Together, we achieve more: the Tennessee County Services Association

Last week we talked about the National Association of Counties (NACo) and its efforts on American counties’ behalf in Washington, D.C. Today we’ll focus on the Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA), the organization that does the same work on the state level.

I attended TCSA’s Spring Legislative meeting February 27-28, where county officials talk with lawmakers about the issues they’ll be considering in their upcoming session. In other meetings and workshops, we learned about new state programs and other topics that affect county governments. Among those discussed were:
The Tennessee Department of Revenue and its administrative fees - This Department’s budget calls for annual revenues of $16 million, but it collects about twice that amount to distribute sales tax revenues back to the cities and counties where it was collected. Senate Bill 385 and House Bill 419 are amendments requiring the department to reduce its fees.

Funds distributed to counties through opioid lawsuit settlement – Lawrence County is receiving $210,827.69 in the first round of payments from opioid manufacturer Janssen Pharmaceuticals, its parent company Johnson & Johnson, and its major distributors. This is the first round of payments, but it comes with stipulations about how it’s spent: for opioid use disorder treatment programs, medication-assisted treatment, recovery supports, and prevention measures.

Tennessee’s new school funding formula – Beginning in fiscal year 2023-24, TISA (Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement) will replace the BEP (Basic Education Program). The BEP takes the number of students served by a school system (and the average daily attendance) and converts that into staffing, materials, equipment and facilities needed to serve those students. The TISA assigns a specific amount for each student served by a system and is expected to add $1 billion in education funding statewide each year. Approximately $750 million is coming to counties this year for salaries, Career Technical Education programs, summer bridge learning camps, and charter school facilities.

Crisis Intervention Training – A new emphasis is being placed on equipping first responders to deal more effectively with mentally ill persons. Data shows how often law enforcement faces these issues: one in four people with mental illness have been arrested; one in ten police calls involve a person with mental illness; and one in four people fatally shot by police are mentally ill.
Recruitment and retention in Corrections – Finding and keeping correctional officers is a problem on a national, state, and local level. Correctional officers are regularly assaulted physically, are verbally ridiculed, and exposed to transmittable diseases. Jails are often the first contact location for those experiencing mental health crises, drug detox, and homelessness.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – We received an overview of this new funding program, described as a “once-in-a-generation” investment by the federal government. Funds are designated for public transit, passenger rail, bridge improvement/construction, clean drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, clean energy transmission and electric vehicle infrastructure, and high speed internet. We were told the program also provides more opportunities for local governments to access new funding.

Electric and autonomous vehicles – A related topic concerned ways the state and counties will be impacted by increased use of these vehicles, including employment changes and the loss of gas tax revenues that support our highway system. One way this is being addressed is through increased registration fees for EVs.

TCSA serves counties in many ways, lobbying to preserve state funds for counties and prevent unfunded mandates. It provides regular information about bills that can impact counties, and works to get county officials in front of legislators considering those bills. It is an umbrella organization that works alongside the Association of County Mayors, the Tennessee County Commissioners Association, and the Tennessee County Highway Officials Association.
To learn more about the National Association of Counties, visit; to learn more about the Tennessee County Services Association, visit