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June 2015 Commission Report

“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”  2 Peter 2:3

This month I did a lot of writing on issues prior to the monthly commission meeting.  If you haven’t already done so, please take the time to read those articles prior to reading this report.  Alternatively, you can read those articles that are linked throughout this report.

Agenda Meeting
The Commission rejected my request to move the Commission meeting to a bigger venue.  A move to one of the school auditoriums would have given all people the opportunity to sit and watch the commission meeting.  Instead people who arrived early were locked out of the commission room.

As a result, people in the commission room were cold and those left standing outside the meeting room were burning up.  The request came after the Chairman, Jerome Moon, ordered standing citizens out of the room last month while allowing uniformed officers to line the wall.

Commission Meeting

The fix is in – Commission raises property tax rate before voting on budget

State law requires the commission to pass an appropriations resolution (annual budget) and a property tax rate resolution.  In the interest of protecting the taxpayers, I tried to have the budget placed ahead of the tax rate for purposes of discussion.  Putting the tax rate ahead of the budget means that the fix is in as there is no incentive to cut the budget after the property tax rate has been set.

In a poor economic environment, where the commission wants to hold the line on taxes but is handed a bloated budget from the Budget Committee recommending a tax increase, the commission could set the rate ahead of the budget and then work on the budget until it is balanced without a tax increase.  That isn’t what happened though and there are still problems with setting the tax rate first.

The tax rate isn’t just one number.  In past years the tax rate has fixed the levy for three funds, General County, General Purpose Schools and Debt Service.  This year, after a court opinion in McMinn County, a new fund for Capital Education Projects was added.  Thus, the Commission isn’t voting on just one number in the tax rate but four.  How would the commission know how much to fix for each fund without discussing the budget?  Debt service is straight forward but the rest require discussion.  It doesn’t make sense to set the rate before knowing how much you are going to spend in each fund.  Do you know any business that sets the price of the products or services before they have any idea what their expenses are?

Voting for the tax rate first and then discussing the budget allows commissioners to play political games with their constituents because some commissioners will vote no on the tax rate or abstain knowing that the increase will pass but then will vote yes on the budget which caused the increase.  Voting for the budget which caused the increase has the same effect as the vote on the tax rate increase.  It spends the same amount of your money and these commissioners are just as responsible as those who didn’t play games with their yes vote on the tax increase.

My motion to discuss the budget before the tax rate failed 3-18 with only Commissioners Daly, Miller and myself (Monroe) voting to discuss the budget before fixing the tax rate.  The fix was in with a tax increase approved before the commission discussed the budget.

A citizen contacted me several days before the vote and told me what the tax rate would be.  Another contacted me telling me that the tax rate had already been determined but I would not be included.

It came as no surprise when commissioners Rick Carver and Gary Farmer offered amendments that set the tax rate at what I had been told without explaining why that was the rate needed.  Somehow those of us who weren’t included were just suppose to magically know where the reductions in increases (some call these cuts) would be made when the tax rate was voted on before the appropriations resolution, without any discussion as to why the tax rate of $2.47 was the one to go with.

Consensus and stifling of debate
There seemed to be a consensus amongst the majority of commissioners.  How they would know where Rick Carver was going to amend the budget and why he felt no need to explain it to the commission or to the public why those were the changes to make is beyond me.  Debate was stifled through parliamentary procedure and the only explanation given to the citizens as to why Carver’s cuts were the only ones that should be made was the comment from the Finance Director.

Commissioner Andy Allen moved to cut off debate on all amendments and the main motion moving adoption of the budget.  Only four commissioners voted not to cut off debate on over $175 million of your money.  Commissioners Grady Caskey, Tom Cole, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe voted to continue debate.  The rest voted to stifle debate.

Six commissioners voted no on the tax rate and the budget
A game that some commissioners play with their constituents is voting no or abstaining on the tax rate but voting yes on the budget that requires a tax increase to pay for it.  Only six commissioners voted no on both.  The contradictory votes of the one who abstained and other who voted no on the tax rate but yes on the budget should be viewed for the game and hypocrisy that it is.

The six commissioner who voted no are Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe.

Conflicts of interest
Several commissioners read conflict of interest statements prior to voting on the budget.  Sadly there are more who should have read statements but didn’t.  Since debate on the budget was stifled through parliamentary procedure, the commission spent more time reading conflict of interest statements than it did voting on the main motion adopting the annual budget.

Obtaining information
The public should know how difficult it can be at times to obtain information to make informed decisions.  Some are quick to provide information while others are not.

During the budget process I met with the Finance Director Randy Vineyard.  While I have been critical of his withholding information and not giving me a straight answer in the past, he actually was quite accommodating during the budget process.  He hired a new lady, Angelie Shankle, who took my questions and got answers to me promptly.  There is another lady in Accounting named Susan Gennoe who quickly works to get answers.  Both of these ladies have pleasant demeanors and based on my experiences with them appear to be doing their jobs well.

Troy Logan, Finance Director for the Schools, has always given me straight answers.  I met with him and he provided me with everything that I asked for.

Last year when I asked for information about the jail John Adams and Jeff French were quick to provide me with information.  The budget process with the Sheriff’s Office was not a pleasant experience.  Marian O’Briant, the PR person for the Sheriff’s Office attacked me multiple times, was slow to respond and told me that she was getting paid overtime to write me a short email that didn’t answer my questions.  The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t need a PR person.  Upper management is paid well and could answer media questions.

I never received the complete breakdown of the compensation from the Evergreen study that I asked for.  The study was incomplete, inadequate and it was a hasty decision for the commission to act on the study.  It was my intention to propose an alternative pay option for deputies in the Sheriff’s Office instead of using an unfinished study to base pay raises on.  15 minutes prior to the start of the Commission meeting, I was given a tiny portion of the information that I had asked for.  It was not broken down into the categories necessary to propose the alternative pay option making it impossible for me to propose an alternate solution.

Employees to be paid above average wages based on unfinished study

The pay recommendations of the Evergreen study are not based on merit.  Furthermore, county employees will be paid above average wages.

The story told me about the need for the study is that county officials got together and decided that they wanted to pay “competitive” wages.  An economist friend of mine pointed out that many positions in government aren’t competitive because they don’t compete in a free market, with the only competition being between surrounding governments.  He said that the more accurate description is that that the study would look at paying similar or better wages.

The officials looked at paying better wages that are above average.  Officials didn’t look to bring wages to average based on the 50th percentile.  The study was based on a pay scale of the 60th percentile of pay.  That would be reasonable if Blount County had a robust economy but it doesn’t.

