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Innocuous budget on the table in Jackson County

Jackson County looks set to approve a budget that keeps the tax rate the second lowest in the state at 28 cents per $100 valuation.

The proposed budget would see Jackson County add a human resources director, plus a one-time bonus of $650 for those county employees making less than $40,000 a year.

“There was no raise last year,” County Manager Chuck Wooten said. “This would be the first increase in two years.”

Some highlights from the budget are:

• The $11.3 million construction cost for a new performing arts center and gymnasium at Smoky Mountain High School, and a locker room at Blue Ridge School is included. The county will take out a loan for the project and use sales tax specifically earmarked by the state for school construction to cover the annual payments. The county’s contribution to schools’ operating budget won’t change.

n Southwestern Community College will get an additional $149,960 to help cover the operating costs of the school’s new Burrell Building. For now, commissioners would not committe to $580,000 in matching funds to build a quad or commons area and add a restaurant on campus. Commissioners met with the SCC Board of Trustees earlier this week in ongoing discussions about the project, and they still have time to add the money to the budget.

• The Jackson County Public Library would receive increased funding at 3.4 percent but that’s less than what was asked for. The library had asked to create a new position so that person could be trained by an existing employee to assume their duties on retirement. Wooten said he felt library management could reallocate existing funds for that purpose.

• A new human resources director would oversee 375 full-time employees. Wooten said a professional is needed to ensure that polices are up to date and that departments are adequately trained in personnel administration. “Our most valuable asset is the employees who work for and represent the citizens of Jackson County,” Wooten noted.

A public hearing on the budget has been set for 1:30 p.m. on June 4 in the county commission boardroom.

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