The commission has discretion in pay of some office holders

Myth Buster 2

Assertion by the political machine: The State sets office holders salaries

Fact: This is partially true.  The state does set minimum salaries for office holders.  You can view those salaries here.  However, state law allows the commission to increase the salaries of some elected officials.

The Circuit Court Clerk can be given a 10% pay increase above the state minimum.  Tom Hatcher made a pay increase request for the current budget year and was given the increase.  Under state law, the Highway Superintendent, Sheriff and Mayor automatically get a pay increase when the Circuit Court Clerk is given the increase.  Read the notes for more details.

The Sheriff may be given additional compensation for serving as workhouse superintendent, which the Sheriff has been receiving for several years.  This means that Mayor will also get more because the Sheriff gets more, per state law.

Office Holder State Minimum Current Pay
Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher $81,153 $89,269
Highway Superintendent Bill Dunlap $89,269 $98,197
Sheriff James Berrong $89,269 $117,835
Mayor Ed Mitchell $93,732 $123,727

The Mayor is making nearly $30,000 more than the state minimum.  The Sheriff is making $28,566 more than the state minimum.  We keep hearing about deputies making around $28,600 and correctional officers making around $27,600.  It’s interesting the Sheriff’s pay above the state minimum is around the cost of pay for a deputy.  The Sheriff could forego the additional pay and hire a new deputy or give 28 deputies a $1,000 pay raise with the amount that he is getting above the statement minimum, while still making about 3 times what his deputies and correctional officers are making.

The cost to the taxpayers above the state minimum is $75,605 for these salary supplements.  The commission can and should cut these salaries to the state minimum.  The officers will still make far more than most of their employees and the citizen taxpayers.

Capital Fund should be put back into school budget

Sharing Education Capital Project Funds:
A Lesson from McMinn County

In 2011, the cities of Athens and Etowah sued McMinn County because the county had put money into an education capital projects fund and used those funds for renovations and additions to county schools, and the cities believed that those funds should have been shared with their school systems. McMinn County responded that they were not obligated to share these capital project funds with the city. The trial court agreed and entered judgment for the county.

The trial court stated, “When a county makes a tax assessment for future capital outlay projects, such an assessment is not subject to proration among all LEAs in the county.” The trial court found that the relevant statute is clear and unambiguous — it requires sharing only of funds for current operation and maintenance purposes, and funds collected for future capital projects are not for current operation and maintenance.

Predictably, the cities appealed. In December 2014, the Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision for the county. The cities attempted a further appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court, but that Court declined to hear the case in May 2015. There can be no other appeals. The trial court’s decision is now final.

Under this case, counties in which there are multiple school systems may make appropriations to an education capital projects fund and expend that money for school capital projects without being required to share those funds with any city or special school districts in the county. These funds can only be used for capital projects.

This case only affects money appropriated and set aside for capital expenditures for education. Any money used for current operation or maintenance purposes, as well as funds borrowed for education capital expenditures, must be shared with the other school systems in the county.

To read the case, please click HERE to view a PDF.

Source: CTAS Newsletter

 

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

People are upset with the Library Director for promoting tax increase through email

Several people have contacted me about the Library Director KC Williams sending an email in support of the tax increase, saying the library will have to cut services if the the increase isn’t approved.  Here are some of the responses.

Yesterday I received a mass e-mail from the Blounty County Library Director, KC Williams.  The message states the library and other departments are at risk if the tax increase isn’t approved and telling us to contact our commissioners to support the tax increase.  Well I’m contacting my commissioners to tell you I DO NOT support the tax increase and I do NOT support department heads sending biased emails to the public!  Have the Commissioners actually directed the department heads to contact the public and threaten them?  I wonder at the legality of a government manager sending such an email.  I worked for the federal government for 34 years and if a federal employee had done this, ON GOVERNMENT TIME, ON A GOVERNMENT COMPUTER, WITH GOVERNMENT LETTERHEAD, they would be fired.  In Federal terms this is called the “Washington Monument” ploy.  Whenever budget cuts are proposed, departments submit lists of programs that may be cut.  They always pick the items that they know will garner the greatest public outcry, such as closing the Washington Monument.  It’s a stupid ploy and nothing more than a scare tactic.  It also assumes that the public is so ignorant and uninformed that they will fall for it.  While I do enjoy the library and hope it is around for a long time, the fact is that, in our current internet world, libraries are soon to be as rare as a Blockbuster Video store.  And lastly, you proposed the tax increase to pay salary increases and health insurance, when did it evolve to closing the library?

