Members of the Cocke County Budget Committee met again Tuesday evening in their effort to finalize a 2019/2020 county budget.
The committee agreed to increase the county hotel/motel tax to seven percent, up from the current three percent. The $300,000 collected this year from the tax is expected to more than double under the hiked rate.
The Tennessee General Assembly will be required to modify the current private act before the new rate will go into effect.
Currently the revenue goes into the county’s general fund but Jennifer Brown of the partnership questioned whether the increased funding could be used to increase marketing of the community. Currently only $25,000 is earmarked for marketing in the partnership budget. Brown pointed out a consultant had previously suggested that stream of revenue be used to promote the community.
She also told the committee the Partnership currently receives funding at a level $80,000 less than the level of funding 10 years ago.
Committee Chair Forrest Clevenger suggested the $2 fee collected from each whitewater rafter be used to market and promote the sport.
Members also discussed ways to increase the attendance of members at committee meetings.
On a motion by Commissioner Terry Dawson, the body agreed to set pay at $450 monthly per commissioner, but with a reduction of $50 for each missed meeting.
The committee also is looking at implementing a biometric employee pay system to better monitor attendance and overtime. Clevenger said under such a system, payroll would be handled electronically.
County Attorney Brittany Vick will be asked to research the issue of overtime in the sheriff’s department.
Clevenger has expressed concern on numerous occasions regarding the overtime level in the department and the fire department. He told his fellow members the public needs to know when department heads are not adequately monitoring overtime expenditures.
Although the current budget has $2.7 million in unspent appropriations, that figure is expected to drop by months’ end, when the fiscal year ends.
Finance Manager Heather McGaha told the committee the new budget currently anticipates spending $860,000 greater than anticipated revenue.