The ET Index shows that Blount County is the only county in the eight county region where pay has actually dropped .5% after inflation.  Blount County is tied for the biggest drop in median household income at 15%, and is about $7,000 less than it was in 2000.  This type of economic environment is not conducive to a big tax increase.  The people of Blount County are living on substantially less and will now be forced to live on even less thanks to the big property tax increase.  Office holders should have looked harder to control spending and make pay more equitable.  Pay raises based on the 50th percentile or my alternative proposal that I wasn’t able to make because of the lack of information provided would have been more reasonable.  Government often lacks reason in the way it approaches problems.

The Evergreen study still has the word draft stamped on it but the FY 16 budget was built around the draft which only contained 3 of the 5 chapters that will be available in the final report.  No one would run a business this way if they wanted to stay in business and it is embarrassing to see the county run this way.

Fear mongering and Sheriff’s political playbook
Several people wrote me about their displeasure with the head of the library using their email addresses to solicit support for the tax increase.  The fear mongering worked on some because I got a few emails telling me to support raising taxes because of the library.  Overall, people saw through it and weren’t happy about the situation.

Every couple of years the Sheriff drags out his playbook and we go through the same procedure of hearing about the lowest paid deputies.  This tugs on heart strings causing some to be willing to support a tax increase without knowing how much of a pay gap exists within government departments and offices.  The state sets minimum salaries for office holders, which are much higher than they should be but the county is compelled by law to pay those salaries.

This commission can raise the salaries above the state minimum for some office holders and it did that in FY15.  The Sheriff makes about the cost of an entire deputy salary above the state minimum.  He has no credibility talking about how much he cares about the deputies.  Actions speak louder than words.  He could have given this money to his employees but chose not to.  The same is true for Tom Hatcher, Bill Dunlap and Ed Mitchell.

My motion to the cut the salaries of these elected officials failed 4-16-1.  Commissioners Akard, Daly, Miller and I voted to cut their salaries.  Shawn Carter abstained.  The rest voted no.

Probation Services is projected to lose money in the new budget year
The political machine has bragged for several years that Probation Services makes money for the county.  It’s not a lot of money but Probation has usually been revenue positive, leaving more in the general fund than was spent administer the service.  However, that seems to coming to an end.  The approved budget for FY 16 projects that Probation Services will actually lose about $2,200.

Notice the budgeted increase in pay for the Administrator position.  More on that later.

Fund/Cost Center Title FY 14 FY 15 FY 16
105 Administrator $57,250 $65,000 $65,462
53910 Probation Services $504,783 $606,563 $624,482
43393 Fees Probation $607,026 $657,245 $622,250

Schools get a big increase in local revenue
Blount County Schools will see a huge increase in local revenue.  The sales tax increase last year will result in $2 million in increased revenue.  The creation of a Capital Educations Projects fund will result in an $1.26 million increase funded by a 4 cent property tax increase.  State funding for the schools will be about the same as it was last year because the school population is up only slightly.

The sales tax increase was promoted to the public to be used to fund the purchase of textbooks, technology and infrastructure improvements.  The schools will getting $1.26 million earmarked for infrastructure improvements.  A recent article in the paper shows that the majority of the $2 million from the sales tax increase will go to increased compensation rather than textbooks and technology.  Thus, we may hear the same old stories next year about there being no money for textbooks and computers.

I recently learned about a book keeper who has been with the schools for over 40 years.  She makes less than the part time PR person employed by the schools.  It was upsetting to read in the paper that the increase will be used to make a part time PR position full time.  This is definitely not a priority item over textbooks and computers.  I’ve asked for a breakdown of the school budget to see exactly how much is going to be spent on technology and textbooks and waiting for that response.

Several teachers voted no on giving the schools a million dollars.  A motion was made to cut $1 million from the economic development budget leaving it with about $62,000 since there is little accountability to the taxpayers.  Commissioners Akard, Archer, Carter, Daly, Miller and Monroe voted yes.  Commissioners Cole and Farmer abstained.  The rest voted yes.  Commissioners Grady Caskey, Dodd Crowe and Tom Stinnett, all teachers, voted no on giving the schools the money and allowing the unaccountability of this taxpayer money to continue.

The Blount Partnership is a private entity and Bryan Daniels denied my request for their budget.  However, it consists of many of the same people involved with the Industrial Development Board (IDB) and the Chamber of Commerce.  Apparently the IDB can go out and make promises to private business and hand the taxpayers the bill.  The commission doesn’t vote on these deals/promises made to private business and we are often not even informed what type of deals/promises are made.  It is absolutely wrong to allow a board to go out and promise taxpayer money to private businesses and then levy a tax on your home to pay for it.  Furthermore, some of these same people are involved with the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority which is another unaccountable use of taxpayer money.

Budget
There is much more to say about the budget but I will stop here because this report is approaching a treatise.

Grant policy routinely violated
Office holders and department heads have repeatedly shown that the authority of the commission means nothing to them.  The commission is expected to rubber stamp grants and not ask questions.  The Chairman, Jerome Moon, tried to stop me from asking questions at the Commission meeting because I had asked questions at the Agenda meeting.  After the Agenda meeting, I did some homework and came prepared with questions to ask at the Commission meeting.  Apparently the Chairman doesn’t think you should actually do your job as a County Commissioner by researching matters and coming prepared with questions. What’s the point of having a meeting if you aren’t going to do your homework and come prepared to discuss the items on the agenda?

The deadline to apply for nearly every grant that the commission is asked to vote on has already passed before being brought to the commission.  Explanations are never given unless I ask why.  The Budget Committee never asks why the grants aren’t presented in a timely manner.  When I asked Jeff French why the deadline for the grant request from the Sheriff’s Office had already passed, he told me he didn’t know.  His name is listed as the reporting person.  See page 48.

The grant from the Facilities Coordinator, under the Mayor, didn’t even have a grant worksheet with the request in the Budget Committee and Agenda Committee meetings.  It only appeared in the Commission meeting packet after I pointed this out at the Agenda meeting.

While I was begrudgingly allowed to ask some questions about the energy efficiency grant for court house building improvements, I wasn’t able to ask everything.  When my questioning revealed that the county had already received the grant, without any commission oversight, knowledge or inclusion on the matter, the Chairman asked Commissioner Farmer to amend his motion to ratify the grant rather than to approve the worksheet to apply for the grant.  I had my light on to be recognized to speak to ask further questions but the Chairman turned it off.  I then asked if we were only voting on the amendment.  Chairman Moon shook his head yes in answer to my question.  After voting on the amendment, the Chairman proceeded on to the next Agenda item when we hadn’t even voted on the main motion, just the amendment.

I still had questions about how the county would benefit from energy efficiency in replacing the windows when the grant application said it would take over 179 years for the energy cost savings to be more than the cost of the windows.  See page 62 for the payback period.

RAC2 district created
The Commission voted to create what will eventually be a special new zone.  The wording is tricky saying that it isn’t creating a zone but it allows for it in the future and the effect is to allow special development privileges for a handful of properties.

