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 Jan. 19th, 7:00 pm, room 430, Blount County Courthouse

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. Just send me an email at jimfolts@gmail.com, or give me a call at 995-9476.

The Blount County Commissioners

Citizens for Better Government

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December 2011 Report

The major item, a Debt Policy for the County, that should have been discussed at the December Commission meeting, was put off until January. The few things that took place at the December Commission meeting did not serve the interests of the citizens.

The members of the Allocation of Space Committee were appointed. This Committee will allocate space in County buildings and parking lots. This function was adequately performed by the Mayor's office for more than a decade, until some machine office holders and their Commissioners decided to take revenge on the Mayor for trying to cut their budgets. So now the Commission will spend time allocating parking spots instead of figuring how to cut budgets and prevent yet another major tax increase next year. Commissioners Burkhalter, Carver, Caylor, Lail, and Lambert will lead this waste of time.

A resolution was approved that, in effect, takes $600,000 from the debt service fund and gives it to the Highway Department. Amazingly, the source of this raid on the debt service fund was the Mayor's office. Just last month, the Finance Director (who reports to the Mayor) issued a draft Debt Policy which showed that the County is burdened with a debt per person that is 48% higher than the average Tennessee county. The Debt Policy stresses the need to use every means possible to build up the debt service fund, so that the county can begin to reduce its crushing debt load. Several Commissioners expressed shock that less than a month after issuing the draft Debt Policy, the Mayor and his administration would propose to take $600,000 from the debt service fund and give it to the Highway Department. It was very disappointing to see the Mayor send such muddled signals on one of the most important issues facing the County. Commissioners Gamble, Harrison, Murrell, Samples, Wright and myself opposed this move. Commissioners Burchfield, Burkhalter, Carver, Caylor, Farmer, French, Greene, Hasty, Helton, Kirby, Lail, Lambert, Melton and Moon supported this diversion of much needed debt service funds.

Mayor Nominates Ex-Mayor Jerry Cunningham to the PBA
In our opinion, the Blount County PBA, which issues bonds for the County, played a key role in helping to create the debt mess that currently burdens the County.  The PBA, by it's lack of oversight and vigilance, permitted a group of connected people to walk away with millions of dollars in fees, while they saddled the taxpayers with bond and interest rate swap deals which later turned bad. Some of these deals took place during Mayor Cunningham's administration. Even worse, we believe members of his administartion were less than candid with the public about the seriousness of the debt problems, as well as the nature of some of the deals surrounding the debt. Against this background, we find it shocking that Mayor Mitchell is recommending Cunningham be appointed to the Board of the PBA at this month's Commission meeting.

Mayor's Appointments Raise Concerns About Another Major Tax Increase

The preparation of the budget for the year beginning next July is about to start. Because one-time funds were used to paper-over problems in this year's budget, we are facing major problems next year. Serious budget cutting will be needed to head off another major tax increase.

You will recall that last year, the Budget Committee was ineffective at making meaningful budget cuts. The result was a major tax increase.
Unfortunately, the Mayor will recommend to the Commission, at the January meeting, that the same people be appointed to the Budget Committee. The Mayor claims to oppose a tax increase. His reappointment of the same people who failed last year, is unlikely to bring a better result this year. This is leading, even the Mayor's friends and supporters, to wonder about his actions.

Only YOU can change YOUR government
PLEASE come to the Commission meeting Thursday, January 19th at 7:00pm in Room 430 of the Courthouse