County Mayor Estelle Herron chaired the June 27th commission workshop meeting. She mentioned that fifteen people had signed up to speak  and that she would only allow 45-minutes total. At least two speakers reminded the mayor that she was not following commission’s 5 minute speaking rule but she appeared unfazed.

On May 5, 2003 Commission revised its Procedural Rules because commissioners felt that the best venue for the public to speak was at informal workshop meetings, thus allowing 5 minutes per agenda item. Moreover, only the Workshop Chairman had the authority to extend or set time limits. Although the mayor chairs the workshop meeting, the authority of chairing commission and workshop meetings falls to the Commission Chair (Commissioner Roy Bledsoe), not the mayor.

Furthermore, there is still a question if the public would be allowed to speak at Thursday’s meeting when Commission votes to adopt the budget and set the tax rate. The Budget Committee narrowly (3 yes, 2 no) voted to recommend a 20 cent tax increase, from $1.5869 tax rate to $1.7869 per $100 assessed property value.

With regard to the $43 million school building plan, concerns were echoed by some budget committee members, that money placed in the Rural Fund Debt could be “pilfered”.   These comments are cause for concern.

School BEP funds over $3.3 million (2010) for capital projects for school buildings but this money is used elsewhere. Moreover, this budget cycle, the school board approved over $721,000 for pay raises.

Last year, commission and school board had an opportunity to start the school building program without a tax increase, and both bodies opted for pay raises over brick and mortar. Where was the outrage over these decisions?  

Presently, the Rural Fund Debt Fund collects 6 pennies, which allows the County to borrow $12 Million without a property tax increase. This could be used for schools repairs, and renovations. This is offered as another solution to a tax hike, in view of this economy.

Loudon County’s delinquent taxes exceed over $1.5 million. The unemployment rate is 8.1% with 1,970 (est.) people out of work. Tennessee rank 13th nationwide in foreclosures; in May, Loudon County ranked 20th out of 95 counties in foreclosures. Tennessee is 4th nationwide in bankruptcies. Loudon County faces a potential revenue loss of $800,000 if two industries contest their respective property reappraisals.

I urge all taxpayers to attend Commissions (Thurs.) June 30th 6:00 PM meeting at the Annex, or contact commissioners and say no to the tax hike. Commission will consider voting for a 20 cent tax hike, lofty pay raises for some but not other employees, 1.6% bonus, changes to the employee insurance, Sheriff’s Pension Plan, three new director/manager positions estimated at $200,000 (salaries and benefits), and much more. The proposed budget indicates a decrease in expected revenues, increase in expenditures, and a significant decrease in the fund balance.  Could this be the real reason why to limit public input, and silence concerns?