Jim Folts Blount County Commissioner
“To stand in silence, when
they should be protesting, makes cowards out of men” - Abraham Lincoln
Next Commission Meeting
November 2010 Report
Director Presentation to Budget Committee 11/8/2010 - Major problems ahead
Mr. Jennings told the Committee that the County will spend approximately $7 million more than it takes in, this year. If the current trend continues, the County will spend $10 million more than it takes in, next year.
The county has been making up these huge deficits by emptying its savings accounts (fund balances). Unfortunately, by the end of this year, there will be so little money left in the savings accounts that the County’s credit rating will be in danger. Since the County is carrying a very heavy load of debt ($230 million) and must refinance a $46 million balloon payment, a reduction in our credit rating could be a disaster.
The bottom line is that the budget games the County has been playing are over. The Commission must stop letting County expenses grow at 2.5 times the inflation rate. The County must either cut expenses and employees, or impose a major tax increase on the citizens in these tough economic times. But old, bad habits are hard to kill, and just one day after Mr. Jennings presentation, the Commission was hard at work talking about ADDING expenses to the budget. See below.
Meeting 11/09/2010 – $60,000
budget increase returns
The resolution to allow the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to opt out of State mandated training requirements came up again, with changes that limited the opt out period to this year only. This resolution stirred up my curiosity. I requested the training records of the Planning Commission and the BZA. The State requires that detailed records of this training to be kept for three years. John Lamb was able to produce most of the required records for the Planning Commission. Unfortunately, Roger Fields, the County Building Commissioner, could not produce a single record of any of the State required training, for himself or any member of the BZA. This lack of attention to training, and the law, may go a long way toward explaining some of the very poor decisions that have come out of the BZA, while Mr. Fields has been in charge.
I requested a new agenda item, providing for a regular report from the Mayor at each Commission meeting, highlighting good and bad budget performances by the various County departments. In view of the severe budget problems we face, I thought this would be a no-brainer. Instead, it was shuffled off to the Ad Hoc Committee on Commission rules.
Meeting 11/18/2010 – It is
easier to spend another $60,000 of taxpayer money, than to adjust a
I was answered by a torrent of commentary from the inhabitants of the “Justice Center” (JC) (Sheriff’s Department, Circuit Court Clerk and the Judges) pointing to a huge traffic jam that had occurred, Tuesday, two days before the meeting. The jam was supposedly due to lack of parking. However, the discussion uncovered the fact that 300 potential jurors had been summoned to show up at the “Justice Center”, all at the same time, on Tuesday morning. This not only caused the traffic jam, the jury room was not big enough to handle the crowd. The JC inhabitants also admitted that even the 60 space addition would still not be sufficient to handle this crowd. I said I had visited the JC at 9:15 am on Tuesday morning, and enough people had already left, so that I could easily find a space. It seems to me that smarter scheduling would solve the parking problem, without any more taxpayer funds. For instance, if we asked 100 jurors to arrive at 9:00, 100 more at 10:00 and the rest at 11:00, the problem would be solved.
An indication of the real importance the JC inhabitants attach to this problem is that they did not include the new parking lot in this year’s budget. The inhabitants have a combined budget of more than $22 million. By taking just 0.3% out of their existing budgets, they could solve this problem without any additional taxpayer money. With all these facts, and the tough economic climate our taxpayers face, you would think the Commission would have summarily rejected this budget increase. Instead the Commission decided to send the request back to the Budget Committee for more discussion. Only Commissioner Helton and myself voted against this madness. If the Commission continues this casual attitude toward budget increases, how in the world are we going to cut $10 million from next year’s budget? Maybe some Commissioners think that voting for a double-digit tax increase will be easier than facing off with the Sheriff on budget cuts. I hope not. Call the Commissioners and tell them to get started on the hard work of cutting the budget.