“This section does not amend the Zoning Map, nor zone nor rezone any land to RAC2, but only identifies limits to location for any land that may in the future be zoned RAC2.”

This request morphed into nothing more than a crony deal for an office holder to develop his land when the rest of us can’t.  The matter has been the subject of discussion since 2013 in the Planning Commission.  It would have been quicker and simpler to have just sent the commission the crony deal to start with since the good ole’ boys get what they wanted.

Why do we have zoning regulations when anyone who is politically connected can get them amended to do what they want?  Zoning has become a tool of the politically connected to develop their land while squashing competition.  Unfortunately, some “conservationists” go along with this as those it’s a good thing for our community to create laws and regulations with special favors for the politically connected few while discriminating against everyone else.

Only Commissioners Akard, Cole, Daly, Miller and Monroe voted against this crony deal.  The rest took care of a political office holder while discriminating against you.

Blount County Corrections Partnership
The Corrections Partnership heard from Bob Bass of the Tennessee Corrections Institute.  He previously asked to speak to the Partnership about what he does in other counties, leading me to believe that he was going to offer solutions to reduce jail overcrowding.  He offered none.  His presentation was on the role of the jail and did not address how to reduce the overcrowding problem.

The only person to ask any questions was me.  I asked him what the TCI’s position was on keeping federal inmates when the jail is overcrowded.  He said the TCI doesn’t have a position.

After the meeting, it became apparent to me after further discussion with the people from the TCI that they want the county to build a new jail pod.  The inspector told me that work programs don’t work and the ILPP report didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know.  Actually the jail the report told me several disturbing things about our criminal justice system that I didn’t know.  It was the TCI presentation that didn’t tell me anything that I don’t already know.

A member of the community shared with me that the Sheriff didn’t get what he wanted in the jail study so he is trying to get what he wants out of the state, which is a position that the jail should be expanded.  Unfortunately I am afraid that this person is right.

There are people who need to be in jail.  However, I have heard from people in a variety of situations who should not be in jail.  There are numerous factors to the jail overcrowding.  The jail study addresses several of those factors.

One factor that would quickly reduce the number of inmates is to stop taking federal prisoners.  The ILPP study that the Mayor and Sheriff don’t want to talk about in public says that we lose money on federal prisoners.  The Mayor went so far as to threaten filing a frivolous lawsuit.  Where is that lawsuit Mayor?

There is genuine fear in the community about speaking out about the Sheriff, the judges and the condition of the jail.  People share their stories with me but won’t go public for fear of retaliation against them or their loved ones.  It makes my job of advocating for meaningful reform more difficult because people won’t share their stories with the public.  Couple the fear with a Sheriff who wants to expand political power with a bigger jail, and Mayor who has bowed to the Sheriff and some judges who can’t handle criticism and you have a mess.

The jail overcrowding is a multilayered problem.  One big layer of the problem that can be peeled off is the optional practice of keeping federal inmates.  For those of you who aren’t afraid of the Sheriff, tell him that you don’t want the county to keep federal inmates any longer.  His email address is jlb@bcso.com and his phone number is 273-5000.

Role of government
One thing that emerged during budget discussions with the people of my district is what the role of government should be.  I had several people telling me that they are tired of paying taxes for services that they don’t use.  People are tired of paying for the schools, library and parks when they don’t use them.  Others told me that they are tired of having to pay fees to use these three, when they are already paying taxes on them.  Theselegitament points are frequently buried and not fully vetted in debate about taxes.

People complained to me about the schools always saying that they never get enough money.  Others expressed to me that they aren’t happy with upper management making big salaries.  Others homeschooling or sending their kids to private school feel that they shouldn’t pay taxes for public education when they pay for their kids education.

People complained to me about having to pay for the library when they don’t use it.  Others told me that they love the library and would pay more taxes for it.  Others said that they find the fees that the library charges to use meeting rooms ridiculous when they pay taxes for the library.

People complained to me that they are tried of paying taxes for Parks and Rec when they charges big fees for summer time activities.

These are all legitimate points worthy of discussion, not suppression and emotional, libelous branding of the people who make them.  Should people pay taxes for services that they don’t use?  Some County Offices are fee offices like the County Clerk’s Office and the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.  They are funded by fees rather than taxes.  Should services like the library and Parks and Rec be funded by fees from the people who use them, rather than taxing the homes of people who don’t use them?  Some people certainly think so.

If you think so, let your state legislators know.

Senator Doug Overbey sen.doug.overbey@capitol.tn.gov 850-9411
Representative Art Swann rep.art.swann@capitol.tn.gov 982-6811
Representative Bob Ramsey rep.bob.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov 984-8124

Media coverage
People regularly send me emails asking why the media doesn’t cover more local government issues.  They also complain to me about media bias favoring the good ole’ boys.

One person commented about the paper in Knox County offering a more balanced approach to the coverage of deputy pay while the local paper ran several puff pieces in support of the Sheriff’s Office.  Others have complained to me about the editorials always supporting Senators Doug Overbey, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

The best place to address these concerns are with local media sources although I did publish some of what was sent to me here.

Up next
County Revenue Commissioners.  This is an old statute still on the books that I found that could bring some transparency and accountability to a local government that lacks an Audit Committee.  Newly elected Commissioners in multiple counties are trying to revive the positions since Audit Committees are optional unless the Comptroller requires one and even then an Audit Committee may do nothing.  The Comptroller is talking about having it repealed since they enjoy being in charge.  Tell your state elected officials that a fully functioning Audit Committee should be required or the County Revenue Commissioners law should stay.

Senator Doug Overbey sen.doug.overbey@capitol.tn.gov 850-9411
Representative Art Swann rep.art.swann@capitol.tn.gov 982-6811
Representative Bob Ramsey rep.bob.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov 984-8124

Question for the people of Blount County
Each month I spend a great deal of time writing lengthy detailed commission reports.  One of my campaign promises included writing commission reports and I will continue to keep that promise.  Do you want the reports to continue to be as detailed as they are now?  Or would shorter reports suffice?

Keeping your friends close and your enemies closer: Where is that lawsuit Mayor?

It’s interesting that Mayor Ed Mitchell has hired a reporter who a few months ago covered the fact that the Blount County Commission has yet to hear from the jail consultant paid to address the overcrowding problem.  Mitchell responded by threatening to file a frivolous lawsuit.

The reporter doesn’t have any experience in the field of Emergency Management that he was hired to work in.  Could this be Mitchell’s attempt to keep his friends close and his enemies closer?  It appears to be a smart move on Mitchell’s part but the way that Mitchell, the Sheriff and the commission have responded to the jail report is not smart for the taxpayers of Blount County.

