Roller Coaster Tax Rate

On page 35 of this June 2011 Commission packet you will find the property tax rate for Blount County for fiscal years (FY) 1991-2011.  The $2.21 that you see for FY12 on this chart is what was needed during that year to pay for the original proposed budget.  The Commission chose to raise the rate to $2.15, from $2.04 the previous year.  It has remained at $2.15 since the rate increase for FY12, which was voted on in June 2011.

While the $2.15 rate is the same for FY 2015 as it was for FY 2004, the rate has gone up and down during that time.  The lowest rate was FY 2011 at $2.04 because of the State mandated certified rate that requires the tax rate to be adjusted to make the tax revenue level the same as it was with the old rate after the whole County has been reappraised.  This usually means that the rate will go down because most home values have gone up, in addition to new homes that were built.  The highest rate was $2.43 in FY’s 2005 and 2006.  It is a true statement that the rate is the same as it was 11 years ago, but it hasn’t been a steady rate and the County is collecting more property tax revenue because home values have increased.  Most people are paying higher property taxes than they were 10 years ago.

Brutal week at the polls; Republican Party officers backing write-in candidate

It’s been a brutal first week of early voting at the polls.  Gerald Kirby, who lost his primary for County Commissioner Seat 10B to Jamie Daly, managed to get a monopoly permit for the whole grassy area, in front of the parking lot, except for a small piece to the side.  The property belongs to the County, but a permit from the City of Maryville is required because the City maintains the side walks.  The City should not give a permit to one candidate, at the exclusion of all others.

Kirby, and/or his supporters, repeatedly called the cops on anyone who put a chair and umbrella in the area, even though there was plenty of room.  The cops repeatedly showed up and were apologetic and respectful telling everyone that Kirby had a monopoly and if they’d just move to the tiny patch of grass left, they could set their umbrellas up there.

There are a couple of other tiny grassy areas that the campaign volunteers set up on after a couple of days, when they learned that Kirby did not have a permit for those small areas.  Sam Duck had a permit for the same area as Kirby in the May primary, but he didn’t call the cops on anyone.  The problems didn’t stop with the monopoly permit.

Libby Breeding, Administrator of Elections, blew-up at two volunteers standing at Everett.  An undercover detective, in an unmarked car, was sent to spy on the volunteers at Everett.  After a volunteer handed the undercover detective literature and spoke briefly to him, the detective asked the volunteer if that was all he had been doing.  The detective told the volunteer he was a detective, who was sent to see what the volunteers were doing and that he couldn’t see anything wrong with what the volunteer was doing.  Unfortunately it didn’t stop there.

The next day a woman complained saying she was being harassed by a volunteer, but the volunteer never talked to the woman.  Several people have commented that Blount County elections are starting to resemble Chicago style politics.  Thankfully some of the harassment inflicted upon the volunteers may stop after a State election official told Libby Breeding that the volunteers were within their rights to campaign and to leave them alone.

Another interesting development is the support of Republican Party officers for Kirby who lost the Republican primary.  There were four winners of Republican primary elections for County Commission at the Courthouse on Friday and one write-in candidate.  Susan Mills, the former Chairman of the Blount County Republican Party, is the 2nd district State Executive Committeewoman for the Republican Party of Tennessee and is unopposed on the ballot.  She spent her time standing under the write-in candidate’s tent (Kirby). Kenneth Melton was also under the Kirby tent.  Susan Mills left without speaking to the other 3 Republican candidates for County Commission who were all close by.  Those three ladies are Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe.

What’s the position of Republican Party of Blount County?  Does the Party support it’s nominees for office or not?  Party leaders and numerous Republican elected officials spent the first week of early voting hanging out under the Kirby write-in tent.

Susan Mills, Republican State Executive Committeewoman for the 2nd districts standing under the write-in Kirby tent

Susan Mills, Republican State Executive Committeewoman for the 2nd district standing under the write-in Kirby tent

NEW->Click HERE to see how to do write-in candidates on the voting machines.<-NEW

new_icon[1]Pretty interesting that the election commission has gone to the trouble to put a “NEW-” RED banner at top of their web page with link to instructions on how to vote for a write-in candidate. This despite the already existing side bar menu with the write-in instructions linked at the bottom of the list. And the new, redundant instructions are much more detailed with pictures and a link to a youtube video for how to correctly accomplish this as compared to their old instructions which are still linked on the site.
Granted, these new instructions are a good improvement over the original that have been there for several years now. I wonder why they got all concerned about providing detailed write-in voting instructions all of a sudden? I’m sure they were thinking of Larry Henry….

Native Blount Countian takes the Mayor, School Officials and DA to task over political meetings

This is the off the agenda statement of Susie Bowman at the July 17, 2014 Blount County Commission meeting.

