ELIZABETHTON — Emotions ran high Thursday night at a joint workshop attended by officials from the Carter County and City of Elizabethton governments.
The four men attempted to come up with a new fundraising plan for the Elizabethton/Carter County animal shelter.
The county was represented by County Commissioners Gary Bailey and Travis Hill. The city was represented by Councilman Jeff Treadway and City Manager Daniel Estes.
The two sides debated for more than two hours without reaching an agreement except to return to the negotiating table for another session on March 17.
The meeting was held in the main courtroom of the Carter County Courthouse and was the first government meeting to be broadcast to the public with newly installed equipment. The entire meeting can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvb5o6tGOIM&t=5923s.
The main difficulty in the negotiations concerned the funding ratio between the county and the city to operate the shelter. Bailey strongly supported a ratio of 60% funding from the county to 40% funding from the city. Bailey said the original deal called for the county and city to have a 50-50 split.
Treadway said the past no longer applies and argued for the county to pay 70% and the city to pay 30%.
The amount of funding this year is 65% from the county (totaling $273,000) to 35% from the city (totaling $147,000).
Treadway argued that taxes paid to the animal shelter by city residents are one of several areas where the city is taxed much more heavily for joint city and county services. He said every county resident paid $4.75 in taxes to support the animal shelter this year. He said townspeople pay the county tax and must also pay the town’s 35% share for shelter, amounting to $10.31.
This brought the total for all townspeople to pay $15.06 in municipal and county taxes for the animal shelter.
“Every city dweller pays three times as much for the same service,” Treadway said. “How close is that to being fair?”
Bailey said it wasn’t fair for the city to pay less than half the costs and still have half the representation on the animal shelter’s board. Treadway seemed willing to have less representation from the city. He also suggested that one way to solve the problem was to allow the county to take over the shelter, taking the city out of funding altogether, while raising the county tax rate by 1.5 cents to cover the funding that the city had paid. This way, every taxpayer in the city and county would pay the same amount.
Private citizen Jim Winchester was watching the debate from the kitchen and at one point suggested the funding problem could also be solved by creating a separate tax district for the animal shelter that all citizens would pay for.