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Tona Monroe to speak at Bill of Rights Banquet on December 18th

Recipient of last year’s Eagle Award, then Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe, will be the speaker at the 4th annual Truth Radio Bill of Rights Banquet on Tuesday December 18th.  The topic of the speech will be Proof of Authority and the Proper Role of Government: The Foundation of a Constitutional Republic.

A dinner will be held at 7 PM at RJ’s Courtyard located at 3749 Airport Hwy, Louisville, Tennessee 37777.  Book your meal by calling WBCR at 984-1470. 

2017 Bill of Rights Banquet
Eagle Award Recipients Tona Monroe, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Scott Williams 

Governor Bill Haslam receives D rating on fiscal policy report card

The big government, gas tax increasing, oil baron, Republican governor of the great state of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, better known as Milquetoast the Cockroach for the strong resemblance and less than principled stances, has received a D rating from the Cato Institute for fiscal policies.

8 years of the anti-liberty, big spending roach has been more than enough.  I look forward to him no longer infesting the governor’s mansion in the great state of Tennessee.

Reasons not to vote for Republicans or Democrats

So was the Supreme Court wrong today, in 1992 or both?

by Horatio Bunce

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has ruled today that they were completely wrong in 1992 when they ruled that states could not collect sales taxes for sales that didn’t occur in their state (gee, what a concept). Unless of course the seller has some sort of building in the purchaser’s state – even if the item you are importing does not exist in the state you reside in, in that building the seller owns. Now, they say that states can force their own tariffs for items imported from other states, aka a “trade war” to correct their “trade deficit” with our neighbors. It seems that the money involved is just too tempting to let go, independent states be damned – whether there is any real burden imposed or services required as a result of these foreign sales imports “for the public good” which is supposedly the only reason to collect taxes in the first place. The justification from tax-and-spend Republicans Haslam, Corker and Alexander has always been couched in a “marketplace fairness” argument, that it is unfair of you to import goods from another state of your choice instead of purchasing the same items from a brick and mortar store within the state. Supposedly, you are the bad guy for avoiding paying your fair share of high TN sales taxes – and covering the high taxes on the brick and mortar store. I say they must be high because, well, how else does the state that is near the bottom on cost of living (implying wages are in the lowest quartile too) explain losing out to other states where you import your goods from? After all, there must be a real brick and mortar business in that other state you purchase from. Of course, the same tax-and-spend Republicans offer corporate welfare to businesses like Amazon in the form of not collecting sales taxes despite having an in-state presence and not paying property taxes. Somehow this is “marketplace fairness” in their minds I guess. Some of them even claim to have “grave concerns” about President Trump’s tariffs on foreign imports – while salivating at the idea of creating their very own tariffs on other Americans. I guess raising the gas taxes (another bump coming next month!) and vehicle registration taxes just isn’t enough for the tax-and-spend Republicans in Tennessee. They are hungry for more.

As I have written before, the states have no right to taxes on imported goods from other states. According to the U.S. Constitution, where the SCOTUS finds its reason for existing at all, the states can only collect taxes on imports with permission of the U.S. Congress.

Article 1, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution states in part:

No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws: and the net produce of all duties and imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress.”

The states don’t get their permission from the SCOTUS. It comes from the Congress. Any net proceeds beyond the cost for inspections are supposed to go to the federal treasury. All those tax laws are subject to revision and control of the Congress.

Welcome to the federal sales tax.

So, I’d like to know, was the SCOTUS wrong in 1992, today or both? Sounds like a great gubernatorial debate question to me. And since the SCOTUS HAD to be wrong at least once on this issue (and in recent times – not 200 years ago when we “couldn’t foresee the power of the internet”), why are we automatically inundated with their latest decisions as the “correct interpretation” that cannot be questioned?

