HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. - The Tennessee State Comptroller's Office delivered a warning in person to some Hawkins County commissioners Monday. The chief of staff, Jason Mumpower, threatened to step in and take over if the commission can't produce a balanced budget by July 1. This comes as commissioners can't agree how to address a $2 million deficit.
Mumpower told commissioners and others at the budget committee meeting that Hawkins County is in the worst situation of any county in Tennessee.
"They seem to be walking it as close to the edge as anybody in Tennessee," Mumpower said.
He made it clear that failing to balance a budget for next fiscal year could put the county in a dangerous position, insisting the county's reputation and future is on the line.
"What kind of company that wants to create jobs wants to locate in a community where the leaders cannot come together and balance a budget?" Mumpower said.
He said f the state is forced to take over, cutting commissioner salaries and terminating their insurance coverage is just the beginning. All financial discretionary contributions to fire halls, the animal shelter, the library, and other departments would be 100-percent eliminated. Capital projects and maintenance costs would also be eliminated. Then state would explore cuts to personnel.
Ultimately, only after that's all done would the comptroller's office consider raising taxes.
"When times get tight you make reductions in expenditures before you make increases in revenue," Mumpower said.
Budget committee chair Stacy Vaughan said they have made many unpopular cuts.
"Office holders aren't happy. We took the actual expenditures and we brought those estimates more in line with what those expenditures were," Vaughan said.
But the second draft of the budget still leaves the county at a nearly $2-million deficit.
"There's no way to fund everything Hawkins County needs to fund without some sort of new revenue and that will be in the form of a property tax or a wheel tax," Vaughan said.
The full committee will meet on Monday May 22 for another vote on a possible wheel tax increase.
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