|It never ceases to astound me, here in Loudon County,
fiscally conservative, republican Loudon County, at least some of our
elected officials have no problem when it comes to raising taxes. This
is still about the jail.
Last week, The Loudon County Corrections Partnership Committee (LCCPC), Jail Committee, took up the matter of adding another $50 litigation tax to every case going through the criminal and sessions court system. At first blush this sounds like it makes sense. Let the bad guys pay the tax. Problem is, it won't be the bad guys that pay the tax. It will be everyone who uses the courts. Divorce, child custody, probate, traffic violations etc. In other words, the average citizens of Loudon County.
The new $50 tax would be on top of the $50 tax passed last year to fund a second general sessions judge and both of these taxes are on top of already hundreds of dollars in fees and taxes already charged by the court. For instance, currently a speeding ticket fine is a couple of dollars but with all the fees and taxes, that ticket would cost you about $275.00 and that's before adding the newly proposed $50 tax.
Attorney General, Russ Johnson, presented the new tax idea to the committee as a way to help fund a jail addition. A motion was made by Loudon County Mayor Buddy Bradshaw and seconded by Judge, "tax'em to death" Dale to present the tax increase to the Loudon County commission at their January workshop. Judge Dale was the mastermind behind the 2015, $50 tax increase to hire a second judge to lessen his workload. Mayor Bradshaw also recommended that any new addition should have a new courtroom to move criminal court from the old courthouse in Loudon to the justice center.
I can assure you that I and other commissioners would like nothing more than to solve the problem of overcrowding and officer safety at the jail but the jail committee hasn't yet given us the opportunity. We're told there's an overcrowding issue and the jail will be decertified if we don't do something. No problem, we'll add some cell space at a minimal cost. But wait, there's a problem with officer safety too. No problem, we'll deal with that too when we add cell space. But wait, there's a problem with courtroom security too. Oh yeah, we also need more courtrooms and office space and parking and so on and so on. So now we may as well raise taxes and build a whole new justice center with jails, court rooms office space and so on.
What started out as a shortage of inmate bed space in the jail has now turned into a 35 million dollar complex extravaganza. This issue could have been dealt with two years ago with a minimal, rational, affordable addition but the commission has never been given that option.
Apparently, it's the golden dome or nothing.