Jim Folts   Blount County Commissioner


“To stand in silence, when they should be protesting, makes cowards out of men” - Abraham Lincoln

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  • Thursday January 20, 7:00 pm, room 430, Blount County Courthouse

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Feel free to let me know your views on county issues
. Just send me an email at jimfolts@gmail.com, or give me a call at 995-9476.

The Blount County Commissioners

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The work has begun

On September 1, 2010 I took the oath of office as Blount County Commissioner. I was elected to listen to you and make your opinions known to our County government. Feel free to measure me against the issues we talked about in the campaign. A link to my campaign brochure is included in the left column of this page. Let me know how I am doing by emailing me or phoning me at the address and numbers shown in the left column.

To keep you posted, I will include a summary of each Commission meeting on this page. I will list the important issues covered in the meeting, as well as the results of each vote on those issues. You can also view the video of each meeting by using the link in the left column.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to earn your confidence.

December 2010 Report

Budget Committee 12/6/2010 - Budget options presented - still no decisions. $2.6 million problem in the insurance fund.
Last month Finance Director Jennings gave a presentation to the Budget Committee describing the serious financial problems faced by the County. The Finance Director asked the Budget Committee (Commissioners Lail, Melton, Lewis and Samples) for guidance in preparing the budget for the next fiscal year, which starts in June. His question was pretty simple. Should he prepare a budget that cuts expenses and people from the County payroll, or should he prepare a budget that includes a major (nearly 20 percent) increase in taxes. The Budget Committee avoided giving Mr. Jennings an answer. Instead, they asked him to prepare several "budget options" with different levels of spending cuts and tax increases.

At this month's Budget Committee meeting, the Mr. Jennings returned with four budget options, ranging from one which holds the existing tax rate and makes significant cuts to the County budget, to a 'business as usual' option that results in nearly a 20 percent tax increase. Once again, the Finance Director asked for guidance in preparing next year's budget.

The discussion in the Budget Committee was interesting. Concerns were voiced about cutting county workers. Concerns were voiced about asking County workers to contribute $50 per month to their medical plan costs (they currently contribute nothing). Comments were made about deeper cuts in the schools. Yet, not a word was voiced about closer scrutiny of other large budgets, like the Sheriff's department. And, no one mentioned the terrible impact a major tax increase could have on the citizens of the County. Nearly 30 percent of the real estate transactions in the county involve foreclosed homes and properties. Ten percent of our citizens are unemployed. Nearly 20 percent of our citizens are on Food Stamps. A major tax increase will increase foreclosures and cause more small businesses to fail, further increasing unemployment. There is really no viable alternative to cutting the budget. Unfortunately, the Budget Committee again put off any decision until January.

Finance Director Jennings also brought another major financial problem to this meeting. The county self-insures for liability and workers compensation. It seems that our previous Financial Director did not do the actuarial reviews necessary to assure that there was enough money in these funds to pay our insurance claims. Worse, during the previous administration, nearly $900,000 in accounting "errors" were made in calculating the amount of money in these funds. These errors went undetected by the state auditors, until this year. After Jennings reviewed all these matters, he discovered there is no money in these funds, and it will take an injection of $2.6 million of taxpayers' hard earned money to make these funds sound. This led Commissioner Samples to openly wonder why the County is in the self-insurance business at all. Clearly, the County has not been managing their self-insurance very well.

Agenda Meeting 12/07/2010 – Budget Option presentation - no decision
Finance Director Jennings made his "Budget Options" presentation to the full Commission at the Agenda meeting. The members of the Budget Committee requested that this be an "information only" presentation, so there was no substantive discussion of this urgent matter.

A $40,000 budget transfer from the Civil Defense department to the Sheriff's department was discussed. It seems that the head of the Civil Defense department is a former Sheriff's deputy. He told the Commission he wanted the budget for his salary to be transferred to the Sheriff's department. He said this was necessary so that he could maintain his POST certification. He also said he would somehow continue to report to the Mayor, even though he would now be paid by the Sheriff. This sets a terrible precedent. Having a person paid out of one group, but responsible to a different group is something most well-run organizations try to avoid like the plague. Who evaluates the employee's performance? Who does the employee take orders from - the person who pays him, or the person who he is supposed to report to? Even worse, changing organizational structures and budgets to suit the convenience of an employee, makes no sense at all. Despite all these problems, the Commission voted to take this matter up at the Commission meeting. I was the only dissenting vote.

Commission Meeting 12/16/2010 – Canceled
The Courthouse was closed due to weather on Monday, December 13 and Thursday December 16. This resulted in the cancellation of the Commission meeting. If we are to address the pressing financial issues facing us, we certainly need to find a greater sense of urgency.