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Political Debates
Do you plan to attend any of the political debates planned throughout the county in the coming weeks?

Mark White, a Trenton resident, addresses the Dade County Commission during last weeks hearing on the proposed 44.28 percent tax increase. The final hearing will take place on Thursday, July 31 at 6 p.m. in the Dade County Administrative Building. A Commission meeting and vote will follow the hearing.
The Dade County Board of Commissioners held the first two of three public hearings last week on a proposed 44.28 percent property tax increase.

Meetings at noon and 6 p.m. last Thursday were well attended by local residents concerned about the size of the increase.

County Executive Ted Rumley explained to those in attendance that this has been coming for several years. An increase was needed in 2011 but after the tornado heavily damaged the county an increase would have caused additional hardship.

Then flooding in the county caused even more damage and hardship so any increase was postponed again.

One of the first to speak at the public hearing was Jamie Blevins, a resident of Lookout Mountain. He questioned the amount of exemptions some residents are getting on their property.

“Are assessors asking enough questions to make sure residents qualify for the exemptions they are applying for,” he asked.

Paula Duvall of the assessor’s office responded that a standard application is filled out and then they go out and check property. Then it is referred to the Board of Assessors for final approval. She added that some of the state exemptions are not as specific as they would like but they qualify as best we can.

Terry Phillips, former Commissioner and recent candidate, stated that Commissioners were not looking at future budgets and “the car has already hit the tree.” “I for one will be watching a lot closer from now on,” he added.

Business owner Wes Hixon addressed the Commission on what the increase does to small business. “It cost more and more to operate but if I increased my rates by 44.28 percent I would be out of business,” he said. “Staying in business is harder now than it’s ever been,” Hixon added.

Joy York questioned an item in the budget for sale of fixed assets. Rumley explained the county had two pieces of property, the old land fill in Back Valley and the old forestry property in the City of Trenton they were looking to sell in the near future.

York also asks if furloughs had stopped and about employee pay raises. Rumley responded that raises were effective July 1 and furlough days had been eliminated with this budget.

While dozens of residents spoke at both hearings it was clear most people didn’t agree with a large increase at one time.

Several residents said small increases each year are much easier than the one time big increase.
During the two meetings a lot of issues were brought up and addressed by the Commission and while the room was not full for either hearing they were both well attended by local residents.

Rumley explained some of the issues the Commission has had to face, like the tornado, had cost $1.4 million but a lot of that money was recovered through disaster relief. The flooding in the north end of the county last year cost $1.3 million, most of which came from county money.

A county the size of Dade is recommended to have a reserve fund of $3 million. Currently the county has no reserve as they have had to use it to cover some of these expenses. With the current budget at the end of the fiscal year the county should have $500 thousand in reserve and hopes to build on that to get it the reserve where it needs to be.

The last of the public hearings will be on July 31 at the Dade County Administrative Building at 6 p.m.

Following the meeting the Commission will meet to adopt the budget and millage rate for the coming year.

The Dade County Board of Education will do the same as those figures have to be in to the state in order to get tax notices out on time.

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