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