January 22nd , 2014 10:00 am Leave a comment

AG backs mayor’s view that debt service vote broke law

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Photo by Brandon Hicks

Photo by Brandon Hicks
Commissioner Charles Von Cannon urges the Commission to be more conservative with the money in the General Fund.

With the Carter County budget process slated to begin next month, Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey hopes to fix a kink he claims to have discovered last year.

Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper issued an opinion on Jan. 15 regarding Humphrey’s accusation last year that the Carter County Commission violated a debt service requirement law.

“You violated that because you reduced those debt service amounts considerably over what had been proposed in the budget,” Humphrey said. “So the message here is, going forward, if you set a budget and it comes to this commission after a public hearing, you don’t alter that debt service.”

The Attorney General opinion states that a violation did occur “if the county commission votes to reduce the debt service portion of the budget proposed by its budget committee after the budget committee holds a public hearing on its budget proposal and submits that proposal to the county commission.”

It was previously reported that for the 2013-2014 budget cycle, the Commission added 3 cents to Debt Service instead of an originally proposed 10 cents by the committee.

After the meeting, Humphrey said adjusting debt service amounts could cause the Commission problems when preparing the budget this year.

“We are digging a hole going forward,” Humphrey said. “You are putting future commissions at a serious liability. You’re setting them up for failure.”

Carter County Attorney Keith Bowers also has an issue with the budget process – not as it played out last year, but how it is outlined in state law. Specifically, he isn’t satisfied with all of the language in title 5 chapter 21 of the County Financial Management System of 1981 Act.

“Instead of a requirement to approve the budget in July, it would be better to have it say that the budget should be approved no later than July,” Bowers said.

To see the rest of this story, log on to the Elizabethton Star’s e-edition or pick up a copy of our award-winning print edition, available through subscriptions, in boxes and at vendors throughout Carter and Johnson counties. The e-edition is free to subscribers. Others may pay a daily, weekly or monthly fee to access the e-edition.

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