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FY18 proposed budget includes $1.1M for one secret company

The proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, which is July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018, includes spending $1.1 million from Blount County’s General Fund balance to use to recruit one company to Blount County.  I sent a list of questions to the Director of Accounts and Budgets, commonly referred to as the Finance Director, Randy Vineyard.  His answers directly follow each question.

At the Agenda Committee meeting, I asked Mayor Ed Mitchell what the total costs in incentives will be for this one company.  He didn’t know.  It is likely that the City of Maryville and the State of Tennessee will also provide incentives.  With the county offering to spend $1.1M, this is obviously an expensive proposition.

Your elected local legislative officials are being asked to approve this without knowing the full costs to the taxpayers and with little knowledge about the company.  This is somewhat like putting the money into a blind trust and hoping that unelected bureaucrats and a few politicians in the know will make sound decisions with you money.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The commission doesn’t receive reports from the Industrial Development Board (IDB), detailing the use and results of your tax money that it receives from the county.
  • The IDB doesn’t even provide the commission with a copy of its annual budget.
  • Commissioner Jamie Daly and I were blocked for asking questions about the IDB/Blount Partnership/Chamber of Commerce/Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority.
  • The commission has been provided nothing in writing about this deal/proposal, other than to identify the use of funds as an “Economic Development Project.”
  • This $1.1M is in addition to the $1,062,200 that the IDB received this year and will receive again next year.
  • The IDB/Blount Partnership has failed to provide a copy of IDB’s open records policy, which I asked for in May.

The Pellissippi Place, AMI, and the IDB’s handling of the racetrack should give us pause before handing over any more money for corporate welfare, particularly when nearly everything about this is a secret.  It is past time for the state legislature to pass a local government uniform tax incentives act, which would eliminate the secret, special corporate handouts.

Budget Questions sent to the Director of Accounts and Budgets:

Commissioner,

See the responses below. I have copied Troy Logan on the School questions.

Randy

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Angelie Shankle <ashankle@blounttn.org>
Date: Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 3:24 PM
Subject: Fwd: Budget Questions
To: Randolph Vineyard <rvineyard@blounttn.org>

Dear Director of Accounts and Budgets,

Questions related to Fund 189

1.  How much, if any, of the $1,850,000 for IT is money that will be left over from the current budget year?  None
2.  With the budget request for the upcoming year, what will the total budgeted costs (eliminating duplication of unspent appropriations from prior years) for the IT project be? $1.85m for 17-18; $1.3m prior
3. What is the $1.1M economic development project for?  A project that hasn’t been disclosed publicly yet; payback in 2 years; creation of 1000 jobs
4.  Is this $1.1M in addition to the $1,062,200 that is current budgeted? Yes
5.  Will the economic development costs for FY be over $2M? For FY17-18?  If project comes to fruition, yes.
6.  If so, is this expected to reoccur in future years? No, not the $1.1m for the econ. dev. proj.
7.  What is the $415,000 labeled BCSO officer safety capital needs for? body cams, rifles, ballistic helmets/vests, active shooter kits, jail camera replacements-2nd phase

Questions related to use of Fund Balance and Maintenance of Effort

1.  How much of the General Fund balance will be appropriated in the proposed budget?  $3.4m
2.  What do you anticipate the General Fund balance being at the end of the current fiscal year? haven’t estimated yet, but was $15m FY15-16 year end
3.  How much of the School’s General Purpose Fund balance will be appropriated in the proposed budget? $3.1m was proposed
4.  What do you anticipate the School’s General Purpose Fund balance being at the end of the current fiscal year? Troy Logan question
5.  Does use of the School’s General Purpose Fund balance contribute to the MOE in future years, meaning will the county have to provide the same amount next year even if it does not have the fund balance to supply the same amount? Troy Logan question
6.  What is the current school MOE? Troy Logan question
7.  What will the school MOE be if the proposed FY 18 budget is adopted? Troy Logan question

Sincerely,
Tona


Angelie Shankle

Budget Manager
Blount County Courthouse
341 Court St.
Maryville, TN 37804
 

Randy

Randy Vineyard, IOM
Blount County Finance Director
341 Court Street
Maryville, TN 37804
865-273-5719 (office)
rvineyard@blounttn.org

Beacon Center Report on Blount County School District shows big administrative growth while students declined from 2004-2014

The Beacon Center created a tool to examine school spending and growth rates from 2004-2014.

