Wednesday, March 14, 2007

March 14, 2007 Robbing Peter To Pay Paul

Monday's committee meetings were fascinating. It's a real shame that Hamblen County commissioners don't tape and show committee meetings on the cable TV government/education channels.

$1.5 million was given to the school system for architects to do studies and draw plans as decisions are made about what to do at East and West High.

The vote was 12-1. Larry Baker cast the only "no" vote because of concern that the school board plans to tear down the historic old portion of East High. Guy Collins was absent.

Joe Swann made the motion to give the money. Later, a few people realized and reminded Joe that when you spend money, you do have to know where it's going to come from and you do have to include that information in your motion.

And just where is the money coming from? An "inter-fund loan." That's sort of government-speak for robbing Peter to pay Paul on a temporary basis. In this case, though, it's more like robbing Peter to pay Paul and then getting Pansy to pay it back.

Confused? Here goes: The plan is to get the $1.5 million for the schools (Paul) in the form of a "loan" from the Garbage Fund (Peter). Then the Debt Fund (Pansy) will pay off all this newly-acquired Garbage Fund "debt"--debt that wasn't ever really Garbage Fund debt anyway.

The Garbage Fund is just acting as a "middleman" or broker (no pun intended) to funnel the money out of the debt fund.

No one ever asked why the school board had been depleting its School Fund Balance year after year instead of planning for these costs. A few questions came up about maintenance because most people realize that the problems the school board is talking about didn't happen overnight and that millions will have to be spent to fix it all. No answers---just a statement that Maintenance is great.

Joe Swann did manage to rankle several feathers as he blamed the county commission for the problems at East High! Someone get out the coffee and give Joe and everybody else a big whiff.

It's the School Board that is charged with maintenance of the schools and that is responsible for the health and safety of the children.

This is the first time that the school board has come to commission with a request for money to address these problems.

Now I can hardly wait to hear that good fiscal planning has reduced the county's $40 million debt load over the past 7-8 years so that we are in a position to take on new debt without a tax increase!

Don't hold your breath on that one....

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