East High School and the future Sullivan East Middle.

The budget already included funding for 20 additional jail

employees, and the commission took a vote on approving those additional positions. However, the vote failed, and Glover suggested approving 10 positions, the 14 SROs and the 2% raise for eligible employees out of the fund balance, which he said would’ve been offset by taking the sewer and fire departments’ funding away. But the fire departments’ funding had already been approved in June.

The commission approved Glover’s plan 15-8 with one seat vacant. Then county Mayor Richard Venable, who is also the chairman of the commission, called a 15-minute recess. He spoke to at least two commissioners — Hunter Locke and Mark Vance — privately in his office, and when they returned, Vance proposed the 2-cent tax increase, which garnered no discussion and was approved 13-10 with one vacant seat.

Venable told the Bristol Herald Courier after the meeting adjourned that his understanding is that the 2-cent increase, or around $738,000, would offset the spending out of the fund balance.

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lspell@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2511 | Twitter: @BHC_Lurah | Facebook.com/lurah.lowery

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