The Unicoi County Commission met for a special called meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 6, at the Unicoi County Courthouse. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The first reading of the 2019-20 Unicoi County budget passed by a vote of 6-3. The budget, which stands at $7.7 million, includes a $337,133 shortfall and a fund balance of $1.1 million.

During a special called meeting of the Unicoi County Commission on Tuesday, Aug. 6, Commissioner Marie Rice questioned how the county would pay for the $337,133 shortfall. 

“How are we going to fund this?” Rice asked. “We need to decide.”

Commission Chairman Loren Thomas then said that this meeting was only to set the budget.

“We are just voting on the budget tonight,” Thomas said. “At the next commission meeting, we will vote to set the tax rate.”

If the committee refuses to take any funds from the fund balance during the Aug. 26, meeting to cover the $337,133 shortfall, Unicoi County property taxes could increase by 11 cents.

According to Thomas, the commission can choose to take funds from the fund balance and alleviate some of the burden from the shortfall. Thomas acknowledged that pending the commission’s decision at the Aug. 26, meeting, the county could be facing no tax increase at best or an 11 cent tax increase at worst. 

Unicoi County commissioners John Mosley, Jamie Harris, Glenn White, Matthew Rice, Stephen Hendrix and Thomas voted to pass the $7.7 million budget, while commissioners Marie Rice, Jason Harris and Todd Wilcox opposed the passing of the first reading of the 2019-20 budget on Tuesday.

Following the Aug. 6 meeting, Marie Rice resigned as Unicoi County Budget Committee Chairwoman. 

“Mr. Chairman, I’d like to hand in my letter of resignation as budget committee chair,” Rice said as she handed Thomas an envelope and exited the Unicoi County Courthouse.

Hendrix was named as Marie Rice’s successor as the new Unicoi County Budget Committee chairman.

The Unicoi County Commission is scheduled to meet on Monday, Aug. 26, to vote on the second and final reading of the 2019-20 budget. The property tax rate will be set at that time. 

For the full story on the Aug. 6 meeting, pick up a copy of the Aug. 13 issue of The Erwin Record.