The Daily Times hasn’t moved out of the Stone Age, loves big government

With the passing of Dean Stone and the retirement of penguin sex preacher and editor Buzz Trexler one would hope that The Daily Times would have moved out of the (Dean) Stone Age.   Alas that is not the case.  The stale big government, courthouse clique bias of Bob Norris remains and the new editor J. Todd Foster ran political hit pieces on Commissioner Mike Akard right before the election.  Norris does not reflect the values of many in this community but he and the editors have hidden behind their editorials and trash those who challenge the status quo.

Editors of the past and present at the paper love big government.  In a town where many are conservative, the best they can achieve is support for the establishment Republicans, just look at all the pro Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker editorials.  These big government Republicans and the big government Republicans in the courthouse clique love to tax you, spend your money and tell you how to live your lives.   Thus, the rag trashes those who try to hold the line on spending and question the authority of local government.  The four commissioners who have recently been the subject of hit pieces and an editorial are the four who have most consistently looked out for the taxpaying citizens of Blount County.

Look at the paper’s Twitter account.  The only two days, during the last year, that the paper has published a “sneak peak” of the front page of the paper are the two days where the new editor ran hit pieces on Commissioner Mike Akard.  Despite throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Mike Akard the new editor says he isn’t partisan, won’t publish the letter to editor I (Tona Monroe) wrote asking questions about the stories and won’t answer the questions that I raised about his stories.  https://twitter.com/DailyTimes/status/989698528195866625
https://twitter.com/DailyTimes/status/989354790714073088

The rag trashed Jim Folts, who served on the previous commission, when he was the lone ranger questioning local government spending.  Now on the eve of this local government primary election, the rag’s focus is on the three women commissioners, who have also challenged the status quo.

The rag should be focusing on important issues on the eve of the election.  However, if they did that it would make those they support, the big spending courthouse clique, look bad.  Many of these big government Republicans are in local office for selfish reasons.  Just look at the conflicts of interest that proceed commission votes.  I wonder what would happen, in this election, if the paper published a story about candidates with conflicts of interest the day before the election.

The Daily Times asked the three ladies on the commission to come be interviewed, not the other way around.  When have the courthouse clique officials sat down for an interview?  Would the paper respond by publishing an editorial the day before the election praising them for what they said?

The Daily Times did willingly publish a hate screed from Ed Mitchell telling Blount County to wake up because voters chose to replace some of the incumbent, courthouse clique commissioners in the last election.  What Ed Mitchell and the anonymous editor(s) are telling us is that they think those of us who voted for people who aren’t part of the courthouse clique need to wake up, because we aren’t smart enough to chose who governs.

The point that I made about being more effective as a citizen is misconstrued in the editorial.  The point was that an active citizenry can accomplish more than a few commissioner without an active citizenry.  When the citizens groups were active, the property tax increases were less.

To act like the three women never transitioned into being public servants is absurd.  The three women were the first three commissioners to hold public town halls after being elected.  They were asked to hold these public meetings by the now defunct Citizens for Blount County’s Future.  When have the political machine commissioners held town hall meetings?  Furthermore, three of the four commissioners that have been the recent focus of paper have worked to inform the public about Blount County government, when the paper often failed to cover issues.  This website is viewed by many and I have done several radio interviews.  Commissioner Jamie Daly has published a newsletter and Mike Akard has posted to Facebook.  These types of efforts to engage with the public are scant or non-existent with the rest of the commissioners.

Running on a platform and sticking by it is fulfilling what you said you would.  Another citizens group recognized that when it honored 6 commissioners, including the 3 women and Mike Akard, for doing what they said they would do.  Blount County Tax Revolt, and those in attendance of the awards ceremony dinner, certainly thought the former citizen activists were fulfilling their roles as public servants.

In fairness to the reporters at The Daily Times, they don’t all share the views of those who make the final decisions at the paper.  Even Joel Davis, the reporter most critical of me, wrote that he was impressed with my vigilance, when I found the secret $2 million jail plan in TCI Board of Control meeting minutes.

“Tona,

Thank you every much for the information. Your vigilance is quite impressive. This is definitely going to make an interesting story.

