Save OUR Jobs - Miller’s Re-election Plan




Commissioner Don Miller (l) School Board members Gary Ubben and Van Shaver (R)


NO Tax Hike “THIS YEAR” School Building Plan


By: Pat Hunter

April 5, 2009


For the last year, Commissioner Don Miller and most commissioners have spoken about raising  property taxes but after Commissioner Austin Shaver offered an alternative plan to fund the proposed school building plan without a property tax hike, Commissioner Miller came up with another plan. Unemployment rates are rising in Loudon County and it seems that commissioners and county mayor don't want to be added to the unemployment lines. 


Commissioner Don Miller spoke before the Loudon County Board of Education (BOE) and school administrators at Friday’s April 3rd retreat meeting. The meeting was held at the Tech Center. Chairman Leroy Tate announced that only School Board members and school administrators would be allowed to speak and audience members could ask their questions at a break or lunch time. The meeting was sparsely attended by the public or press. 


Commissioner Don Miller was listed on the agenda to speak before lunch. But before Miller was to speak, David Meers addressed School Board Chairman Leroy Tate. “Mr. Tate, with this meeting not being publicized, that this discussion I should remove myself while Mr. Miller is talking that way then we have no problems without this meeting be publicized.” As David Meers rose to his feet to leave the room, School Board member Van Shaver spoke, “This meeting has been well publicized.” Meers then sat back down. David Meers is the principal of Highland Park School, District 1 county commissioner. Both Miller and Meers serve on the Budget Committee.


Miller explained that one of the hand outs was a comparison between Commissioners  Shaver’s and Miller’s finance plan, Click to view School Building Program – 3/16/09 Two Views of Property Tax Situation A Tax Increase or No Tax Increase?? ASSUMPTIONS ARE THE KEY!!! (PDF) 


Commissioner Miller's second handout “CLICK to view   SCHOOL BOARD PROGRAM WHAT CAN WE FUND IN FY 2009/2010 WITHOUT RAISING TAXES” (PDF) was developed last week. According to Commissioner Miller, that is what Miller, Mayor Doyle Arp and Finance Director Blair thought that could be done to fund the proposed school building plan without a tax increase. They spent many hours going over the information. Miller said that commissioners had not seen his new handout but that he planned to present the information at Monday’s (April 6th) 6:00 PM, Commission meeting, Annex, Loudon.  


Commissioner Miller showed a need for a 32 ½ cent tax hike increase to fund $47Million while Commissioner Shaver’s showed no tax increase to fund $29 Million. Shaver’s plan would take 16 ½ cents from the following funds:  6.5 cents from Fund #156, 5 cents from School General Fund #141 and 5 cents from General Fund #101. There was a big difference between Miller’s and Shaver range of school building costs. There was also a difference in the term of the bonds, Miller used 20-years and Shaver used 30-years, both used 5% interest.  


Commissioner Miller is convinced that no one on commission would vote for a tax increase.  Miller’s latest plan proposes to fund some of the school building plan with a no tax increase “this year.” 


Miller explained county government has been putting 15 cents (tax revenues) into the Rural Fund Debt #156 and when we finish paying off two small notes that would leave $12.9 Million in the same fund. Nine cents could be used from that fund. Miller proposed taking 1.9 cents less from the School Operating Budget Fund #141 and 1.5 from the General Debt Fund #151 and 1.3 cents from the General Fund which covers most government offices except for schools. Miller felt that $19.7 Million could be used for the school building program by stretching resources without a property tax increase. He emphasized this is a short term solution and its time to move forward with the school building plan. He will ask Commission to endorse his plan. 


School Board member Bobby Johnson Jr. spoke about shooting in the dark of not knowing the true cost of the school building plan since estimates have ranged from $47 Million to $30 Million.


During spring break Commissioner Miller met with architects and assistant school director Gil Luttrell. Architect and engineer fees could range anywhere from $2 Million for 9-10 months of effort before going out to bid on the school project or $500,000 to $700,000 for services without detailed plans.


What if we can’t cut our budget, asked big spender School Board member Gary Ubben. Miller replied then you would have to reduce the $19.7 for the school building plan by $2.7 Million, with a revised amount of $17 Million.


Miller and Shaver’s plan are essentially the same with the exception of how much can be financed for the school building plan; Miller’s plan proposes to finance $19.7 Million while Shaver’s plan will finance $29 Million school building plan without a property tax hike.   


Commissioner Miller seems to understand the game of politics; 2010 is an election year and many of the same tax and spend county commissioners fear the public’s wrath at the voting booth should commissioner’s hike taxes in a property tax re-appraisal year and recession.