I am Susie Myers Bowman, 70 year old NATIVE of Townsend, TN. 44yr resident, same address in District 2, Alcoa.

MANY NATIVE Blount Countians….as well as the “transplants” mentioned in the July 4th article in The Daily Times are indeed AWAKENING to the travesties perpetrated against Blount County taxpayers.

The Mayor attacked newcomers. Mayor, don’t you understand, many of those newcomers come here and buy houses providing badly needed work for our unemployed construction workers. Several of my relatives make their living in construction. They were born here. They like newcomers. They don’t like you driving people away.

The Mayor & other Blount County officials called “faculty meetings” at 21 schools prior to the May 6 Primary Election. These political discussion meetings were NOT voluntary attendance (a violation). By their own admission in recorded evidence, they clearly violated more than one TCA law by using their official positions (a violation) in attempting to “educate the staff on the sales tax referendum” as well as addressing other political topics such as refuting “nearly a quarter billion dollars in debt” and inappropriate statements concerning more than one candidate for County Commissioner without providing an equal opportunity for opposing candidate(s) or position(s) to present their case as prescribed by Tennessee state law!

When the Mayor addressed the allegations in the media, he stated that the County Attorney had determined that no laws were violated! Blatantly false! There is no such official position as County Attorney in the Blount County Government!

It is entirely clear the Mayor and other “public servants” involved in these (& other horrific abuses of their oath of office that have recently come to light) cannot effectively cope with the stress levels incurred when confronted with actual FACTS concerning their actions. If there was anything resembling JUSTICE regarding the political machine in Blount County, significant prosecutorial action would be currently underway and in the obvious absence of such, if the Mayor & other involved parties had any sense of scruples they would resign their respective offices IMMEDIATELY!

The RESPONSE:

Well, as one might have expected—

The people who have been witnessing the abuses by the board were glad to see some of it addressed. Of course, there were a lot of government employees in attendance, those wanting the Kronos 2.2 million total computer overall which will end up being likely 2-3 times that initial estimate. They had the Kronos ‘salesman’ there and Jim Folts made everyone aware that that is all he was. They had NO ONE designated to head up the major project, could not answer specific pertinent questions regarding design for the roll-out or anything one would NEED to KNOW prior to embarking upon such an expensive major project. Jim Folts (made his living with his expertise of computer technology) suggested that choosing to upgrade one department at a time would be the wise thing to do rather than attempting a complete upgrade all at one time. Only about 3 voted against the expenditure (Burchfield, Folts & Murrell). It actually sounds like another ‘ObamaCare’ fiasco.

Monica Murrell voted against it. She is not going to be on the commission next term, having chosen NOT to serve again. She came up to me as I was going out of the building following the meeting and said she was glad I had spoken and that I did a fine job with my delivery. On occasion, over this past term, she would vote with Jim Folts to TRY to bring some restraint to the SPENDING and curtail the obvious deceptive violations of actual Tennessee law. No doubt, the corrupt ‘machine’ gave her a rough time for not consistently ‘toeing their line’.

Doug and Abby came as moral support for me. Mike had invited several of his friends who also came. The room was packed with mostly county employees who LIKE getting a BONUS. The Mayor’s secretary (who makes around 52 grand/year) of course stood to deny there is a ‘political machine’ in our county and government is being run by fine people. Phyllis Crisp (who had also received a hefty pay raise) voiced her commendation of our fine mayor and commission. What would one expect them to say?

Commissioner French got up attempting to refute my assertions that TCA had been violated, but he only read a portion of the law that was NOT the part that clearly states otherwise. Mike raised his hand (wanting to quote the entire law) but they would not call him up to speak.

Several rose to speak nice supportive commendations for the dedicated service of Jim Folts. One man (a machine reporter) said he was ‘glad to see Jim Folts go and good riddance’. Some applause from county workers upon hearing that very RUDE remark about such a fine wise man who has always said and done what would be in the best interest of the TAX PAYING citizens.

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Read more about the meetings here.

Common Core is Crony Capitalism

From Reason.com:

“…the billionaire philanthropist [Bill Gates] has spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting Common Core through the advocacy efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

But wait a minute—doesn’t Gates work for a pretty big computer company, or something? Oh, and doesn’t the testing component of Common Core require schools to upgrade their computer software? Who wants to bet that Core-aligned standardized testing requires Windows 8?

