THE HUNTER REPORT
A Taxpayer's Perspective
Budget Public Hearing - Children need schools
By: Pat Hunter
Richard Truitt spoke about at the public hearing about the proposed budget. He resides in the 5th District. He attends commission, workshop and school board meetings regularly. He stays informed on the issues and he hears the discussions that take place at these meetings. He shared his perspective with Commissioners about the county and school budget.
Here are his comments:
My name is Richard Truitt. I reside in the 5th District. My remarks will take approximately 3 minutes. First, I would like to address the Budget Committeeís proposal to set the Planning Commissionerís salary at $68,000 per year. This makes no sense to propose a salary that is higher than an elected official, which is $64,000. It seems that the planning commissioner has 3 good friends on the Budget Committee. The proper position for the Planning Commissioner would be that of a department head. I would deem this generous.
The school budget. It would be my hope that Commission would send the budget back to the schools to be balanced or balance the budget for them. I attended all the School Board meetings. They started with a budget deficit of $600,000. After several months, nothing was ever cut and the final budget was $800,000 in the red. Their biggest concern seems to be salary increases at a time when they need a school building program.
I was shocked to see the Budget Committee pass this deficit budget. The mayor always says heís a conservative and doesnít have a vote. Well, he has a vote in the Budget Committee and all the members are hand-picked by him. This, to say the least, was a disappointment. The Budget Committee action means there will be even less money for a school building program. The schools need a balanced budget. All the surrounding counties had a balanced budget. Many were not able to give the teachers a raise. The children of Loudon County need a school building program. These aforementioned items donít help get us there. I believe the main attraction of the school budget for the Budget Committee was that it contained a 2% raise for the teachers. Now this gives them justification to apply it to all county employees. The county employees received a raise of 3% last year, a projected raise of 2% this year, with the county paying 92% of their health insurance plus the county paid the increase in their health insurance premiums. The industry norm is 20%.
During this recession, 8 million jobs have been lost. Sometimes as many as 400,000 in a month. However, to my knowledge, no school employees or county employees have lost their jobs. In fact, they have stability that a union seniority list would envy. State workers didnít get a raise last year or this year and itís projected it will be 3 more years before they will get a raise. Over 2,000 positions have been eliminated. However, the cost of their health insurance continues to rise.
People in my subdivision have lost jobs, had to take jobs for less money, had to go out of state to find work. However, they have to continue to pay their property tax, which funds the county. The people of Loudon County have to continue to pay their county taxes even if they lose their jobs.
This proposed budget, AKA spending plan, is 2.7 million in the red. It canít be called a budget. Itís simply a spending plan. Does tax and spend ring a bell? Our taxes were raised last year, probably wonít be raised this year, however after the election, get a hand on your wallet. Itís plain to see that next year this 2.7 million dollar deficit will be a reoccurring expense. This is a budget where the taxpayers and the children of Loudon County get the shaft and everyone else gets the gold mine.
Loudon County Commission held a public hearing on the proposed FY 09-10 budget. Budget Chairman Mayor Doyle Arp didn't seem happy with many of commission's votes on the budget. The majority of commissioners voted not to approve the $792,844 school budget deficit. At the last budget committee meeting, Budget Chairman Arp and budget members Harold Duff, Chris Park and David Meers all voted to recommend funding the $792,844 to Commission and budget member Don Miller was the only no vote. On the plus side, schools will receive more pennies for new schools or well deserved renovations.
Senior citizens will not see a raise in social security while their medical expenses continue to climb. Unemployment in Loudon County is at an all time high and bankruptcies and foreclosures are affecting families in our community!