According to the reported generated by the tool, the Blount County School District saw a 71% increase in administrative costs, an 11% increase in teachers and a 21% increase in administrators from 2004-2014 but the number of students dropped 0.2% during this time.

Are your tax dollars being used wisely?

For comparison during the same time period, Alcoa and Maryville School Districts both had a decrease in administrators while the rest of the data provided, including students, increased.

The debt amount in this report does not accurately reflect the full debt costs of the schools because most of the debt for the schools is paid for out of the Debt Service Fund and not the General Purpose Schools Fund.

Gas tax and vehicle registration fee increases for 400 jobs?

Gas tax and vehicle registration fee increase for 400 jobs?
http://www.brianhornback.com/?p=17226

Another secret crony deal.  http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2017/may/04/finnish-tire-maker-build-360-milliplant-dayto/426231/

When will the rule of law be applied equally to all businesses rather than tax breaks and incentives for the special few?

 

Rep. Art Swann received $1,000 donation from James Haslam & voted for gas tax increase

Republican state Representative Art Swann, one of two reps. from Blount County, received a $1,000 donation from James Haslam of Pilot Oil during the 2016 election, even though Swann had no opponent.  Rep. Art Swann voted to raise the gas tax and increase vehicle registration fees.

James Haslam is a relative of oil baron, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

Read more on state lawmakers regarding their votes on the gas tax & registration fee increases and donations from the Haslam family and JOBS4TN PAC, which is mostly funded by Bill Haslam, here: http://tennesseestar.com/2017/05/04/follow-the-money-campaign-receipts-may-shed-light-on-why-some-republicans-voted-for-the-gas-tax/

HASLAM II , JAMES
P.O. BOX 10146
KNOXVILLE , TN 37939
PETROLEUM DISTRIBUTION
PILOT OIL
Primary 08/03/2016 $1,000.00 $1,000.00

Reps. Bob Ramsey, Art Swann & Senator Doug Overbey vote to raise gas tax

Blount County’s state legislators aren’t exactly know for fiscal conservatism or advocating liberty.  They’re supporters of big government.  It’s not surprising to see Tennessee Representative Bob Ramsey, Representative Art Swann and Senator Doug Overbey vote to raise the gas tax and tag renewal fees.

The increase on a tag renewal for non-commercial vehicles is $5.  The sales tax on food will reduce by 1%.  That means that a two car family will have to spend $1,000 on groceries to break even on the new legislation.  A three car family will have to spend more than $1,500 to see any savings and that doesn’t include the gas tax increase.  The state tax on gasoline will increase 6 cents per gallon over 3 years and diesel will increase 10 cents over three years.

Pay close attention to your local officials.  All three of these men were Blount County Commissioners prior to being elected to state office.

Info on TCSA funding and support for IMPROVE act

Last week I wrote about the Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA) sending a newsletter telling local elected officials to call their legislators in support of the IMPROVE act.  This legislation increases the gas tax and raises the non-commercial vehicle registration fee $5 annually.

This organization is funded by you, the taxpayers.  Here is a copy of the meeting minutes for the meeting that the TCSA voted to support the IMPROVE act.  The TCSA website says the board endorsed the legislation.  Since the meeting minutes don’t give a roll call vote of the TCSA Board, I asked if any voted against supporting the legislation that will soon be law.  Executive Director David Connor wrote, “The board vote was a voice vote. No members voted against supporting the measure and no one asked to be recorded as a no.”  The minutes contain a listing of the members that were present and absent from the meeting.

Blount County paid $3,875 in dues to the TCSA.  The TCSA annual budget is available here.

Do you think your tax money should be spent to fund an association that supports/endorses raises taxes and fees on you?

Weekly Report from TN Co. Commissioners Association April 20, 2017

4/20/17

Members,

I am attaching1 of 3 reports and they are described below. I will be sending the other two reports in another email. The governor’s approve (should be IMPROVE) act passed Wednesday and it will insure additional transportation funding for the state and local governments.

Report “A” Shows

·       1 bill we are watching on the house floor Monday, 4/24/17 and 2 on the Senate floor the same day.

·       20 active bills next week and of those bills 3 are strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA

·        13 bills that have been placed behind the budget and are depending on funding by the governor’s final proposal. Of the 13 bills behind the budged 4 are strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA.

·       11 bills assigned to Calendar and Rules that have not been put on notice and 3 of those bills are strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA.

