Three stages of tax levy: elation, gravitas, practicality

We’ll deal with the stages named in the headline in roughly reverse order: practical matters first (and most), then a quick taste of gravitas and elation – all based on an interview with Probate Judge/Commission Chairman Chris Green – coming on the heels of last week’s approval by Blount County citizens of the Moving Blount County Forward (MBCF) referendum. Green and District 3 Commissioner Dean Calvert, who did much of the heavy lifting, were the wheel horses of the MCBF proposal. Practical matters: how and when?

Today, Nov. 16, at an abbreviated commission meeting following the swearing in of newly-elected commissioners, the commission will vote to officially levy the 1-cent sales tax approved by Blount County voters at the polls Nov. 8. The tax goes into effect Jan. 1. Businesses have until Feb. 20 to remit the first month’s taxes to Revenue Discovery Systems (RDS), the county’s tax collection and disbursement agent. During that first six weeks, the necessary groundwork will be put in place to routinely collect and distribute proceeds. Practical matters: who gets what from whom and when?

Tax proceeds due the two school systems and 13 municipalities will be remitted monthly directly to each one of those 15 entities by RDS. Routinely, that will occur near the end of the month following the month when the taxes are accumulated. The first month might take a little longer. The first disbursement will be near the end of February or in early March.

The Blount County Commission will receive one-half of total monthly proceeds directly from RDS each month. In addition, it will receive the first $50,000 of proceeds to be disbursed among the 23 fire and rescue departments in the county. Those disbursements, approximating $2,175 apiece, will be made annually on or about Mar. 1 to the departments by the commission. Practical matters: what about financing the road plan?

In December, the commission will hear presentations from representatives of two or more bonding companies to ascertain the steps in the bonding process along with the cost of pursuing the purchase of bonds to finance the roughly $13.4 million road paving plan. Concurrently, the commission will investigate the cost of conventional financing via loans from local financial institutions, in order to compare the interest rates and fees involved in that option with the associated costs of the bond option, to determine which is most advantageous to the county. The financing decision should be made and implemented early in 2017. Practical matters: what about paving the chosen roads?

The goal is to begin paving roads included in the MBCF plan in the summer of 2017. Twenty-four roads totaling 99.5 miles are included in the plan. That compares with 14 roads totaling about 80 miles in the three-year ATRIP plan the county is completing this year.

The order in which the roads will be paved has not yet been set. The county commission, leaning heavily on the engineering department to set priorities, will start working on a detailed paving schedule during the early part of next year. Paving the 24 roads of the MBCF paving plan will take about four years.

Roads selected are spread roughly evenly among the four districts, with District 2 receiving more road projects than the other three districts, because it has by far the greatest number of road miles. An effort will be made to schedule paving projects equivalently throughout the county as the paving plan progresses, with reasonable allowances made for priority due to condition of roads. Practical matters: signs of progress

Signs will be posted on county road projects as they are begun, identifying them as MBCF projects: i.e. “This project made possible by MBCF – your taxes at work” – or words to that effect. School and municipal projects may be similarly identified. Elation

“I have never felt so proud of this county as I have since it passed this referendum,” said Green. “I was especially proud of the west side of the county. My faith in people – that given the facts and good information, they would make a sound decision – was reaffirmed.

“I am humbled that people are willing to trust us with this money. In spite of their feelings toward federal and state government, in spite of “Vote NO” signs, in spite of a divided commission, the people put all of that in perspective and voted for the future good of the county. I’ll say this: the voters of Blount County have got good heads on their shoulders.” Gravitas

Green: “I feel elation over this, but more than that I feel a heavy responsibility. It was kind of like when my first daughter was born. I felt a great sense of elation right at first, but then I felt this great weight of responsibility descend on my shoulders. I suddenly realized, like I do now, ‘Now I gotta raise this baby,’

“The people of Blount County won’t regret what they have done here.”