The Sheriff is hell-bent on building a new jail pod.  The criminal justice assessement report (jail study) said there are many things we can do besides expand the jail.  That’s why the report had to be squashed, ignored, ridiculed and the character of the person who did the report maligned.  Most of the people in county government are afraid to stand up to the Sheriff and say no to expanding the jail.

Ed Mitchell doesn’t run this town.  The Sheriff does.  Mitchell is only in charge of the things that the Sheriff doesn’t care about.  You can see it in Mitchell’s actions.  The Mayor didn’t have to respond to the jail consultant the way he did.

Where is that lawsuit Mayor?  You know the one that you threatened to file with your Not the County Attorney*.  It’s time to quit playing games.  Numerous lives and the wallets of the people of Blount County are at risk from the poor decisions made by our local government.

The best place to start reducing the jail population is to stop taking federal inmates since we lose money on them.  The report that the Mayor and his Not the County Attorney don’t want the commission to talk about said we lose money on federal inmates.

*Blount County does not have a County Attorney.  Numerous public officials and department heads refer to the County Attorney but there isn’t one.  The Mayor has an attorney that he and others consult for legal advice.

The County Commission is far too lax in its resolutions by allowing false statements saying that matters have been reviewed by the county attorney when there is no such position in Blount County government.  When the government allows false statements in its official public policy, the public trust has been broken.  You deserve better.

Links: http://www.thedailytimes.com/news/coleman-former-daily-times-reporter-hired-as-county-emergency-management/article_6dacc88e-7863-5f74-93ab-37835f266e4c.html

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/local-news/jail-consultant-blount-county-leaders-distracted-by-money_88872812

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/state/blount-mayor-threatens-lawsuit-over-jail-report_91564577

Obamacare’s Best Allies: The Courts and the Republicans

By ruling for the government in the case of King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court once again tied itself into rhetorical and logical knots to defend Obamacare. In King, the court disregarded Obamacare’s clear language regarding eligibility for federal health care subsides, on the grounds that enforcing the statute as written would cause havoc in the marketplace. The court found that Congress could not have intended this result and that the court needed to uphold Congress’s mythical intention and ignore Obamacare’s actual language.

While Obamacare may be safe from court challenges, its future is far from assured. As Obamacare forces more Americans to pay higher insurance premiums while causing others to lose their insurance or lose access to the physicians of their choice, opposition to Obamacare will grow. Additional Americans will turn against Obamacare as their employers reduce their hours, along with their paychecks, because of Obamacare’s mandates.

As dissatisfaction with Obamacare grows, there will be renewed efforts to pass a single-payer health care system. Single-payer advocates will point to Obamacare’s corporatist features as being responsible for its failures and claim the only solution is to get the private sector completely out of health care.

Unfortunately, many Republicans will inadvertently aid the single-payer advocates by failing to acknowledge that Obamacare is not socialist but corporatist, and that that the pre-Obamacare health care system was hobbled by government intervention. In fact, popular support for Obamacare was rooted in the desire to address problems created by prior government interference in the health care marketplace.

Republicans also help the cause of socialized medicine by pretending that Obamacare can be fixed with minor reforms. These Republicans do not understand that replacing Obamacare with “Obamacare Lite” will still leave millions of Americans with inadequate access to quality health care, and could strengthen the movement for a single-payer system.

Republicans’ failure to advocate for a free-market health care system is not just rooted in intellectual error and political cowardice. The insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the other special interests that benefit from a large government role in health care are just as — or perhaps even more — influential in the Republican Party as in the Democratic Party. The influence of these interests is one reason why, despite their free-market rhetoric, Republicans have a long history of expanding the government’s role in health care.

Those who think a Republican president and Congress will enact free-market health care should consider that the last time Republicans controlled Congress and the White House their signature health care achievement was to expand federal health care spending and entitlements. Furthermore, Richard Nixon worked with Ted Kennedy to force all health care plans to offer a health maintenance organization (HMO). Even Obamacare’s individual mandate originated in a conservative think tank and was first signed into law by a Republican governor.

Instead of Obamacare Lite, Congress should support giving individuals direct control over their health care dollars through individual health care tax credits and expanded access to health savings accounts. Other reforms like long-term group insurance could ensure that those with “pre-existing conditions” have access to care. Another good reform is negative outcomes insurance that could help resolve the medical malpractice crisis.

America’s health care system is just as unsustainable as our foreign policy and our monetary system. At some point, the financial and human costs of Obamacare will prove overwhelming and Congress will be forced to replace this system. Hopefully, before this happens, a critical mass of people will convince Congress to replace Obamacare with a truly free-market health care system.

Read online: http://bit.ly/1HoYzls

Teacher shares how principals used teachers for big budget increase

The Sheriff and upper paid people in the Sheriff’s office use the deputies the same way the the principals use the teachers.   A teacher shares being used by her boss:

“I used to be a Blount County School teacher.  I remember when the education dept. was wanting more money to give the teachers a small raise (and give themselves a big raise–done by giving a percentage raise), the principals would call their teachers and ask if we wanted to help rally at the courthouse.  There were usually very nice, professionally made signs waiting for us to carry as we picketed outside and in the courthouse.  (I thought of this when I saw the professional looking signs carried by those wanting the raises for the sheriff’s dept.)  I finally got wise and quit going for these rallies because the education department was using us to get lots of money, and only giving teachers a small part of it to keep our salaries low so as to continue using us as leverage to get more money.”

Those who voted for the budget caused the tax increase

There is some discussion about seven commissioners voting no on the tax rate increase and one commissioner abstaining.  While the vote on the tax rate is certainly important, two of those commissioners voted for the budget which caused the tax increase.  Thus, their no vote and abstention on the tax rate vote is contradictory.

Under the state law, the commission is required annually to vote on two separate resolutions, the appropriations (budget) resolution and the property tax rate resolution.  If the commissioner voted for the budget requiring the tax increase, they were for the tax increase regardless of whether they had the courage to vote yes on the tax rate.  There is no way to pay for the budget that just passed the commission without a property tax increase.  Thus, a no vote or abstention vote on the tax rate but a yes vote on the budget has no credibility.  There were only six commissioner who voted no on both the budget and the tax rate.  The other fifteen commissioners caused the tax increase, even if two failed to take responsibility for their actions by voting yes on the huge property tax increase.

Tax Rate Vote:
Yes- Andy Allen, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Grady Caskey, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Jeff Headrick, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton, Jerome Moon and Steve Samples
No- Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Brad Bowers, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe
Abstain- Tom Stinnett

Compare that to the budget vote which required a tax increase to pay for, since no effort was made to balance the budget at current revenues.

Budget Appropriations Vote:
Yes- Andy Allen, Brad Bowers, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Grady Caskey, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Jeff Headrick, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton, Jermone Moon, Steve Samples and Tom Stinnett
No- Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe

Commissioner Brad Bowers’s no vote on the tax rate resolution and Tom Stinnett’s abstention vote on the tax rate resolution contradict their votes for the budget.  These two caused the tax increase with their votes for the budget that used the tax increase to fund it.  Don’t let them tell you any differently.