It does! As The Post‘s Valerie Strauss points out, a Windows web page actually recommends that schools hurry up and buy the latest Windows software in order to enjoy a smoother transition to tech-heavy standardized testing required by Common Core…”

$500+ Million and four years later, Common Core delivers below-average results

Copyright: Little Seed Productions

Copyright: Little Seed Productions

 

by Eric Holcombe

 

You are seeing plenty about Tennessee school achievement and the TCAP scores that are “closing the gap” or like last year were “exemplary” based only on changes in scores. Of course with Tennessee’s “waiver” from the No Child Left Behind requirements that we begged from Obama, it is incumbent upon the state to show progress. Some are using these reported changes in scores (but never the actual scores themselves mind you) to attribute the success to academic standards that were changed and as Gov. Haslam does in the first linked article, all these improvements seem to need to be compared back to 2010:

This is a very positive step for our state,” said Gov. Bill Haslam. “We’ve had steady growth and progress since 2010.

As readers of this blog well know, that was the year Tennessee lied on their application for Race To The Top federal funds, fraudulently claiming unanimous consent by all school districts and school board chairs to implement the yet-unwritten Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts. A little over sixty days later, we were rewarded with over $500 Million in public taxpayer funds which has now been spent implementing the so-called “state-led” standards. Public money was also used in the federal Race To The Top program to create two new, mandatory achievement testing firms: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Joining a “multi-state” online testing consortium to measure your human capital widgets’ compliance with the Common Core State Standards was a federal requirement contained within the Race To The Top application (but keep telling yourself it is “state-led”). PARCC governing board member and Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and Assistant Commissioner of Curriculum and Instruction Emily Barton both testified in Senate hearings on SB1985 that Common Core is “fully implemented” and we are seeing such great results on NAEP assessments due to Common Core that somehow going back to only 2013 would be a step backward academically. Well, what do we have to show for our $500+ Million spent over the last four years?

Well, besides an illegal, multimillion dollar, no-bid testing contract with PARCC, not much. We can hide in the TCAP bubble for only so long. TCAP tests are not nationally-normed, meaning your Tennessee students’ scores only compare to other Tennessee students. Useful for ranking your in-state districts vs. one another, but not good for comparing ourselves to other states. We are told we needed (I mean we states created) Common Core so our children can “compete in the global marketplace”. It seems like we would be interested in academic performance comparisons outside our little TCAP bubble. But we are told that Common Core is “rigorous” and “internationally benchmarked”, so we should have nothing to worry about, right? Jamie SCORE Woodson claimed in the Senate Education Committee Common Core “fact-finding” hearings that one reason Common Core was implemented was because of TN’s poor performance on the NationalAssessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, a.k.a. the Nation’s Report Card) tests. These tests are not comprehensive of all grades, but test 4th and 8th grades (and now some pilot states participating in 12th grade) in several subjects, but not every subject every year:

“National Assessments​ include many subjects, including mathematics, reading, science, writing​, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history. These assessments follow the frameworks​ developed by the National Assessment Governing Board, and use the latest advances in assessment methodology. Each subject is assessed at grades 4, 8, and 12, although not all grades are assessed each time.​”

Since TN does not use a nationally-normed achievement test like Iowa Basic Skills or Stanford Achievement, we only have the NAEP to let us know how we compare to the rest of the country. Since the testing schedule is intermittent in nature, it makes it even more difficult to reliably trend results. So how do we stack up after four years and $500 Million spent?

Unfortunately, Tennessee is still below average on every single metric for 4th and 8th grade students. We are almost nearly average on some, but not yet. Among the thirteen 12th grade pilot states, Tennessee is next to last in both mathematics and reading proficiency at 17% and 31% respectively. Just think, Gov. Haslam claims they have improved the last four years to get to that point. I don’t care how you slice it, that is an ugly score. How many more years will it take with “exemplary, closing the gap” years to get to say, 50% proficient?

Note that the last data point is 2013. Huffman and Barton claimed both that the gains up to 2013 were due to Common Core, and backing up to where we were in 2013 is a step backward in academic standards (which they claimed were already fully implemented, thus nothing to “delay”) even though they have ZERO test results. They can’t have it both ways.

In either case, we have spent four years and $500 Million extra and are still below average on every count. Tennessee should be the Common Core flagship, getting round 1 RTTT money, getting round 1 NCLB waivers and all those trips with Arne Duncan telling us how good we are, all those checks from Bill & Melinda Gates to Bredesen and Haslam’s Achieve Inc., Bill Frist and Jamie Woodson’s SCORE, the TN Dept. of Education, the City of Memphis and so on.

So when are we going to get the “World Report Card” to go with our Tennessee Report Card and Nation’s Report Card? After all, we are told that we states created Common Core so we could would have “internationally benchmarked” standards so our children can “compete in the global marketplace.” Or hasn’t Bill Gates sent a check for that yet?

Arne Duncan in his latest appearance with Gov. Haslam (reminding us that Common Core is “state-led”) asked “where’s the outrage” on education achievement gaps. What gaps Arne? We are told everything is great, we are improving every year. Don’t you read the paper? It’s just like Gov. Bredesen was telling us before we all-of-a-sudden “needed” Common Core.