 

Dear KC Williams,

I can appreciate your concern over the possibility of not receiving an increase in your upcoming budget.

Please consider the impact that a tax increase will have on those of us who will have to adjust our budgets in order to pay for your operations.  Perhaps you and the other Blount County administrators will step back for a moment and view the proposed tax increase from the perspective of those of us who will be forced to carry the burden. These are difficult economic times and it seems like those of you who are responsible for spending our tax dollars would sharpen your pencils and make the difficult choices necessary to control your spending and to keep within limits that protects the financial security of our neighbors.

We as citizens of Blount County depend upon you administrators and our elected commissioners to make every effort to manage our county finances more efficiently.  Unfortunately we the taxpayers are often not given the respect we deserve and there is no one to stand up and advocate for our position.

With a view from the other side…

 

K. C.,
It is disappointing that our public library would act as a tool for the liberal, tax and spend career politicians lead by Ed Mitchell. YES, the library is important but what thought has been given to the military veterans, senior citizens, and an ever diminishing middle class that continues to fund a run away county government.

What do you tell those of us that already do without, proudly served our country that are now bound to such a tight fixed budget that we find ourselves in the red at the end of the month? Is there truly a belief among the majority of the County Commissioners that veterans and senior citizens of the county enjoy an excess of disposable income? How do they sleep at night?? It boggles the mind. When the demands to fund more government waste comes from these out-of-touch politicos, what do you propose seniors and veterans do with no money to give?

PLEASE , help me understand how this does not affect your heart when you continually demand money from those most unable to comply without dire consequences.  How does the reality of your veterans and seniors having basic human needs denied so MORE taxes can be paid. Is it OK with you that  the citizens of Blount county are growing in number destined to eat oatmeal and generic cereal 7 days a week?

The question continues to go unanswered . . . when a career politician’s home budget sees more money going out than coming in, do they have a magical outside source to get back in the black? No, I am assuming they make cuts.

Our library is worthy cause but there are undeniably places cuts can be made as with every single department in the county. Sending threatening notes as a tool for the BIG salaried, under-worked and overpaid lifetime politicians of Blount county is beneath the Blount County Library.
Blessings,

 

I’m really questioning the legality of this e-mail!  D:-(

Email from citizen Dorthy Cooper

Commissioner,
As many recent articles in the Daily Times have indicated, the Blount County mayor and certain commissioners seem to have decided that Blount County needs a property tax increase. The extra tax is needed, among other things, to make it possible to increase the pay for county employees. Before this tax increase is passed I would like for you to consider the following questions.
1. Why do the people of Blount County need to cut their spending in order pay for a tax increase so that you can increase your spending?
2. How do you suggest people living on a fixed income come up with the extra money to pay this extra tax? People who are retired or disabled certainly can’t work an extra shift at work to make up for the extra cost. What do you suggest we cut from out budget? food, prescription medication, heat and air, a doctor visit?
I would love for all of Blount County employees to receive a pay raise. Please open your eyes to the hardships that the people of this county are going through. During the economic downturn many of them lost their jobs and are now working two part time jobs just to make ends meet. Some did not lose their jobs but took pay cuts in order to keep their jobs and as of today they are not back to the pay scale that they were at before the downturn. Lots of people have not had pay raises yet you insist on robbing Peter to pay Paul. If you want to give them a raise, do what you are expecting us to do—CUT YOUR SPENDING. After all this is what you are asking us to do in order to come up with the extra to pay this tax increase.
Recently when Mayor Mitchell nominated Sharon Hannum for the financial board it was brought to his attention that her property taxes had not been paid. The mayor made the comment that she was retired and living on a fixed income and it was hard to come up with the money to pay your taxes on time. I personally have nothing against Sharon but I know she is blessed to receive a pension from her former employer. This is something a lot of people do not have. Now the mayor not only thinks we can come up with that money but thinks we can afford to pay more. A considerable amount more!
If you are going to raise our taxes, please tell the citizens of Blount County who are trying to raise their families, pay their medical insurance and buy groceries (which has increased in cost) where they get the extra to pay for the tax increase.
When you think the people of this county have recovered from its economic problems think again. Blount Memorial has just notified some of its employees that they will be outsourcing their jobs. Some of these employees have been employed with them for 25 and 30 years. They are not old enough to retire and receive social security. Their lives have been turned upside down. Where do you suggest they get the extra to money for your tax increase? I am sure they would forgo any raise just to keep their job.
DON’T INCREASE TAXES—-CUT YOUR SPENDING—-VOTES DO COUNT—LISTEN TO YOUR CONSTITUENTS!!!!!!!!!