Best,
Joel”

The wrath of God resolution was over the top.  I doubt that it would have gotten a second but the courthouse clique shut the meeting down by voting against setting the agenda.  Commissioner Karen Miller was the only sponsor of the resolution.  Yet Jamie Daly and I are included in the editorial.  The paper talks about how embarrassing it was for Blount County, but it was The Daily Times that started the media circus surrounding the resolution.

The commission passed a resolution in 2017 after the death of Steve Samples quoting a scripture from the Bible proclaiming that he would enter into the joy thy Lord.  There was no media coverage, including the paper, on this resolution.  Does the paper think it’s OK to interject religion into a resolution by proclaiming and approving something from the Bible as long at it supports the courthouse clique?  Where’s the outrage from the editors telling us how embarrassing it is for the commission to think that it can determine who enters into the joy of the Lord?  This wasn’t a prayer proceeding the meeting.  It is a formally adopted resolution and official statement of the Blount County Commission and Mayor.  Karen Miller and I were the only two commissioners who did not sponsor this resolution.

The paper further criticizes the no votes of the women when doing routine business while praising the machine for finessing the shut down of a regularly scheduled meeting and lauding Mayor Mitchell for restoring “order”.  That kind of double speak makes clear the misguided priorities of those in the back rooms of the paper.  The courthouse clique can waste our money all day long.  That isn’t news worthy, unless you vote against it, but a non-binding resolution warrants a media circus and praise for shutting down a meeting.  Remember that it was the courthouse clique and the newspaper that made the huge deal out of the resolution.  It would have likely died for a lack of a second.

There wasn’t any mention of anything that Jamie Daly or I tried to do over the last 4 years.  Before going to vote, the anonymous editor(s) want(s) you to focus on one non-binding resolution that did not bear the names of 2 of the 3 they talked about.  What about the issues that matter?  What about the 15% property tax increase that a majority of commissioners approved shortly after the local option sales tax was raised?  The list of issues is extensive but this is what the paper choses to focus on.

The paper should have learned, from the media coverage of the most recent presidential election, to rethink their election and government coverage priorities. Whether you love or hate Trump or are somewhere in between, the relevancy of many media outlets wore thin on many people in the 2016 election because of the constant Trump bashing.  Many decided, that despite Trump’s numerous character flaws, they trusted him more than the biased barrage of media attacks.  This message was lost on those making decisions at The Daily Times.

People run for public office for a variety of reasons.  The paper is free to express what they think make good qualifications for public office but the people writing anonymous editorials at the paper need a reality check.  Their views don’t align with many in the community.  The number of subscribers has dropped because of it, while the population of Blount County is increasing.  People share their concerns about the bias when the paper solicits renewals, but even when the people trying to sell subscriptions agree and share that they hear this often, the message falls on deaf ears with the decision makers at the paper as we can see by the editorial today.

The Daily Times might increase its number of subscribers if it actually published the votes of every commissioner on every issue, rather than selectively publishing what it wants the public to see.  Of course, if it did that, then big government, courthouse clique Republicans that they support will not look so good.

Letter to the editor that self proclaimed nonpartisan editor Todd Foster won’t publish.

April 27, 2018

Dear Editor,

What I took away from the first article about Commissioner Mike Akard is that he burns wood and brush on his property, had a permit to do so and no wrong doing was found, fireworks have been let off in celebration of our nation’s independence and he had two traffic citations: one with a $50 fine and the other was dropped after driving school.

Who hasn’t done such horrible things as burn wood, let off fireworks and exceed the speed limit?  That hardly warrants the following day’s headline that Akard has a criminal past.

Is The Daily Times going to refer to everyone, who has been given a traffic ticket, as having a criminal past?  No other charges or convictions were stated.  Has The Daily Times researched the driving records of all candidates or just Mike Akard?

There was no comment from Akard about the two traffic tickets.  Did The Daily Times ask Akard for a comment, like it asked his opponent for an explanation about his criminal conviction?

Sincerely,
Tona Monroe
Greenback, TN 37742

Update: I received this in an email Tuesday evening.  “I canceled my subscription after I read that editorial today. Sounded like something the president would put in Twitter. Disgusting.”

