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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  • Blount County Commission - Thursday May 16th, 7:00 pm, room 430, Blount County Courthouse
  • Citizens for Blount County's Future - Tuesday May 14th, 6:30pm, Blount County Library

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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


Citizens for Better Government
 


Current Information





April 2013 Report


Referendum Approved for new Wheel Tax
The Blount County Commission voted to spend $85,000 to hold a referendum on a major new tax, on June 11, 2013. This resolution, sponsored by Commissioners Lail and Burkhalter, would levy a $35 per year wheel tax on each vehicle you own. Motorcycles would be taxed at $17.50 per year.

The first problem with this proposal is that the Commission has not approved a budget for the County. In fact, the Commission has even discussed the budget. Therefore, the Commission really has no idea of how much tax revenue will be needed. The Schools have submitted a budget request that, based on their latest estimate, would require approximately $7.7 million in additional tax money. The wheel tax, if approved, might raise $2.5 million for the Blount County Schools. Mr. Rob Britt, Director of Schools added to the confusion at the Commission meeting by saying that if the wheel tax referendum was approved by the Commission, he would submit a budget that “only” required an additional $2.5 million.

As last month’s report showed, there are important questions about millions of dollars of proposed expenditures by the Schools and a few other county departments. There is considerable evidence that a reasonable budget can be put together that will not require imposing any tax increase on our hard-pressed citizens, if the Commission would just do the work of cutting some of the wasteful spending.

Proposing a major tax increase, without first doing the work to finalize a budget, is a little like trying to ride a bicycle backwards. It is very difficult, and a dumb thing to want to do in the first place. But the Commission decided to ignore the facts and barge ahead anyway.

The wheel tax resolution seemed to be a violation of the Commission’s own rules which state: “All resolutions must have all necessary supporting documentation attached, prior to inclusion in the agenda for the meeting”. The resolution stated: “Whereas, the need for new revenue sources is great in Blount County”. The only documentation that could possibly support that statement is an approved budget for next year. Since no budget exists, I raised a point of order at the meeting stating that the resolution was a clear violation of Commission Rule 6A. Commission Chairman Jerome Moon overruled me.

Since many citizens strongly suspected that the wheel tax of $35 per vehicle per year would quickly be raised by the Commission to nearer $100 per car, I offered an amendment to the wheel tax resolution, requiring that any future increase to the tax could only be done via another vote of the citizens, not the Commission. I explained that this would avoid giving the Commission another blank check to tax our citizens. Commissioner Burkhalter objected to the amendment saying he didn’t want to “tie the hands of future Commissions”. I answered that preventing future Commissions from using the wheel tax as a blank check was exactly my objective. Amazingly, the Commission, influenced by the strong public comment earlier in the meeting disapproving of the wheel tax, voted unanimously to approve my amendment.

The vote on the main wheel tax resolution was 13 FOR and 6 AGAINST. Commissioners Burchfield, Harrison, Hasty, Melton, Wright and myself voted against the wheel tax. Many of us felt the measure is simply a waste of the $85,000 that it will cost to hold the election. After all, it was only last year that our citizens rejected an increase in the sales tax. Our citizens are still struggling in a very tough economy. We don’t even have a budget to demonstrate the need for a wheel tax. Why do many Commissioners think the citizens would vote for a major new tax under these circumstances?

Remember to vote on the Wheel Tax. The referendum will be held June 11,2013.

Still no Budget Discussions by the Commission
As usual, the Commission is leaving any discussion of the budget until the very last minute. It appears that many of the political machine Commissioners like it that way, since it prevents any serious discussion of budget cuts to eliminate wasteful spending in some of their favored departments. (See last month’s report for an itemized list of some of the areas of waste.) As things stand, it will take a wheel tax AND a major property tax increase to meet the requests of all the County departments. Only a strong turn-out of citizens like YOU, will stop this nonsense.