One year ago all (21) Blount County Commission positions were up for re-election. Among the (21) Republican contenders for commission seats were (7) Democrats and (5) Independents. After a long campaign, all (21) seats were filled with Republicans. This was a change from (18) Republicans and (3) Democrats that comprised the previous commission. Our county entered 2011 with almost $250 Million of debt and carrying several Millions of dollars of “toxic” assets. We also had a $46 Million balloon payment due in June 2011.
So here we are, one year later. And here are the results of your votes:
Tonya Burchfield, Tab Burkhalter, Richard Carver, Mike Caylor, Gary Farmer, Tom Greene, Brad Harrison, & Kenneth Melton authorized $2.2 Million of budget increases and voted for a property tax increase. Scott Helton, Mike Lewis, and Jerome Moon authorized $2 Million of budget increases and voted for a property tax increase. Holden Lail authorized $983,000 of budget increases and voted for a property tax increase.
Ron French, Roy Gamble, Mark Hasty, Gerald Kirby, and Gordon Wright authorized $2.2 Million of budget increases but voted against a property tax increase. Peggy Lambert and Steve Samples authorized $2 Million of budget increases but voted against a property tax increase. Jim Folts authorized $940,000 of budget increases and voted against a property tax increase. Monika Murrell authorized $430,000 of budget increases and voted against a property tax increase. And last, but not least, Mayor Ed Mitchell authorized all the $2.2 Million of spending passed by the commission but vetoed the property tax increase. (Roy Gamble changed his mind and voted to override Mayor Mitchell’s veto of the property tax increase).
(Note: These budget increases also include $300,000 of state and federal grants which all commissioners authorized).
The commission also voted to refinance the $46 Million balloon payment instead of finding ways to cut spending and come up with ways to pay for it. Instead of dealing with problems, our commission is more concerned with “kicking the can down the road” and making our children deal with them.
And this past January, Chairman Melton decided to unilaterally ban citizen applause for citizen input. In the July Agenda meeting, Commissioners Burkhalter, Caylor, Farmer, Harrison, Hasty, Helton, Kirby, Lail, Lambert, Lewis, Melton, Moon, and Wright voted to send this to the full commission to make it official. Fortunately this rule change failed.
So as you can see it’s been quite a year! Our all-Republican commission has authorized Millions of dollars of budget increases when many of our household budgets are decreasing. And, just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, the commission hits us with a property tax increase while trying to silence the citizenry!
To be fair in February, the Mayor offered to cut his own salary by $15,000 to $103,000/yr. All the commissioners authorized this cut.
Here are the grades for 2011: Folts and Murrell: C; Burchfield, Burkhalter, Carver, Caylor, Farmer, French, Gamble, Greene, Harrison, Hasty, Helton, Kirby, Lail, Lambert, Lewis, Melton, Moon, Samples, and Wright: F.
The commission meeting in August seems to be an indicator that our path to financial insolvency is inevitable. One of the first items was an “…additional litigation tax for Blount County…” which is essentially a user fee for Blount County courts. I can understand being changed for a service when you use it, but the reason for this increase is, according to the resolution, “WHEREAS, Blount County is in need of additional revenue” (All voted “Yes”). I’m not making this up folks. You see how much money each commissioner has authorized in the last year and, just two months after passing a property tax increase, is still under the impression that the government needs more revenue! Not to mention the next item was authorizing $7,431 for more copiers (Folts voted “No”)
Here is the grading scale:
A – Participated in the discussion and voted to uphold the libertarian values of fiscal responsibility and /or personal liberty.
B – Did not participate, but voted to uphold libertarian values.
C – Participated in the discussion and voted against libertarian values.
F – Did not participate and voted against libertarian values.
Here are the grades for August: Folts: C; All the others: F.