Reelect Commissioner Mike Akard postcard

Mike Akard is seeking reelection to county commission, district 2 seat A.  The post card also include information about the other district 2 commission seat.  Jim Hammontree is challenging incumbent Mike Lewis for seat B.

Nick Bright refutes Tom Cole’s campaign mailer

My opponent, incumbent Commissioner Tom Cole, sent a campaign mailer out about his voting record that has me wondering if he remembers how he votes or even understands what he is voting on.

The heading is “My Voting Record” and the 4 points are:

  • Yes to convert the variable rate debt to fixed rate
  • Yes to converting $.04 cents of the sales tax to school capital fund
  • No on The Property Tax Increase
  • No on the Commission Pay Raise (Twice)

Cole says that he voted yes to convert the variable rate debt to fixed rate but the very first vote that he cast on fixed rate debt was a no vote.  See the meeting minutes of the called commission meeting held on October 14, 2014.  Cole was one of 2 no votes.

Cole says that he voted yes to converting $.04 cents of the sales tax to the school (education) capital projects fund.  The local portion of the sales tax is $.0275.  The entire amount of the local option sales tax is less than $.04.  It was $.04 of the property tax that was appropriated to the education capital projects fund.  Apparently Cole doesn’t know one tax from the other.

In 2016 an amendment was proposed to increase the $.04 education capital projects fund to $.05 and reduce the general purpose school fund by $.01.  This would have given the schools about an additional $120,000 without raising taxes because the money appropriated to this fund does not have to be split with the city schools.  Cole voted against this shift of the property tax that would have saved the county taxpayers about $120,000 and not raised your property tax.

What does Cole mean when he says he voted yes to converting $.04?  Is he saying that $.04 was moved from one place in the budget to another?  If so, that’s not the case.  The $.04 cents was added to the budget in fiscal year 2016 (July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016), the year that the majority of commissioners voted to raise the property tax from $2.15 to $2.47.  That brings us to his next bullet point.

Cole did vote against the property tax increase in 2015 but his claim is disingenuous for a couple of reasons.  The $.04 from a tax that he can’t get right and he says he supports was part of the property tax increase.  An amendment was made at the June 18, 2015 commission meeting to set the property tax rate at $2.43.  An amendment to this amendment was made to raise $2.43 to $2.47 for the $.04 education capital projects fund that Cole calls a sales tax.  See page 63 for the property tax votes.  Thus, he did vote to increase the property tax rate by $.04 but tells us that he voted against the property tax increase.

The next budget year he voted for the $2.47 property tax rate; therefore, he did support the property tax increase.  He just did it one year later than the majority of commissioners.  See page 3 for his votes on the fiscal year 2017 property tax rate, including the $.01 education capital projects fund vote that would have saved you money.

On the last bullet point, Cole is correct.  He did vote against the pay raise twice, but we all know that a broken clock is right twice a day.

On election day, May 1st, please vote for Nick Bright for Blount County Commissioner, District 6 Seat A.  I’ll work to get the taxes and my votes straight, unlike my opponent who doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about.

Ray Moore runs for Blount County Commission

To the great people of Blount County:
I have been employed for 28 years by a retail company where I am in charge of millions of dollars of merchandise each year. This has given me the experience to carefully watch the resources of the taxpayers and to represent the people as a county commissioner. I have two beautiful daughters that are my life. I have lived in Tennessee my entire life and have been in Blount County for more than 20 years now. I do not like the direction our governments have been going: local, state and federal.

When my opponent wouldn’t give me straight answers about important issues that the county is dealing with, I could not sit on the side line and not do my part to change the direction of our local government. My opponent has voted for 3 budgets funded by the same 16% property tax rate increase from 2015. He also voted to restrict private property rights back in 2015 with the water buffer resolution. My opponent is against transparency. After the November 2014 Human Resources Committee meeting, my opponent told another commissioner to hide benefits information from public view. Please ask yourself: Is this the person you wish to have representing you as the citizen taxpayer?