·       6 bills in the House budget sub-committee waiting on a special calendar and of those bills 1 is strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA.

·       57 bills that have been placed in the Senate general sub-committee and of those bills 2 are strongly supported and 4 are strongly opposed by TCCA.

·        35 bills are off notice and of those 4 are strongly supported and 1 is strongly opposed by TCCA.

Report “B” Shows

·       11 bills that have been deferred until 2018 and of those none are strongly supported or strongly opposed by TCCA

·       5 bills recommended for summer study and of those 1 is strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA

·       77 bills have passed and of those 9 were strongly supported and 2 were strongly opposed by TCCA. Of the 77 bills 26 have already been signed by the governor and assigned public chapter numbers.

·       12 bill have failed and of those 2 were strongly opposed by TCCA

·       8 bills have been withdrawn and none of them were strongly supported or strongly opposed by TCCA

Report “C” Shows

·       144 bills have not been put on notice by their sponsor and of those 10 are strongly supported and 5 are strongly opposed by TCCA

Thanks,

Charlie

4-20-17 Report A
4-20-17 Report B
4-20-17 Report C

Tennessee County Services Association tells local elected officials to support gas tax increase

The Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA) sends local elected officials a newsletter, called Capitol Update, while the Tennessee General Assembly is in session.  The TCSA failed to mention the purchasing secrecy legislation in the six issues that it sent to me in 2016.  When I asked TCSA Executive Director David Connor why he didn’t include bills that made an open process a secret government process he wrote, “Since it was mirroring the process used at the state, I didn’t see a problem with it.”  Two wrongs apparently make a right.

This year the TCSA has sent newsletter with a headline telling local officials to call their state lawmakers and tell them to support the gas tax increase included in the slyly named IMPROVE act.  TCSA seem more interested in telling local officials what to do rather than keeping them informed of legislation that creates local government secrecy.  Is the tail wagging the dog?

County Technical Assistance Service gets $28,250 per month from counties’ share of gas tax

University of Tennessee, County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) gets $28,250 a month from the gas tax.  See page 9 of this Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasure report.

For more on the assistance and service provided by CTAS, read the March 2017 Commission Report.

Should this money be diverted from the roads?

And you thought they were elected to represent you…

by Horatio Bunce

Silly peasant taxpayers….don’t you know that party comes before principles? Especially when your precious party has a super-duper majority. It would really be embarrassing if your party didn’t “win”.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams of Cookeville with his finger in the wind regarding Haslam’s Gasolinazo:

Williams did not announce the results of the straw poll, and said that the goal is to make sure members don’t have a (sic) to make a politically difficult vote on a bill that might not pass.

“If we know that the bill is having trouble, it’s my job as the caucus chair to make sure you don’t vote on something that will fail,” he said. (bolded for emphasis)

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/breakingnews/story/2017/apr/11/bid-strip-gas-tax-hike/422331/

Rep. Susan Lynn tries to sell Haslam’s Gasolinazo

source: State Representative Susan Lynn’s Weekly Wrap

by Horatio Bunce

State Representative Susan Lynn has an email newsletter called the Weekly Wrap. She has recently taken time off from selling Gov. Haslam’s re-branding of Common Core in Tennessee to selling Gov. Haslam’s massive fuel tax increases called the IMPROVE Act, while ignoring the $2 BILLION surplus in over-taxation the state is currently burdened with. Rep. Lynn engages in some….interesting….mathematics in justifying Haslam’s fuel tax increase to declare it “pocketbook neutral”. Meanwhile the Transportation Department is, like the Common Core tactic that worked so well, simply renaming the massive tax increase measure the “Tax Cut Act of 2017“.

As Rep. Lynn insults our intelligence to a slightly lesser degree than “Boss” Doss, I’ll give her a pass as she is from The North™ and possibly thinks us dumb hillbillies would actually use Common Core Math. Since she asked, here’s my calculation on the “Tax Cut Act of 2017”. From her Weekly Wrap:

“Improve Act Close to Floor Vote

The House is close to voting on the Improve Act – I want to know what you think. Please email me to let me know.

“The Improve Act is revenue neutral and now pocketbook neutral for most people. It will lower the sales tax on food a full percent or $1 for each $100 you spend at the store. It will also lower the Hall Income tax and the Franchise and Excise Tax on factories. It will raise the gas 6 cents or if you have a 15 gallon tank – or .90 cents a fill up. If you don’t drive a gas vehicle, it will raise the a (sic) diesel tax and impose a $100 annual registration fee for an electric vehicle.”

