Members of the Cocke County Finance Committee meeting Monday evening declined to take action on a proposal by Commissioner Forest Clevenger for the county to increase the hotel/motel tax.
There has been opposition from owners of rental cabins to any increase. The committee will research whether cabins can be exempted from any increase.
Clevenger argued an increase could bring in as much as $200,000 annually in additional revenue to promote tourism in the county. Currently, the tourism department has only $25,000 in its budget for promoting tourism.
The committee again discussed a possible wheel tax, also being promoted by Clevenger. He argued the county needs new revenue to fund a jail/justice center, school repairs and road repairs. Although some have called for a reduction in other areas of the county budget, the commissioner said there is no way to raise the needed revenue other than through a wheel tax or a 30-cent increase on the property tax rate.
According to Clevenger three departments could be eliminated to save money but none are popular choices: the fire department, recreation department and economic development. State law does not require funding in the three areas.
The commissioner said he also expects a federal judge to order a new jail if the county is not proactive in addressing the issue on its own.
Commissioners Calvin Ball and Clay Blazer both argued for the issue of a wheel tax to go to referendum.
But Commissioner Norman Smith said such a referendum must include a clear stipulation of how much money will go where.
The committee also spent some time discussing the jail overtime issue. Clevenger argued for a drastic reduction in overtime, with the money used instead to hire more firefighters at increased salaries.