Our county government owes over $214 million dollars in debt and total liabilities (see page 25). Some elected officials can not control their spending. We have schools that are in disrepair, yet over the past 3 years the county mayor and finance director set aside two-million dollars for jail expansion. The commission just approved spending $118,000 on a condemned bridge instead of repairing our schools. As both a voter and taxpayer, I do not think this is the way things should be done. I will prioritize the county’s spending.

I stand for the Constitution, and I will vote to insure that the money of each taxpayer will be spent wisely and not wasted on non-priority items like bridges to nowhere. I promise to vote against new taxes of any kind. We as a county do not have a funding problem; what we have is a spending problem. We need to prioritize spending and pay down our debt and in turn keep our government running efficiently. I support a transparent government that conducts its business openly rather than working behind closed doors and hiding things from the public. I humbly ask for your vote come May 1, 2018.

Thank you for considering me for Blount County Commissioner in the 7th district.

Sincerely,
Ray Moore

Why Bob Corker Flipped To A ‘Yes’ On Tax Reform In One Simple Chart

chart credit: Mike Mish Shedlock

by Horatio Bunce

via ZeroHedge.com:

“On December 1 Senator Corker made this statement:

“But at the end of the day, I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that I believe, based on the information I currently have, could deepen the debt burden on future generations.”

Today Corker Tweets:

Senator Corker denies allegations of the “Corker Kickback”.

Corker initially told IBT that the new provision “sounds totally unnecessary and borderline ridiculous” but later admitted he doesn’t “really know what the provision does to be honest. I would need an accountant to explain it.” Last year, Corker made up to $7 million from real estate pass through companies he owns.

His story, however, hit a snag when Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate Majority Whip, told ABC News that the provision that benefits real estate investors was added as part of an effort to “cobble together the votes we needed to get this bill passed.”

When asked if the provision was added specifically to secure Corker’s vote, Cornyn dodged the question.

Corker Kickback Tweets

 

GOP Tax Plan Increases the Most Insidious Tax

Written by former Congressman Ron Paul, MD
Monday November 6, 2017

Last Thursday, congressional Republicans unveiled their tax reform legislation. On the same day, President Trump nominated current Federal Reserve Board Governor Jerome Powell to succeed Janet Yellen as Federal Reserve chair. While the tax plan dominated the headlines, the Powell appointment will have much greater long-term impact. Federal Reserve policies affect every aspect of the economy, including whether the Republican tax plan will produce long-term economic growth.

President Obama made history by appointing the first female Fed chair. President Trump is also making history: If confirmed, Powell would be the first former investment banker to serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Powell’s background suggests he will continue Janet Yellen’s Wall Street-friendly low interest rates and easy money policies.

Powell is an outspoken opponent of the Audit the Fed legislation. In 2015, Powell delivered an address at Catholic University devoted to attacking Audit the Fed. Like most Fed apologists, Powell claims the audit would compromise the Fed’s independence and allow Congress to control monetary policy. However, like all who make this claim, Powell cannot point to anything in the text of the audit bill giving Congress any power over the Federal Reserve. Powell’s concerns about protecting the Fed’s independence are misplaced, as the Fed has never been free of political influence. The Fed has a long history of bowing to presidential pressure to tailor monetary policy to help advance the president’s political and policy agenda.

The Republican tax cut plan has some positive elements, such as increasing the standard deduction, creating a new family tax credit, eliminating the death tax, reducing the corporate tax rate, and lowering taxes on small businesses. It also has some flaws, such as the “millionaire surcharge” imposed on upper-income taxpayers. This provision reflects a belief that upper-income taxpayers only “deserve” a tax break if reducing their taxes serves the interest of government by increasing economic growth.

The worst part of the tax plan is that it adopts the chained consumer price index (chained CPI). Chained CPI is a way of measuring CPI that understates inflation’s effects on our standard of living. It does this by assuming inflation has not reduced Americans’ standard of living if, for example, people can buy hamburgers when they can no longer afford steak. This so-called full substitution ignores the fact that if individuals viewed hamburgers as a full substitute for steak they would have bought hamburgers before Fed-created inflation made steak unaffordable.