This is an age old tactic that some commissioners have played in the past voting for the budget that required a tax increase to fund it while voting no on the tax rate so that they can tell their constituents that they didn’t vote for a tax increase.  It’s political doublespeak.

It would be better for both resolutions to be voted on at once so that politicians can quit playing this game with their constituents.

LOCK OUT from Commission Room

Email just received
Hey Tona,
All of your information has been very helpful, also inspiring. Keep up the good work. Danny Garner ran me out. I had been sitting in the meeting room since 2 this afternoon, and at about 2:45 Danny came in with a memo to lock the doors with the explicit instructions to not open them up until 6 PM. Your in for a fight tonight and I know you are up to the task.
Note: Danny is also known as Denny.

Lets be Blount: your taxpayer money is being wasted

People are asking where we can cut the budget.  The story in todays paper about the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority (SMTDA) is a great example of waste.

The SMTDA is spending taxpayer money, that it received from the hotel/motel tax, for a slogan.  The Lets be Blount slogan is waste just like the recent Tennessee logo.  In less than 10 seconds, I came up with a headline for this post.  Let’s be Blount: your taxpayer money is being wasted.

Taxpayer money shouldn’t be wasted on these types of projects.

Citizens tried to stop the commission from creating a bureaucracy where there would be no accountability to the commission other than to abolish the authority.  Our pleas fell on deaf ears.

The commission was sold on the idea by being told that creating the authority would take a million dollars of debt off the county books by transferring it to the SMTDA.  I remember Commissioner Gordon Wright telling me that.  According to the paper the debt was actually $1.3 million.  Think about the insanity of that reason for a moment.  The projected budget, funded by the hotel/motel tax, is around $1.5 million.  With that budget, the $1.3 million could have been paid off in one year and still have money left over.

The Heritage Center gets to double dip by getting money directly from the county and indirectly from the hotel/motel tax given to the SMTDA.  It wasn’t that long ago that the SMTDA talked about training gas station attendants with tourism related matters.  More waste.

As a kid I can remember watching government funded ads on tv promoting tourism.  I have never visited any place because of some cheesy ad or slogan promoted by the government.

Let the free market work.  Business people are smart enough to promote their businesses without the government doing it for them.

How to double dip and get people who make much less than you to clap for you

The June Agenda Committee meeting showed that there is very much a good ole’ boy network in Blount County and that the authority of the commission means little to them.

The commission is being asked to approve funding for energy efficient renovations partially paid for by a TDEC grant and the rest being paid for with local tax dollars.  There was no grant worksheet included with the request in the Budget Committee packet (see pages 25-40) or the Agenda Committee packet (Item G3b pages 102-117).  After pointing this out at the Agenda Committee meeting, lo and behold the grant worksheet appeared the Commission meeting packet (see page 49).

Notice that the grant worksheet says that the application deadline is January 30, 2015.  Page 51 shows an invoice of $3,000 for a contract fee and page 52 says it’s for a Program Grant Application.  There is no date on the grant worksheet showing when the form was completed.  How convenient.

This grant isn’t the only grant request that the commission is being asked to approve after the deadline has passed.  Item F3a (page 48), a SWAT team/unit grant, shows a deadline of May 13, 2015.

Procedure 2 of the county’s grant policies says:

After the Grant Worksheet has been reviewed, it will be forwarded to the Budget Committee. If the grant will require any type of county funding after it is awarded or in the future, it will go to the Budget Committee for approval. If it does not require any county funding, it will go to the Budget Committee as information only.

Procedure 5 of the county’s grant policies says:

Once the grant worksheet has been approved, the department can apply for the grant. In some situations, there may be a need for approval of the grant application before the Budget Committee meets. In these cases, the Finance Director and/or Mayor may approve the application and the Budget Committee will be notified at the next meeting.

The commission was not asked to approve the grant worksheet in January or February.  If the Finance Director and/or Mayor approved the application, they failed to notify the Budget Committee at its next meeting.  The lack of respect for the commission is glaring.

The situation gets even worse.  Denny Garner, the Facilities Coordinator for the Blount County Maintenance Department, told the commission that the grant originated out of his department.  Look on pages 52, 54 and 55 and you will see that Denny Garner wears two hats in Blount County government.  Denny Garner is also the fleet manager in the Sheriff’s Office.  Garner started in his role of Facilities Coordinator last year when the previous coordinator retired.

A look at the payroll shows Garner’s salary as Fleet Manger to be $38,035.  He received a $1,000 bonus last year and $6,253.58 in overtime last year.  His annual salary as Facilities Coordinator is also $38,035.  If Garner gets the same amount of overtime as last year, he will make over $80,000 wearing two hats in Blount County government.

Being a crony who can double dip the taxpayers obviously pays well.  Throw in a race track and he could triple dip.

At the end of the meeting, Director of General Services Don Stallions defended Garner’s double dipping by saying that he was doing a good job and that he is making less than the previous Facilities Coordinator.  The county employees clapped for Stallions.

Here’s what the employees should consider before clapping for a man who hasn’t exactly been the taxpayers best friend.

1) Do you think it’s fair that someone managing the Sheriff’s fleet should make a base salary that is over $9,000 more than the base salary for starting patrol officers and over $10,000 more than the base salary for correctional officers?

2) Did you get $6,253.58 in overtime last year?

3) If the county can pay the current Facilities Coordinator less than the previous one, were we over paying the last one?

4) Gary Farmer makes $66,783 to perform similar duties for the Blount County Schools.  Is he being overpaid?  Do you think it’s fair for him to make 2.3 times more than a starting patrol officer and 2.4 times what a correctional officer is making?

5) Denny Garner is on track, if he gets the same amount of overtime pay, to make nearly 3 times the current base salary of a correctional officer.

6) Don Stallions was the HR Director when the county health care fund began losing vast sums of money yet he says he didn’t know about it.  His salary last year to lead the health care fund into quick sand was $67,000.  Like Farmer, he made 2.3 times patrol officers and 2.4 times correctional officers.

Instead of clapping for someone who may make nearly triple what you currently make and being upset at the person who questions why this is happening, you may want to ask your boss why their cronies make so much than you do.  It certainly isn’t merit based.

Also see this.

