BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (July 30) — Weakley County commissioners approved the tax rate and finalized the budget for FY 2020-2021 when they met Thursday, July 30, 2020.After weeks of discussion and multiple revisions to departmental budgets, commissioners developed a budget without increasing the county’s property tax rate. Based on the real and personal assessed property values totaling $576,210,430, and a property tax rate of $1.9727 per $100 of assessed value, one cent of the tax levy amounts to $53,587 at a 93-percent collection rate.A breakdown of the tax levy of appropriations for the fiscal year is as follows: * General Fund: $0.6632* Highway Fund: $0.1915* General Purpose School Fund: $0.6480* Debt Service: $0.47Total = $1.9727Some taxpayers questioned if the unchanged tax rate was made possible by increasing the value of properties. According to Weakley County Property Assessor David Tuck, this is not the case. “Properties are assessed based on the 2018 reappraisal and the only increases are for those properties with building additions or other major improvements,” Tuck said. He estimates less than 10 percent of properties in the county changed in value. “There are 20,736 taxable properties in Weakley County,” Tuck said. “Of this number 697 increased and 290 decreased in value in FY 2019-2020.” At a 100-percent appraised value, real properties in FY 2019-2020 amounted to $1,794,000,000 compared to property values for FY 2020-2021, which total approximately $1,834,000,000. This amounts to an increase of $40,000,000 in property values. However, Tuck stressed citizens are taxed on a small fraction of the actual value of their properties. He noted residential properties and farming operations are assessed at 25 percent of their total value and commercial and industrial properties are set at 40 percent. At a property tax rate of $1.9727 per $100 of assessed value, yearly taxes on a $100,000 home amounts to $197.27.Tuck says one reason tax rates remain unchanged in FY 2020-2021 is due to increased tax revenue from 41 commercial chicken barns built in FY 2019-2020. Some of those were built mid-year and the owners paid less property taxes since the buildings were incomplete. Next year, these businesses will pay higher property taxes for the entire year, which will increase total revenues substantially. Tuck states the total appraised value of the barns amounts to $32,500,000. Tuck said tax revenues from the chicken-barn industry this year totaled $160,700, amounting to approximately three cents on the tax levy. As Tyson Foods is expanding plants in the area, future property tax revenue is expected to increase even more. In addition to the poultry industry, Tuck said new construction growth in the county amounts to approximately $10 to $12 million.Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum reported, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, sales tax revenues are up considerably over the previous year. He said before adjustments, $8,820,790 was collected during FY 2019-2020, which represents a five-percent increase over the previous year. Nevertheless, he stated FY 2020-2021 could be a challenging year.The budget for FY 2020-2021 estimates total expenditures at $62,363,158.Commissioners determined the budget is sufficient to provide additional funding to cover a pay raise for Weakley County teachers and administrators. Director of Weakley County Schools Randy Frazier states teachers will receive $2,000 added to their regular salaries. Frazier said the Weakley County School System is the lowest paying in the region. He argued the main reason a teacher pay increase is needed is because of the large number of teachers leaving for other school systems, which pay an average of $3,500 to $4,000 more annually than Weakley County. Other than step-raises for Weakley County Sheriff’s Department officers and jailers, there are no raises in the budget for General Fund employees. Commissioners said the cost of living is one-tenth of one percent more than the previous fiscal year, the lack of a raise is not expected to affect county employee’s spending power significantly. A last-minute budget amendment transferring $1,000 from the fund balance into the Weakley County Archives’ budget to pay for furniture and a part-time employee was unanimously approved. The budget increased from $22,541 to $23,541.A breakdown of Weakley County’s overall budget for the FY 2020-2021 is as follows:* General Fund:Estimated revenues = $9,760,269Estimated expenditures = $10,402,555* School Budget: Estimated revenues = $32,594,524Estimated expenditures = $33,103,908.* Debt Service Fund:Estimated revenues = $3,493,456 Estimated expenditures = $2,774,519. A resolution authorizing the expenditure of $56,125 in donations to non-profit charitable organizations was unanimously approved. See related article for a breakdown of approved charitable donations.In other board action, commissioners appointed several individuals to various positions as follows: * Ricky Cobb, Veterans Service Officer, for a one-year term ending August 31, 2021; * Ray Wiggington, Weakley County Public Safety Officer, for a one-year term; * Rick Workman, County Coroner, for a one-year term and* Dr. Walter Fletcher, County Medical Examiner, for a one-year term. Appointments to boards were as follows:Weakley County Health and Standards Board – Gary Eddings for a two-year term and Jack Vincent to a four-year term. Elizabeth Pritchett, Bob Dudley and John Hatler were appointed to serve on the Weakley County Emergency Communications Board for four-year terms ending August 31, 2024. Everett-Stewart Regional Airport Board – Wayne McCreight, Roger Donaldson and Jennifer Branscum. Weakley County Ethics Board for one-year terms – Larry Hudson, Gary Eddings, Greg Usery, Larry Taylor, Dale Overton and Roger Donaldson. Weakley County Audit Committee members – Bethany Elam for a one-year term and Jackie Reece for a three-year term.Richard Adams was appointed to the Weakley County Board of Public Utilities to fulfill an unexpired term ending June 30, 2022.In announcements, Commissioner Larry Taylor was congratulated on his 80th birthday. Mayor Bynum also mentioned it was Commissioner Angela Fortner’s last meeting and expressed his appreciation for her service. Commissioner James Westbrook commended Weakley County Trustee Marci Floyd for collecting more than 99 percent of the taxes owed the county. The next regular board meeting is August 21, beginning at 5:30 p.m.