Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

January 14, 2013

Commissioners question property tax collection figures

By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer

CROSSVILLE — For the second month in a row, commissioners serving on the budget committee questioned why property tax collection figures haven’t been supplied to the committee from the Cumberland County Trustee’s office.

During each monthly budget committee meeting Cumberland County Finance Director Nathan Brock gives a report for fiscal year budget performance for collections of hotel/motel tax, local option sales tax, EMS collections, prisoner boarding fee collections, a fuel report and property tax collections. The report is to show commissioners how the county’s general fund budget is tracking in terms of revenue collections.

“I see there are no property tax figures. Why? Why don’t we have them?” 1st District Commissioner and Budget Committee Chairman Harry Sabine said.

“We were not supplied those figures by the trustee,” Cumberland County Finance Director Nathan Brock responded.

“We didn’t have them last month. This is getting to be a pattern again. Why are we not able to get them? Can’t you get them?” 7th District Commissioner Mike Harvel asked.

“We have to get them from a statement from the trustee’s office. I can’t track it without the statement and I have no control over getting it or those figures,” Brock said.

“Well, then I guess we’ll have to bring her back up here again and find out. We’re two months behind now,” Harvel said.

Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner, said that Cumberland County Trustee Kim Wyatt’s father-in-law passed away and the family recently had the funeral and so that could explain why.

“That’s understandable. I can understand that. But that doesn’t explain why we didn’t have them last month. This was never a problem before,” Harvel said.

Brock then continued with his report stating local option sales tax collections for the month of December were $645,264, which was $2,714 below budgeted figures. December of last budget local option sales tax collections were $625,178. The actual revenue collections are up in comparison to last year, but they are under what the county has budgeted, or predicted as an increase. In all, the county has collected $2,362,770 in local option sales tax, which is $41,335 below what the county has budgeted. The majority of local option sales tax collections go to the Cumberland County Board of Education’s General Purpose School Fund.

Brock reported hotel/motel tax collections were down slightly. The county has collected $367,040 of a $650,000 budget, which is 56.5 percent.

“It’s down roughly by a little over one percent from budgeted figures,” Brock said.

Last year the county budgeted $625,000.

EMS collections were listed at a total of $348,279 for December, which includes revenue collected from Medicaid that was past due from last year.

“It appears that we have caught up on the revenue collection from the past and if we maintain an average of $217,000 per month we will meet the budget,” Brock said.

Cumberland County Fire Chief and EMS Director Jeff Dodson said they are looking into third party billing, which could potentially bring in more revenue and give specific detailed reports on Medicaid collections.

Prisoner boarding is at $413,216 for the year, which is at 55.8 percent of the budgeted amount of $740,000.

Brock said this figure represents four months of collections and that $87,172 from the state for the month of November has not yet been received by the county.

Jennifer Turner from the finance department reported fuel consumption and budget was tracking well and all looked to be OK if it continued to track the same way for the remainder of the fiscal year. The finance department will continue to monitor fuel usage and cost by county department and report to the budget committee if there are any trouble areas. The committee also receives a copy of the detailed report for each county department in the general fund budget.

After the meeting, Sabine asked Brock what could be done in order to either get the property tax collection figures from Wyatt’s office.

“Can’t you just go in there and get them yourself, or tell them you need them?” Sabine asked.

“The trustee is our banker. We can’t just go in there and get the figures. I have no way of doing that or no control. They have to be in a specific format. The office knows you have requested the figures, so I don’t know what else to say,” Brock said. “I am not going to get into a discussion about the operation of that office.”

“Maybe we should just eliminate this line all together. I don’t like having N/A listed on here. It serves no purpose,” Sabine said.

Brock said he would rather not remove the line from the format of the report.

When contacted by telephone Cumberland County Trustee Kim Wyatt said she didn’t know there was a budget meeting.

“I didn’t know there was a meeting or I would have been there. I wasn’t aware of the meeting and I wasn’t notified there would be a meeting or I would have been there. I usually receive a phone call, or an email or something from Nathan (Brock’s office) but I didn’t have a notice,” Wyatt said.

Brock said he typically does not send Wyatt’s office a notice of the meeting, or any other elected officials unless the committee requests them to be there.

Wyatt said she would definitely be at next month’s meeting.

Wyatt said that as of December 2012 the county has collected $4,630,441.79 of property tax.