Blount County 8th in total debt & 11th highest per capita debt among Tennessee counties

Debt Per Capita

County FY 2014 FY 2013 FY 2012 FY 2011 FY 2010
Anderson $794 $694 $732 $535 $548
Bedford $1,265 $1,364 $1,479 $1,600 $1,716
Benton $608 $659 $699 $748 $813
Bledsoe $1,648 $1,711 $1,462 $1,475 $1,483
Blount $1,675 $1,732 $1,793 $1,846 $1,757
Bradley $701 $744 $755 $791 $824
Campbell $1,265 $1,318 $1,324 $1,261 $856
Cannon $641 $732 $750 $821 $862
Carroll $325 $336 $352 $61 $66
Carter $464 $507 $547 $586 $624
Cheatham $568 $650 $720 $776 $677
Chester $600 $654 $706 $741 $765
Claiborne $1,374 $1,598 $1,698 $1,763 $1,827
Clay $799 $870 $905 $865 $886
Cocke $906 $987 $1,054 $1,041 $931
Coffee $1,500 $1,088 $688 $645 $609
Crockett $1,083 $1,174 $1,216 $1,155 $1,202
Cumberland $1,064 $1,115 $1,183 $1,250 $1,190
Davidson $8,247 $8,306 $7,127 $7,051 $6,638
Decatur $924 $1,043 $1,166 $1,280 $1,390
DeKalb $670 $574 $443 $491 $538
Dickson $1,264 $1,406 $1,442 $1,520 $1,631
Dyer $1,156 $1,221 $1,288 $1,359 $1,239
Fayette $883 $664 $577 $594 $625
Fentress $403 $505 $452 $526 $554
Franklin $604 $711 $803 $903 $957
Gibson $307 $327 $307 $318 $328
Giles $113 $133 $462 $478 $444
Grainger $1,191 $1,133 $1,123 $1,187 $1,258
Greene $499 $531 $568 $596 $492
Grundy $699 $660 $663 $620 $667
Hamblen $654 $632 $690 $750 $781
Hamilton $765 $830 $749 $611 $719
Hancock $1,965 $2,112 $2,227 $2,381 $2,494
Hardeman $269 $289 $198 $207 $224
Hardin $1,807 $1,891 $1,962 $1,942 $1,973
Hawkins $1,467 $1,477 $1,506 $1,514 $1,493
Haywood $1,006 $1,053 $1,033 $956 $989
Henderson $1,127 $1,047 $1,129 $1,165 $1,205
Henry $518 $573 $631 $671 $696
Hickman $1,343 $1,351 $1,321 $1,442 $1,443
Houston $1,968 $1,865 $1,290 $1,375 $1,358
Humphreys $182 $228 $273 $317 $360
Jackson $990 $1,052 $1,121 $1,157 $1,060
Jefferson $1,602 $1,667 $1,346 $1,356 $919
Johnson $675 $707 $745 $778 $796
Knox $1,561 $1,513 $1,571 $1,610 $1,585
Lake $1,424 $1,472 $1,517 $1,319 $1,351
Lauderdale $446 $507 $586 $649 $628
Lawrence $967 $1,064 $1,106 $1,201 $1,304
Lewis $56 $61 $75 $88 $125
Lincoln $549 $382 $417 $450 $468
Loudon $1,208 $1,276 $664 $520 $662
Macon $537 $587 $663 $631 $698
Madison $503 $574 $620 $667 $717
Marion $1,322 $1,399 $1,460 $1,531 $1,602
Marshall $1,510 $1,410 $1,361 $1,410 $1,496
Maury $668 $746 $638 $903 $980
McMinn N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
McNairy $317 $280 $334 $379 $477
Meigs $202 $253 $322 $392 $465
Monroe $1,322 $1,372 $1,430 $1,205 $1,252
Montgomery $1,922 $1,988 $2,038 $1,807 $1,885
Moore $1,490 $1,623 $1,723 $1,784 $1,842
Morgan $937 $996 $1,038 $1,090 $1,118
Obion $459 $477 $506 $551 $585
Overton $845 $899 $969 $839 $897
Perry $507 $685 $788 $879 $980
Pickett $1,029 $1,088 $1,196 $1,182 $1,183
Polk $936 $1,004 $1,069 $1,144 $1,173
Putnam $2,230 $2,309 $1,764 $1,858 $1,851
Rhea $1,368 $1,413 $1,453 $441 $437
Roane $875 $926 $952 $972 $1,022
Robertson $2,243 $2,035 $2,199 $2,344 $2,498
Rutherford $1,357 $1,363 $1,454 $1,360 $1,470
Scott $1,604 $1,666 $1,750 $1,855 $1,956
Sequatchie $362 $421 $673 $918 $1,012
Sevier $1,385 $1,384 $1,411 $1,350 $1,252
Shelby $1,454 $1,579 $1,704 $1,846 $2,053
Smith $1,555 $1,554 $1,658 $1,701 $1,740
Stewart $2,082 $2,181 $1,684 $1,794 $1,919
Sullivan $356 $383 $403 $410 $403
Sumner $787 $852 $717 $799 $856
Tipton $429 $494 $532 $578 $648
Trousdale $955 $1,070 $1,165 $1,288 $1,067
Unicoi $1,451 $1,468 $1,544 $1,609 $1,673
Union $608 $681 $783 $833 $838
Van Buren $425 $466 $474 $246 $200
Warren $484 $527 $606 $697 $505
Washington $1,305 $1,244 $1,247 $1,272 $1,329
Wayne $1,528 $1,568 $1,596 $1,686 $1,774
Weakley $314 $398 $567 $608 $723
White $322 $376 $428 $487 $553
Williamson $2,546 $2,406 $2,539 $2,654 $2,571
Wilson $1,774 $1,880 $1,370 $1,443 $1,554

Source: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/TAG/CountyMatrix.aspx?RevExp=P

Debt

 