Dorthy Cooper

Citizen activist Linda King speaks in favor of pay raises for Blount County Sheriff’s deputies

With all the false information and statements floating around regarding the pay raises and upcoming budget vote, it’s a good time to bust a myth.

Myth Buster 1

Assertion by the political machine: Linda King and the people in “her group” are against the county employees.  One author said that she never made any recommendation to that effect.

Fact: At the June 21, 2007 Blount County Commission meeting, Linda King spoke in favor of deputy pay raises and said that the people of Citizens for Blount County’s Future supported the pay raises.  What she pointed out in her speech was that the Sheriff had turnback money in the budget that could have been used to give pay raises to deputies.

Some of the people in “her group” are the people that the same false statements are being made about today, namely Commissioners Karen Miller and Tona Monroe.  Commissioner Mike Akard was not an active member of “her group” but the same false statements are being spread about him.  These three commissioners voted against the unfinished, inadequate Evergreen Study.  That doesn’t mean that they are against employee pay raises.

June 2007 could be June 2015.  The story is the same.  We hear about deputy pay but never hear about cuts.  Turnback is only discussed if the citizens bring it up and they are branded as “naysayers” and being against the county employees for daring to mention that there be some accountability to the taxpayers.  The Sheriff didn’t show much interest in his deputies when he had the money left over in his budget that could have been used to give raises.

The questions that the taxpayers should be asking are why do we not see the same routine out of other offices and departments?  Why are the deputies always the ones being demagogued?

Citizen Donna Wright’s comments to the commission on the proposed tax increase

The job of the county departments head and the mayor is to ask for more money.  You could give them a 100%  increase in their budget request and they would come back tomorrow asking for more. That is their job as bureaucrats and I understand that. But your job as county commissioners is to stand in the gap to stop the runaway budget because of their personal agendas and excess spending and stop this foolishness because the citizens of Blount County, who are under tax payer duress anyway, cannot afford this added burden. We need you as county commissioners to grow a backbone and demand that department heads reduce their budget costs instead of just automatically granting their current requests.

Some of the proposed money brought in from a property tax increase would be to fund the short fall of the health care fund.  Why are you not currently pursuing the options of making the county employees pay for more of their health care benefits or make some plan changes first before you put forth this proposal to raise taxes.  You have a 1.8 million short fall year to date. What are you going to do next year when that will more than likely increase.  Implement the wheel tax possibly?

My husbands insurance rates increased this year by 36% and who pays for it?  He does.  He doesn’t have the advantage of passing that increase onto someone else.  Our sheriff has a 10.6 million dollar budget.  You mean to tell me he cannot reallocate his budget to give his deputies a raise.  We just passed  the 22% sales tax increase last year which I thought was for education.  Why do they keep coming back for more?  If you make the money available they will find ways to spend it and next budget they’ll ask for more.

My family runs a fiscally responsible household and when we need to cut that’s what we do. And if you pass this property tax increase guess what we will be doing?  Making more cuts.  It is your job as commissioners of this county to be fiscally responsible stewards of the taxpayer’s money and right now some of you are failing miserably.  I know some of you have your mind made up already, but those of you on the fence, I ask that you do the fiscally responsible thing and vote no on the property tax increase.  Thank you.

