Petition in Hawkins County could cause vital non-profits to lose funding

HAWKINS COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – Vital non-profit organizations in Hawkins County are waiting to see if they will continue to get funding this year.

We told you on Tuesday, there is a petition going around that could potentially put up a vote on the recently approved $40 wheel tax increase.

If enough signatures are gathered, organizations such as fire departments, EMS, rescue squad, Red Cross and animal shelters will lose funding until a solution is agreed upon.

Some places are saying this could cause them to close their doors.

On Monday, Hawkins County Commissioners approved a $40 wheel tax increase to offset the county’s $2 million deficit.

But a petition is going around that could put that up for a special election referendum.

County Finance Director, Nicole Buchanan said 1,095 valid signatures are needed to make that happen.

“If that is the case, if they do get enough valid signatures, then we will have to come at the August meeting and reconsider a property tax increase because we are unbalanced again,” Buchanan said.

If that happens, the county will either lose the revenue for about half the year or altogether depending upon the outcome of the vote.

“Because of that, we did let our non-profit organizations know we can’t release any contribution payments in July because we have to see what happens with the referendum,” she said.

If there are enough signatures and a property tax increase gets approved at the August meeting, the county can release funds to the organizations. If it’s not approved, it cannot release funding because the state would likely intervene in the budget process.

Brody Armstrong and Austin Castle are firefighters for the Carter’s Valley Fire Department. They say the $19,000 they receive from the county each year is vital.

“That’s what we pay our insurance with. After our insurance, we’ve got about, I don’t know, $6,000 of it left and the rest of it goes to fuel, gear and stuff like that,” Armstrong said.

They say they don’t receive enough funding as it is and have to hold multiple fundraisers to get enough money to operate.

“My understanding is that more than one volunteer fire department would close without the funding from the county,” Buchanan said.

Which is why they hope to see a solution to the deficit soon.

“I’ve got three vehicles right now and it takes me quite a bit to keep them up. $40 more is worth more to me than someone’s life if nobody can be there,” Castle said.

There is a 30-day waiting period to see if enough signatures are gathered on the petition.

Then, the county will see how it can move forward with funding.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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