County FY 2014 FY 2013 FY 2012 FY 2011 FY 2010
Anderson $59,674,933 $52,111,632 $55,005,647 $40,188,243 $41,162,379
Bedford $56,992,000 $61,467,600 $66,634,200 $72,084,498 $77,297,163
Benton $10,018,125 $10,859,883 $11,533,816 $12,326,888 $13,405,600
Bledsoe $21,222,881 $22,035,313 $18,828,973 $18,992,991 $19,095,465
Blount $206,042,642 $213,084,928 $220,563,923 $227,030,706 $216,144,676
Bradley $69,398,278 $73,664,265 $74,763,411 $78,280,432 $81,506,740
Campbell $51,487,386 $53,662,761 $53,913,136 $51,330,000 $34,844,167
Cannon $8,848,023 $10,107,485 $10,351,974 $11,325,500 $11,901,326
Carroll $9,268,000 $9,596,000 $10,027,130 $1,745,753 $1,876,551
Carter $26,657,517 $29,095,977 $31,429,962 $33,667,467 $35,828,143
Cheatham $22,207,604 $25,411,212 $28,138,595 $30,353,380 $26,461,739
Chester $10,279,667 $11,209,424 $12,091,443 $12,700,082 $13,099,043
Claiborne $44,271,307 $51,489,962 $54,698,611 $56,789,738 $58,860,234
Clay $6,278,587 $6,835,435 $7,112,367 $6,801,197 $6,968,256
Cocke $32,319,253 $35,212,904 $37,586,719 $37,135,134 $33,198,534
Coffee $79,215,187 $57,448,923 $36,304,700 $34,032,386 $32,155,419
Crockett $15,803,006 $17,129,326 $17,730,395 $16,845,517 $17,531,359
Cumberland $59,645,932 $62,489,641 $66,310,078 $70,075,199 $66,682,212
Davidson $5,168,138,794 $5,204,964,873 $4,466,167,344 $4,418,788,602 $4,160,132,207
Decatur $10,867,936 $12,259,493 $13,705,867 $15,047,668 $16,343,941
DeKalb $12,538,343 $10,747,514 $8,291,685 $9,200,856 $10,080,027
Dickson $62,768,050 $69,818,796 $71,618,323 $75,479,916 $81,025,459
Dyer $44,318,834 $46,810,152 $49,391,082 $52,114,595 $47,481,416
Fayette $33,906,607 $25,521,150 $22,179,187 $22,832,642 $24,025,257
Fentress $7,230,939 $9,073,030 $8,118,174 $9,439,339 $9,940,590
Franklin $24,806,450 $29,208,072 $32,955,998 $37,058,827 $39,269,803
Gibson $15,275,000 $16,250,000 $15,245,000 $15,780,000 $16,296,666
Giles $3,344,056 $3,919,828 $13,617,480 $14,079,692 $13,090,000
Grainger $26,995,000 $25,668,000 $25,436,985 $26,887,277 $28,497,396
Greene $34,367,119 $36,573,997 $39,079,823 $41,033,044 $33,873,941
Grundy $9,575,894 $9,048,189 $9,090,872 $8,497,713 $9,134,805
Hamblen $40,931,893 $39,500,747 $43,129,601 $46,898,455 $48,835,000
Hamilton $257,256,479 $279,383,300 $252,097,493 $205,607,662 $241,884,200
Hancock $13,397,282 $14,402,007 $15,186,483 $16,233,596 $17,009,522
Hardeman $7,319,714 $7,874,642 $5,391,866 $5,635,217 $6,110,831
Hardin $47,032,037 $49,205,522 $51,059,204 $50,534,413 $51,341,423
Hawkins $83,392,380 $83,928,572 $85,616,148 $86,027,376 $84,858,105
Haywood $18,905,943 $19,786,829 $19,404,508 $17,956,375 $18,588,783
Henderson $31,290,826 $29,066,394 $31,350,424 $32,337,483 $33,452,478
Henry $16,759,290 $18,529,243 $20,398,933 $21,678,193 $22,507,990
Hickman $33,150,361 $33,344,911 $32,627,455 $35,591,999 $35,639,543
Houston $16,582,468 $15,714,956 $10,866,034 $11,585,360 $11,442,057
Humphreys $3,369,600 $4,228,300 $5,061,700 $5,874,233 $6,668,133
Jackson $11,520,012 $12,240,086 $13,046,325 $13,465,414 $12,331,902
Jefferson $82,343,606 $85,676,845 $69,215,476 $69,710,000 $47,261,847
Johnson $12,315,720 $12,893,605 $13,584,715 $14,200,133 $14,515,000
Knox $674,849,333 $653,774,967 $679,172,454 $696,096,904 $684,969,392
Lake $11,151,000 $11,531,000 $11,878,589 $10,331,508 $10,578,900
Lauderdale $12,393,359 $14,100,565 $16,285,981 $18,049,901 $17,457,733
Lawrence $40,500,239 $44,535,070 $46,299,755 $50,301,421 $54,606,091
Lewis $679,667 $745,000 $915,000 $1,075,000 $1,517,620
Lincoln $18,323,000 $12,739,000 $13,913,000 $15,006,000 $15,625,000
Loudon $58,668,035 $61,968,622 $32,257,826 $25,244,467 $32,151,636
Macon $11,945,953 $13,057,790 $14,760,887 $14,046,394 $15,534,422
Madison $49,420,000 $56,375,000 $60,900,000 $65,590,948 $70,496,416
Marion $37,327,029 $39,499,844 $41,213,893 $43,222,305 $45,221,667
Marshall $46,231,211 $43,167,757 $41,659,107 $43,183,748 $45,805,872
Maury $54,108,686 $60,398,372 $51,645,011 $73,130,906 $79,310,527
McMinn N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
McNairy $8,254,431 $7,295,569 $8,712,159 $9,892,547 $12,445,699
Meigs $2,376,470 $2,973,907 $3,781,078 $4,604,744 $5,462,644
Monroe $58,845,894 $61,100,208 $63,647,830 $53,660,694 $55,724,303
Montgomery $331,166,266 $342,668,496 $351,187,285 $311,418,255 $324,861,202
Moore $9,478,944 $10,327,682 $10,964,277 $11,351,724 $11,720,409
Morgan $20,605,066 $21,904,648 $22,815,482 $23,973,988 $24,592,429
Obion $14,602,796 $15,183,452 $16,090,666 $17,540,334 $18,593,001
Overton $18,654,392 $19,858,722 $21,390,577 $18,529,826 $19,812,060
Perry $4,012,405 $5,421,120 $6,240,355 $6,958,651 $7,758,196
Pickett $5,226,421 $5,521,674 $6,071,787 $5,998,639 $6,003,567
Polk $15,744,366 $16,887,680 $17,988,124 $19,244,383 $19,740,378
Putnam $161,265,000 $166,965,000 $127,605,841 $134,350,000 $133,888,730
Rhea $43,525,950 $44,945,541 $46,207,323 $14,013,975 $13,909,876
Roane $47,426,419 $50,170,987 $51,605,054 $52,681,501 $55,347,724
Robertson $148,700,243 $134,916,171 $145,745,359 $155,356,651 $165,574,134
Rutherford $356,302,259 $357,861,951 $381,812,178 $357,065,781 $385,979,284
Scott $35,659,186 $37,032,464 $38,907,905 $41,223,363 $43,486,880
Sequatchie $5,110,105 $5,940,001 $9,499,667 $12,957,810 $14,281,010
Sevier $124,536,652 $124,437,808 $126,827,967 $121,390,807 $112,526,906
Shelby $1,349,107,912 $1,464,607,633 $1,580,540,874 $1,712,263,377 $1,904,601,588
Smith $29,812,195 $29,775,830 $31,777,613 $32,610,363 $33,349,335
Stewart $27,735,239 $29,058,378 $22,434,393 $23,902,754 $25,562,364
Sullivan $55,854,206 $60,093,600 $63,225,000 $64,279,065 $63,276,923
Sumner $126,480,304 $136,886,285 $115,261,837 $128,288,706 $137,500,000
Tipton $26,220,189 $30,161,489 $32,480,239 $35,298,894 $39,569,852
Trousdale $7,512,099 $8,416,975 $9,170,066 $10,135,053 $8,401,052
Unicoi $26,575,415 $26,891,355 $28,269,270 $29,467,556 $30,643,808
Union $11,614,438 $13,004,143 $14,953,130 $15,911,421 $16,020,416
Van Buren $2,356,981 $2,584,771 $2,627,030 $1,367,110 $1,108,112
Warren $19,274,657 $20,987,773 $24,126,502 $27,778,938 $20,101,790
Washington $160,513,835 $152,960,302 $153,299,864 $156,473,577 $163,390,484
Wayne $26,005,491 $26,694,388 $27,165,601 $28,700,636 $30,187,853
Weakley $11,013,859 $13,939,811 $19,865,537 $21,303,018 $25,308,171
White $8,328,988 $9,708,812 $11,058,636 $12,573,460 $14,281,618
Williamson $466,400,000 $440,805,000 $465,184,000 $486,187,000 $470,934,000
Wilson $202,229,863 $214,322,750 $156,192,520 $164,527,757 $177,181,904