Chained CPI increases the inflation tax. The inflation tax may be the worst of all taxes because it is hidden and regressive. The inflation tax is not even a tax on real wages. Instead it is a tax on the illusionary gains in income caused by inflation. The use of chained CPI to adjust tax brackets pushes individuals into higher tax brackets over time.

Politicians love the inflation tax because it allows them to increase taxes without having to vote for higher rates. Instead, the Fed does the dirty work. Since their creation in 1913, the Federal Reserve and the income tax have both enabled the growth of the welfare-warfare state and the erosion of our freedom and economic well-being. The key to restoring our liberty and prosperity, as well as avoiding a major economic crisis, is reversing the great mistakes of 1913 by repealing the 16th Amendment and auditing and ending the Federal Reserve.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/november/06/gop-tax-plan-increases-the-most-insidious-tax/

Jeff Sessions Endorses Theft

By Ron Paul

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently ordered the Justice Department to increase the use of civil asset forfeiture, thus once again endorsing an unconstitutional, authoritarian, and increasingly unpopular policy.

Civil asset forfeiture, which should be called civil asset theft, is the practice of seizing property believed to be involved in a crime. The government keeps the property even if it never convicts, or even charges, the owner of the property.

Police can even use civil asset theft to steal from people whose property was used in criminal activity without the owners’ knowledge. Some have even lost their homes because a renter or houseguest was dealing drugs on the premises behind the owners’ backs.

Civil asset theft is a multi-billion dollar a year moneymaker for all levels of government. Police and prosecutors receive more than their “fair share” of the loot. According to a 2016 study by the Institute for Justice, 43 states allow police and prosecutors to keep at least half of the loot they got from civil asset theft.

Obviously, this gives police an incentive to aggressively use civil asset theft, even against those who are not even tangentially involved in a crime. For example, police in Tenaha, Texas literally engaged in highway robbery — seizing cash and other items from innocent motorists — while police in Detroit once seized every car in an art institute’s parking lot. The official justification for that seizure was that the cars belonged to attendees at an event for which the institute had failed to get a liquor license.

The Tenaha police are not the only ones targeting those carrying large sums of cash. Anyone traveling with “too much” cash runs the risk of having it stolen by a police officer, since carrying large amounts of cash is treated as evidence of involvement in criminal activity.

Civil asset theft also provides an easy way for the IRS to squeeze more money from the American taxpayer. As the growing federal debt increases the pressure to increase tax collections without raising tax rates, the IRS will likely ramp up its use of civil asset forfeiture.

Growing opposition to the legalized theft called civil asset forfeiture has led 24 states to pass laws limiting its use. Sadly, but not surprisingly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is out of step with this growing consensus. After all, Sessions is a cheerleader for the drug war, and civil asset theft came into common usage as a tool in the drug war.

President Trump could do the American people a favor by naming a new attorney general who opposes police state policies like the drug war and police state tactics like civil asset theft.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/august/07/jeff-sessions-endorses-theft/

June 2017 Commission Report

“Last year we said, ‘Things can’t go on like this,’ and they didn’t, they got worse.”  Will Rogers

Annual Budget
Traditionally, each June, the Blount County Commission adopts an annual budget and sets the property tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year (FY).  A fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30th, which is why the commission usually adopts the budget in June.  A fiscal year is denoted by the calendar year in which the fiscal year ends.  For example FY 2017 ran July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017.  Accordingly FY 2018 runs July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.

The Blount County Commission approved an annual budget in June of 2016 for FY17 that was $181,267,406 (see pages 105-107).  In June of this year, the commission adopted a budget for FY18 that is $195,958,364 (see pages 534-536).

