The Cocke County Finance Committee last week indicated it had a finalized 2014/2015 budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1.
When the body re-convened again Monday evening to finalize the document, the members voted to make major changes to the proposal.
Chair Dan Metcalf suggested the Partnership funding be dramatically reduced.
He proposed all funding be stripped from the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, arguing that the chamber can be financed with membership fees, and that the tourism office be stripped of funding and moved to the county mayor’s office.
Metcalf pointed out that state law requires a community to fund economic development but not tourism or the chamber.
“It’s time to cut the umbilical cord and bite the bullet,” he argued, adding that the Partnership should be funded for just six months, until the end of December.
“This will save the county $244,000, with $97,100 going to economic development for six months,” Metcalf suggested, until a new economic development commission can be formulated.
Under state law any changes to the Partnership make-up must be approved by the three mayors in Cocke County; the county mayor, Newport mayor and Parrottsville mayor, and by state economic development officials.
The six members of the committee who were present voted for the move. Commissioner Clay Blazer was not in attendance.
The committee also voted to increase the salary of the six employees in Property Assessor Margaret Sorrell’s office by $2,000 each.
The ending fund balance in the General Fund came to an anticipated $156,079, but then the committee voted unanimously to give a 2 percent raise to all county employees at a cost of $142,000.
Metcalf suggested the county make a contribution toward the Christmas lights purchased for downtown Newport last year, but the committee decided to delay action until the county’s financial condition is determined at year’s end.
The committee was told the county fire department could be the recipient of a 55-foot ladder fire engine with 19,000 miles.
The county would be responsible for transporting the engine to Newport and to provide housing for the piece of equipment, if it is accepted.
-By Ray Snader, Tribune Correspondent