Source: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/TAG/CountyMatrix.aspx?RevExp=D

Unfinished Evergreen study pay raises not based on merit

Tona,

I apologize for the delay.  I requested this information directly from Evergreen.  Responses are listed below in red.  Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Thank you,

Jenny Morgan
Human Resources Director
Blount County Government

 

Hey Jenny,

What does page 19 of the pdf that you sent mean when it says parity option? Is that the tenure plan of 25 years, that will have 25 steps/incremental pay increases? No, this is simply a method of placing these (sworn deputies) current employees’ salaries into the structure based on years with the County.  The number of years (25) was utilized as an approximate, average career length of employees.   Are you aware of any other agency that had this many steps to it’s pay structure? This is a method of implementation, and is not associated with/based on a step plan. 

For move to market employees, that doesn’t seem to give much flexibility.  The orange block indicates that the each employee will be brought to a specific percentage rather than having the flexibility to give more to good employees and less to underperforming employees.  Am I reading that correctly?  Yes, Evergreen Solutions does not recommend any method of implementation that is based on performance. An equitable method cannot be calculated using this factor as the County does not have performance evaluation ratings for all employees for a period of years. We do not recommend making (any) study related pay adjustments based on performance.  Going forward, as a method of pay progression, if the County adopts the developed compensation philosophy which associates performance with pay adjustments, it will have the flexibility to adjust individual salaries based on this factor.

Is there flexibility in the move to market that isn’t fixed to those percentages?  The percentages are calculated based on salary position relative to the midpoint. The amount of adjustment based on the position of the salary could be altered, though we do not recommend this as it would not change the cost significantly.   Also, can you send me the stats of what it would cost to just give pay raises to people making less than $35,000?  I’d like to see those numbers in move to minimum and the move to market numbers.  For those employees currently making less than $35,000, the approximate, annualized salary cost to bring those employee salaries to the new minimums would be $915,881, and the approximate, annualized salary cost for these employees in the move to market option would be $1,343,101.

Thanks,
Tona

Citizen pens open letter to county employees

An Open Letter to Blount County Employees

There seems that a large number of Blount County Employees, particular Sheriff’s employees expressing frustration about the taxpaying citizens who are opposing the 22% increase in property taxes. Let’s acknowledge that emotions are flying high and that we need a rational dialogue to satisfy both our county government employees and the citizen taxpayers.

Politicians will say and promise anything to anyone to stay in power; and one of their favorite political pawns are their employees.  This is especially true for our Mayor, County Commissioners, Circuit Court Clerk, Register of Deeds, Highway Superintendent and most notably our Sheriff. I want you to ask yourself honestly, “Is it possible that we are we being played by our bosses who are career politicians looking out for their own interests?”

Once the County Commission approves the budget for each department, department heads have “total control” of the spending within their departments.  If you took the time to see how much your “bosses” waste the taxpayer’s money, you would be shocked and disgusted. The truth is that IF your elected officials really wanted to give you a raise, all they would have to do is stop wasting so much of the taxpayers’ money.  Like magic, there is already enough money in your department budget to give you the cost of living increase in your salary.

No, your bosses would rather continue wasting hard earned tax dollars, and then chooses to use you, (his employees) as political pawns to justify burdening the taxpayer with a 22% property tax increase!

Your Department heads successfully work you up into a tizzy, getting you all upset at those citizens who are against a 22% property tax increase.  Your bosses want you to equate citizens being against the property tax increase as the same thing as being “against county government employees.”  And you fall for it every time; never realizing that it is your boss who is using your low pay to increase his wasteful budget.

Citizen activist Linda King has repeatedly been accused of “being against the county employees.”  Don’t fall for that.  You can watch her speak in favor of pay raises for the deputies.

Four years ago, Commissioner Jim Folts was the only Commissioner on the board who tried to get the other Commissioners to start properly setting aside sufficient funding the county employees promised retirement benefits.  Commissioner Folts was attacked by those with the biggest salaries for trying to get the other 20 “promise anything” (commissioners / politicians) to stop wasting the county’s budget and start properly funding Blount Count’s long term retirement liability.

Sure the other 20 County Commissioners smugly sat up “pretending to care” about your retirement, but actions means more than the shallow promises of career politicians.  In 10 or 20 years, when you are expecting to retire on your government pension, you shouldn’t be surprised that they did nothing to live up to the promises they were making to you, in order to get your support.  The truth is, Commissioner Folts was the only true friend you had up there on the board fighting for your retirement.  Your future is dependent upon more than your annual cost of living raises.

Four years later, your department heads are using you again.  There are a some new commissioners like Mike Akard, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe who are trying to prepare for the County’s future (your retirement benefits) by controlling spending. Instead of blaming these fiscally responsible commissioners as being ‘against the county employees’, I ask you to rethink the situation.

The question is not whether or not you should get a pay raise.  The real question is: “Is it fair to ask the citizen taxpayer to have to subsidize waste, fraud and abuse in your department heads budget, when your bosses have total discretion to streamline their budgets and give you a pay raise that ‘they say’ they want to give you?” Your bosses play you like Lucy plays Charlie Brown.

Let me ask you one last question.  Do you think your bosses really care about you when they make 3-4 times what you do and gave themselves big pay raises last year while giving you nothing?

If you think they do care, consider the following: state law mandates that the Mayor Ed Mitchell be paid $93,732 but he is making $123,727.  State law mandates that Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher be paid $81,153 but he is making $89,269.  State law mandates that the Sheriff be paid $89,269 but he is making $117,835.

The bottom line

Your bosses always make sure to take care of themselves and their cronies but all you ever hear them talk about are the crumbs that they give you.  Don’t be Charlie Brown.  You the employees and the citizens who pay your salaries deserve better.

Richard Hutchens