So as long as gas prices do not increase and you spend 3:1 food vs. fuel, then it is “pocket book neutral” as long as “most people” maintain this ratio of course. I think “most” still means more than 50% even in Common Core Mathspeak.  Of course, if you are buying diesel and need 15 gallons, it will cost an additional $0.12/gallon or $1.80. Oops, there went that pocketbook thingy. I guess I need to buy another $90 in groceries so I can “save” $0.90 to keep your fuel tax increase “neutral”?

But who cares about diesel anyway? What? Oh. The truck drivers. You mean the ones that deliver just about everything you buy at the mega-lo-mart, corporate welfare queens Amazon and FedEx……and the grocery? Yeah, those diesel trucks. Gee, I wonder what that 71% increase in the diesel fuel tax will do to that $100 grocery bill you used to have? Hint: they generally have larger than 15-gallon fuel tanks and lower fuel mileage than your personal car. What will the additional 33% increase in the gasoline tax mean for your grocery budget? I am wondering if the “leadership” Republicans are really this short-sighted or if they are only counting on you being easily fooled?

Conveniently left out of the discussion are the huge cuts to the Hall Income Tax ($102.1M) and cuts to Franchise Taxes ($122.3M), which when combined with the forecast reduction in sales tax on food give a total cut of $279.2M. In other words, the proposed $1 savings on your groceries sales tax only amounts to 19.6% of the “cuts” that we have to pass massive fuel tax increases to make “revenue neutral”.

Then we move on to use of the term “user fees” instead of that bad word “taxes” and explain that “user fees” should be paid by those using the roads, but then despite her photo at the top of the newsletter with “No Socialism” prominently displayed, we are taught that Some Socialism is acceptable when it comes to taxes (or they are not good Republican principles – kind of hard to tell which):

“Why lower some taxes while raising other taxes? Government uses fund accounting. Some taxes go into the General Fund and other taxes go into the Highway Fund. The taxes in the Highway Fund are all user fees – so if you drive – you pay for the roads, and you pay for them in proportion to how much you use them.

Paying for government by use of user fees is a good Republican principle. Much of government is not user fees but subsidized through the General Fund taxes because some things cannot be paid for by use of user fees. For instance, K – 12 education – most families could never pay all of what it costs to educate their children. TennCare too is a subsidy to the recipient – because the poor cannot pay for their care. Higher education is part user fee and part subsidized – students pay tuition (user fee) but they pay less than half of what their education actually costs – the tax payers through the General Fund subsidize the rest, and they also subsidize the buildings and maintenance for the buildings.”

Wow, for a second there, I thought a sacred cow was getting slaughtered. No, I guess not everyone can afford $10,000 each for their 1.8 kids to go to “free” government school when the average household income is less than $50k and 25% or more of us qualify for food stamps. But maybe we could figure out how multiple private schools provide an education for 40% less, rather than  using the super-inflated “free” schools’ price to justify another tax increase. Here’s a little food for thought. Let’s say the “free” schools could cut only half the difference in price to a mere $8000/student/year : $2000 * 1,000,000 public school students = $2,000,000,000 EVERY YEAR.

And the higher education language…students pay less than half of what education costs. Gee, after 13 YEARS (plus any pre-K) of “free” education why should they start paying for it at all? This is more divide-the-people obfuscation since of course everyone paying for tuition (or not) is a taxpayer paying for higher education (and their 20% inflation rates). Even when the students graduate, they pay taxes the rest of their lives in Tennessee. Now that community college is “free”, just wait to see how much it costs!

“So the Governor hopes to lower several taxes in the General Fund thus eliminating the surplus and effectively shifting the surplus to the Highway Fund by raising the user fee taxes. The plan is for all of this reduction and shifting to be as revenue neutral as possible to as many tax payers as possible.

Truly, every person and family will have their own calculous (sic). So please, take out a pencil and paper and do your own math.”

After justifying this massive fuel tax increase with people buying $100 in groceries and not being able to afford public school costs, the lion’s share of the tax breaks are the Hall Income Tax and Franchise Tax folk. Is that really helping “most people” or “as many tax payers as possible”? Because the rest of you dupes will be paying more for your fuel AND more for the same groceries, which means….your grocery sales tax cut is ALSO REVENUE NEUTRAL.

STOP WITH THE LIES ALREADY! IT’S A TAX INCREASE ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT!