Loudon County Commission will consider changing the amount of Adequate Facilities Tax going to the county’s two school systems at the Aug. 3 regular meeting.
The decision comes after Commissioner Van Shaver initially requested the county divert an additional 5 percent from AFT to the Loudon County Board of Education capital projects fund.
Commission discussed the possibility July 20, with Shaver and Commissioner Harold Duff getting into a heated exchange at one point.
Shaver’s proposal would change the current 85-15 percent split between the county and Lenoir City to 90-10 percent.
Commissioner Adam Waller said 5 percent would be worth $56,450.
Loudon County Trustee Chip Miller said annual AFT collections have been as low as $3,123 in 2006-07 when the program began to about $1 million in 2018-19.
“When it was passed, the county just decided to voluntarily do this, it’s not required to give anything, but for whatever reason they picked 15 percent,” Shaver said. “Well, you can see how it’s grown over time, and the question is do we want to put more of it back to the Loudon County Board of Education or continue to give more of it to Lenoir City.
“If we were to keep it, that extra 5 percent, that 5 percent would be designated, earmarked and specifically going to education capital projects,” he added.
County Commissioner Matthew Tinker opposed Shaver’s request and asked what happened to the capital projects fund’s revenue source.
Shaver said it was “transferred out to pay debt service.”
“There was a revenue stream going into that, it was taken away and given to go in order to pay for the jail,” Tinker said. “Now you want to rob another person to try to put a little back in there so in two more months you can vote to take that money out of AFT and have it go to debt service as well so that you can pay for something else. I would be opposed to this on many different levels.”
Lenoir City Director of Schools Jeanne Barker and Jeanie Mowery, business manager, were present at the commission workshop.
“Our school system has probably in excess every year in capital projects more than what we’re collecting from AFT,” Mowery said. “We have a long history of doing improvements to our school system, repairs, got a big roof project going on now.”
Money goes into general purpose for capital projects because there is no capital projects fund, Mowery said.
Barker stressed Lenoir City Schools was also part of the county, emphasizing many county residents attend schools in Lenoir City.
“I think we ought to shift the 5 percent, Lenoir City to continue to gain the 10 percent and use it however they want to use it,” Shaver said. “We’ll take our 5 percent and replenish our board of education capital projects fund.”
Duff said he opposed Shaver’s request, and even asked for it to be taken off the August agenda.
Duff and Shaver were then involved in a tense discussion about an alleged 6 cents in tax Duff said was taken from city schools.
“Two years ago, I guess it was, this commission took 3 cents away from Lenoir City Schools,” Duff said. “One year ago they took an additional 3 cents, 6 pennies from what they were receiving from the county school money. The money was taken away.”
Shaver denied that.
“We’ve never taken anything away from Lenoir City Schools, commissioner, I promise you. ... We’ve increased the Lenoir City tax rate,” he said.
“You can call it whatever you want to on the previous take that has already been done, but this is that same thing over again,” Duff responded. “Take money away from Lenoir City, put it in this budget down here. Now, you can’t deny that that is actually what happened. You can sugarcoat it anyway you want to, but you can’t deny that that is what is being attempted here.”
Shaver again strongly denied the accusation, asking for commissioners to say where 6 cents had been taken.
“We’ve never taken no pennies, no 6 pennies, no 10 pennies, nothing,” Shaver said. “... You’re talking about a tax increase for Lenoir City general. We’ve never taken anything from the schools. We don’t have the ability to take anything from the schools.”
Duff considered it a “misrepresentation of the truth.”
Barker said “when you take it away from Lenoir City that affects Lenoir City Schools. You took money out of the debt school funds, which changed the tax rate in Lenoir City, so Lenoir City has to pay more in order to make maintenance of effort as we talked about. So it is the same.”
Shaver then said the discussion had become “silly talk.”
“Nobody has ever taken anything from Lenoir City, school or city,” he said. “When the tax rate goes up, that’s not taking money away from them. And Lenoir City as far as that goes, is still 20 cents less than the county general people that are paying a property tax rate. So this 6 cents is a myth. ... We don’t even have the ability to take 6 cents. If anything, as Lenoir City’s enrollment goes up, you all get a larger piece of the (Basic Education Program).”
If passed, it would be the “first time in history we have ever reduced funding of any sort for Lenoir City,” Shaver said. Any change would go into effect during the next budget cycle.