Is this a case of playing "Politics"

Commissioner Harold Duff D-5, Budget Chairman Mayor Doyle Arp, Budget Commissioner Chris Park, D-5

The Amazing Trio - The Budget Committee

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By: Pat Hunter

Listed on Monday's Jan 4, 2010 Commission agenda item C. Loudon County Commissioner/Chairman - Roy Bledsoe - Consideration of Making a Recommendation to the School Board that they Proceed with Two Projects in the School Building Program - the Fort Loudon Middle School and the Philadelphia School Cafeteria.

On November 19, 2009, Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp was quoted in a WATE TV-6 interview about the Public Building Authority (PBA) and the Loudon County $47 Million school building program study. The WATE TV-6 interview with Mayor Arp went something like this..."Three years ago, PBA performed a study for Loudon County Schools. County Mayor Doyle Arp says not only has the study been accurate, it's also saved the county plenty of money. On the front end, "Probably $100,000 to $150,000, that's a good savings for a small county, yes it is," Mayor Arp says. And on the back end. Mayor Arp says prior to PBA's study, Loudon County was told its school building program would cost in the range of $120 million. PBA's estimate was half that. "PBA came in with a study that was going to cost us about $47 million," Mayor Arp says. He also says the school board was initially skeptical, but now, "Even the school board is down to that number." Was Mayor Arp parsing words?

Should Knox Public Building Authority compete with private companies for business?

Two separate studies, which includes the PBA ($46,000 taxpayer funded) school facilities assessment study recommended a new Greenback School because of the overall physical condition of the school. Other renovations and repairs were also recommended at the eight (8) other county schools. The PBA price tag of all 9 school projects was $47million. Why did the Capital Projects Committee and Budget Committee vote to recommend to full Commission and School Board, a new Ft. Loudon Middle School ($13.5 million) and Philadelphia Cafeteria renovation ($1.5 million) while completing ignoring the PBA's recommendation for a new Greenback School?

Shortly after Mayor Doyle Arp was elected to office, he made a pitch to Commission to enter into a contract with the Public Building Authority (PBA) to conduct a school facility assessment study. He was quoted in the Sept 28, 2006 News Herald, "County Mayor Doyle Arp has said since before he assumed office that he was in favor of hiring an outside firm to evaluate the school system's needs before the county spends millions on new schools construction and renovations. "I've been for it since day one. It takes the politics out of it," Arp said of hiring an independent consultant. Mayor Arp's request was approved by Commission on Oct. 2, 2006 when Commissioner Wayne Gardin made a motion, seconded by Comm. Franke, to authorize the mayor to enter into a contract not to exceed $59,000 with the PBA.

At the same Oct 2nd commission meeting, Commission also voted to enact a county school facilities privilege tax (Adequate Facilities Tax-AFT), which levied a $1 per square foot on new residential development for schools. Certain provisions of the AFT law required that Commission also approve a capital improvement program. The State Legislature created a law (Public Chapter 953), which allows counties experiencing high growth to levy a tax to collect additional funding revenue to defray the cost of providing school facilities. This fiscal year (July 1, 2009 -December 30, 2009, the AFT revenues collected so far is estimated at $457,570.70. Last year's AFT was over $600,000, which does not include property tax revenue stream. Adequate Facilities Tax UPDATE

There are revenues from the AFT for the school building program and this year's budget included extra pennies for the rural fund debt, which is used for county schools. What is the maximum amount that the County may borrow for capital improvements based on revenue streams?

At the Budget Committee's Dec. 21, 2009 meeting, the discussion from beginning to end lasted about 5-minute and 15-seconds regarding the Capital Projects Committee recommendation to move forward with 2 school projects. Budget Committee members did not discuss the nitty gritty finance details, bonds or notes, interest rates, years of repayment of debt, debt management, etc. Nonetheless, Budget Committee Commissioner Chris Park made a motion, which was seconded by Budget Chairman Doyle Arp.  After making the motion, Commissioner Park decided to ask about the cost of the 2 school projects, estimated at $15.1million! The recommendation was unanimously approved by Commissioner Harold Duff, Park and Mayor Arp; Don Miller and David Meers absent.

Why didn't the Budget Committee do their job and disclose all financial details concerning the Capital Projects recommendation?

Why did the Budget Committee not honor the school board's request to furnish a number for the school building program?

Taxpayers should be very concerned about the lack of transparency regarding this  process!        

There are more votes in Loudon and Philadelphia than in Greenback and Glendale; is this all about the politics of some being re-elected at the expense of the students in the Greenback community?



Excerpt of October 2, 2006 County Commission Meeting

School Facilities Study Approved

"Doyle Arp, Loudon County Mayor, requested consideration and possible action on the following items:

1. Consideration of authorizing facilities study for Loudon County Schools.

A motion was made by Commissioner Gardin with a second by Commissioner Franke to authorize Mayor Arp to enter into contract, not to exceed $59,000, with Lenoir City Schools and Loudon County Schools paying � the costs, for a school facilities study.

Upon roll call vote the following Commissioners voted Aye: Marcus, Meers, Reno, Maples, Franke, Bledsoe, Duff, Park, Gardin and Miller: (10).

The following Commissioners voted Nay: (0).

Thereupon the Chairman announced the motion Passed: (10-0)."