Elizabethton City Council proposes tax increase, cuts to animal shelter

ELIZABETHTON, TN (WJHL) – Elizabethton city leaders proposed a tax increase, cuts to the city/county animal shelter, spoke about city canopies as well as the future of a local minor league team at their first reading of the city budget, Thursday.

Mayor Curt Alexander said council passed a three cent property tax increase to fund bonuses for city employees that would help maintain their work force and to keep salaries in line for comparable cities. The tax increase must pass the city budget’s final reading.

Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey also attended Thursday’s meeting to request more funding to help the Elizabethton / Carter County Animal Shelter, wanting the city to sign a $230,000 increase in funding. Currently the city and the county evenly split the operating costs. Mayor Humphrey requested a total budget of $400,000. He said of all of the shelters in the area, they are operating on a much smaller budget.

The shelter is part of a state investigation Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey requested. He said it was prompted by what he believes to be fraud, waste and abuse. Mayor Humphrey believes more money for the animal shelter would help fix the problems.

“No one would wish that this would be completed more than I. I’d like to get behind it as expeditiously as possible but until that time and until there’s adequate funding and programs in place to supervise the volunteers, there will be no volunteers,” Mayor  Humphrey said.

Past animal shelter volunteer, Robin McKamey also spoke up saying she wants city council to intervene and she’s not happy with the way the county mayor is handling the shelter.

Mayor Humphrey said he welcomes the engagement from city council and suggestions are welcome.

The Elizabethton City Council did not grant the Carter County Mayor’s request for more money. Instead, they reduced their normal $127,000 contribution to $100,000. That extra money along with additional funds are going to Carter County Rescue.

Also, Elizabethton’s City Council appears ready to refurbish awnings in the downtown area instead of remove them.

Business owners told us they were concerned the city would remove them.  They say those awnings along Elk Avenue are well-known fixtures. Last week, the city planning commission recommended the removal of the awnings.

Mayor Curt Alexander told us Thursday it’s clear that’s not what the city council wants. Instead, he told us the city will budget $140,000 additional dollars to make sure those awnings are refurbished.

council members will have their final budget reading june 8th.

The future of one of the region’s most popular minor league baseball teams is also still uncertain.

We asked Mayor Alexander for an update on the Elizabethton Twins, the minor league team for the Minnesota Twins.

The major league’s home office has said if it commits to staying in Elizabethton, it needs around $2 million in upgrades to the facilities at Joe O’brien field.

Mayor Alexander said $2.6 million in bond proceeds for Parks and Recreation and Public Safety projects form last fiscal year can roll forward to this upcoming fiscal year and a portion of that would be used for the Twins refurbishments but so there’s no real committments.

Mayor Alexander also told us he has not heard back from the Twins on whether they are staying after the upcoming season ends.

Council members will have their final budget reading June 8.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

 

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