Not all of this was an actual increase.  According to the county’s Finance Director (FD), Randy Vineyard, governmental accounting standards require some expenditures to be recorded twice.  Troy Logan, the fiscal administrator for Blount County School District told me that he couldn’t think of any expenditures that were recorded twice in the school’s budget.  Upon my request, FD Vineyard provided this spread sheet outlining the use of fund balance and the monies that are being accounted for twice.

According to the numbers provided by FD Vineyard, $5,381,930 is accounted for twice.  Based on these figures, that means that the commission adopted a budget that is $9,309,028 more than what it initially approved for the previous year, when the double accounting amounts are removed.  This is a huge increase for local government that will not be sustainable in the future without either growth in tax revenues or more tax increases.

The spreadsheet shows the county using $7,087,000 of fund balances from the various funds.  Some of the increase is for nonrecurring capital expenditures.  You can read my questions and FD Vineyard’s responses related to the use of fund balances here.  Please take the time to read this as it shows that $1.1M of fund balance may be used for corporate welfare for one company.

At the Agenda Committee meeting, I asked Mayor Ed Mitchell how much this secret company would receive from local governments (City of Maryville and Blount County) and the state of Tennessee.  He only knew what the county’s contribution will be.  Thus, local elected officials walk into these types of “deals” without knowing how much public money will actually be spent.

According to FD Vineyard the county’s General Fund grew to about $15M at the end of FY16 and an estimate for the end of FY17 had not been calculated in early June.  Property tax and federal inmate revenues may have been sandbagged in FY16.  Both came in higher than projected, and you were slammed with a higher property tax rate than necessary.  Some local elected officials may feel good about having accumulated such a large General Fund, but it came about as a result of two large tax increases (sales tax and property tax) not from being good stewards with your tax dollars.

$1.85M of fund balance will be used for Information Technology (IT) updates.  This is addition to the $4.1M that has already been spent for IT improvements and huge software purchases since 2014.  This new budget brings the total to nearly $6M that has or will be spent from 2014 through the end of June in 2018.

One would think that with such large expenditures that the IT Committee would be keeping a close watch on the various IT projects but it is not.  From June 2016 through June 2017 the IT Committee only met twice and during one of those meetings it lacked a quorum.  The Mayor canceled the other two meetings that were scheduled.

Blount County taxpayers will be forced to pay $96,717 in additional salaries and benefits to four office holders beyond the state mandated minimums.  These office holders are already some of the highest paid employees in county government and have been paid nearly double or triple the average salary of a Blount County citizen.

Chromebooks lease
The commission approved a 3 year lease agreement for Chromebooks for the schools.  I voted against this because the county will be paying interest when it does not have to.  The funds are available to purchase the computers without wasting any money on interest.

$1,272,000 loan to the schools
The commission, through the Agenda Committee, actually rejected a spending request from the schools in February.  This month the schools requested this money, for tennis courts renovations, once again along with more money for 3 additional capital projects.  The commission was asked to approve capital outlay notes that would be funded by using monies from debt service that will be loaned to the schools.  The county should be using the debt service fund to pay down debt rather than loaning it to be paid back at 2% interest.  Furthermore, the county has to pay a financial advisor and bond counsel to loan money to itself.  The better option would be to increase the amount of property tax going to the schools capital fund rather than a complicated loan transaction with fees and interest.

Medical plan changes
The commission voted to reduce the out of pocket maximum from $4,000 to $3,000 for health care and to charge $5 for the employee only dental plan.  The dental plan for the employee only is currently free.  The cost of the dental family plan is currently the difference between the price of the premium of the employee only plan and the family plan.  The dental family plan was also increases $5 and will become the difference between the employee only premium and the family premium, plus $5.  The county will be paying $22.14 a month for employees that are enrolled in either the employee only or family dental plans. These changes will take effect January 1, 2018.  The health care plans run the calendar year, rather than the fiscal year.

Interruptions continue
Commissioner Mike Caylor continued interrupting commissioners by twice declaring a point of order.  He appears to be abusing the power to raise a point of order to stifle discussion that challenges the status quo.

Up next:
The commission will look at hiring an architectural firm to renovate and/or expand the jail.