Blount County pay not keeping up with inflation; Median household income tied for biggest drop in region

A 22% property tax increase in this economic environment?  No way!

http://etindex.org/economy-workforce/workforce/average-annual-salary

“How is our region performing?

In 2012, the region’s average salary was just over $43,000, below the average for the state ($44,000) and the nation ($49,000). Since 2000, the region’s average salary increased by 6%, lower than the 8% growth statewide but higher than the 5% growth nationwide. Union County’s average annual pay grew by 43% over the same time period, more than any other county, while Blount was the only county in the region to experience a decrease in average pay (-0.4%). Between 2011 and 2012, average annual pay increased slightly in the region, driven by growth in Union and Jefferson counties (7% and 6%, respectively).”

http://etindex.org/financial-well-being/financial-resources/median-household-income

“How is our region performing?

In 2009-13, median household income in the region was $45,100, slightly higher than the state ($44,300) but lower than the nation ($53,000). Among local counties, median household income was highest in Loudon ($51,100) and Knox ($47,700) and lowest in Union ($34,400) and Monroe ($37,600). Since 2000, median household income decreased by 11% in the region, compared to decreases of 13% in the state and 10% in the nation. Among the counties, median household incomes decreased most in Jefferson and Blount (both 15%). Knox experienced the smallest rate of decline (10%).”

Bolded for emphasis.

Interview on upcoming budget

This interview took place on The Rude Awakening on Thursday June 4th at 8 AM.  There was one place were I corrected myself saying 3 years but it is actually 4 years.

http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Rude Awakening060415.mp3

 

The BS Gap Continues to Grow

snake-oil-salesman475by Eric Holcombe

Dad Gone Wild has a new post about the Achievement School District (ASD) in TN directed by Teach For America (TFA) alum Chris Barbic. Remember that Chris was tagged for the position by Kevin Huffman, the former executive v.p. of public relations for TFA (and board member of PARCC of no-bid, testing contract fame) who was appointed by Achieve Inc. board member Bill Haslam. Somebody had to spend the $90 million Bill Gates grant given to Memphis to start up charter schools. The ASD was created by Jamie SCORE Woodson’s special session First To The Top bill in January 2010 at the same time the Common Core “state” Standards were being committed to (before they existed) in the fraudulent Race To The Top federal grant application that claimed unanimous support and signatures from every director of schools, school board chair and teacher union representative in the state. Shortly after passage, she quit her Senate seat to start collecting Bill Gates’ checks at TNSCORE along with Bill Frist (nearly $6M now and counting).

So, what was the ASD supposed to do? Well, frankly an impossible task – take the bottom 5% of schools academically and move them to the top 25% academically, in just five years. Okay, anyone paying attention to achievement scores knows this is not realistic and would expect some shall we say, creative accounting, was involved if this proved to be true. Well, Chris and Co. have already done some of that, creating a new “school” out of thin air when reporting scores to report year-over-year “improvement” that was at best an apples-to-oranges comparison. Now that the 5-year goal deadline is approaching, the Gates money is running thin, well something has to give to keep the dream alive:

From the post,

“…Barbic says,

“We could say tomorrow we are changing the goal. The only blowback we would probably get is from you guys (media). But there is nothing stopping us. I could wake up tomorrow and decide I want to do something different.

Wow. If we were making porn movies, that would be what they call the money shot. The hubris is appalling. I guess he forgot that part about kid’s lives being at stake. Hey, when you’re building a franchise, it’s hard to keep track of the players. It’s interesting that this line appeared in the original story in the Commercial Appeal but by mid-afternoon the next day it and two other paragraphs had oddly disappeared only to be replaced by more flattering paragraphs like below,”

Click here to read the rest of the post at Dad Gone Wild

Then remind yourself of how many years the Tennessee Virtual Academy was allowed to exist before being shut down by the state amidst enrollment caps instituted by Achieve Inc. board member Haslam, while parents with a choice still wanted to escape there with their children.