Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 30, 2010 State Certified Tax Rate for Hamblen County Is $1.86, NOT $1.85 as Found in the June 21st Tax Resolution


You really have to watch your local officials and tax rates in property re-appraisal years---like 2010.

Why? I was serving on commission during the last re-appraisal in 2005. We received the new state certified tax rate in our packets just a couple of days before a budget meeting.  Fortunately, I was familiar with the budget and tax rates. That's why it didn't take long for me to spot an error in the certified tax rate in our packets.

I reported the error to the Assessor who contacted the state. End result: the "new" state certified tax rate for 2005 was changed, REDUCING the tax rate for Hamblen Countians by around 10 or 11 cents. The state and/or locals probably rarely make a mistake on the certified tax rate. [Or maybe mistakes slip by because no one ever verifies the numbers.]  When I was on Commission, I tried to check and verify as much as I possibly could. By checking the certified tax rate in 2005 and getting it cut before any scheduled votes, I was able to save the taxpayers over $1 Million dollars in property taxes.

This year (2010) is also a re-appraisal year.  Commission Chair Stancil Ford has been pushing and pushing to get everything--including setting a new tax rate--wrapped up by June 30.  To help push things along, Stancil even moved the regular June 24 commission meeting to June 21 for a first vote on the new tax rate and budget. One of the documents above is the tax rate resolution that was prepared for the June 21 meeting that would have set the tax rate at $1.85 (countywide + garbage). [This post has been revised to correct a typo and show the uncertified rate proposed on 6/21 as 1.85]

At the beginning of the June 21st meeting, however, before any votes were taken, I reminded the Commission that because this is a re-appraisal year,  they could not vote on a tax rate--or a budget that depends on that tax rate--until the state certified tax rate is received.  Click here. Not only was there no certified tax rate ready on June 21st, but since there was no certified tax rate, no one could have checked the certified tax rate.

At the end of the 6/21 meeting, when the $1.85 tax rate resolution and budget came up, it was admitted that the certified tax rate had not been received and must be received before a tax rate and budget are passed.  No vote was taken.  A vote will probably be taken today at 5:00 PM in the Chancery Courtroom in the old part of the Courthouse.

How important is it that the commission heeded the warning not to vote on a tax rate or any other tax rate until the certified rate is received? 

Well, the state certified tax rate for Hamblen County--that arrived on June 28--is $1.86!  Had the commission voted on the tax rate resolution that was prepared and in their packets on June 21, they would have been violating state law that they wait for the certified tax rate before voting on a tax rate and budget and then they would have been stuck with $1.85 (taxpayers probably wish that had happened!) or they would have had to vote again and "explain" why they rushed the first rate through and are raising the rate to $1.86.  [Two of the documents above give the new new county basic rate ($1.65) and the sanitation rate ($0.21) for a total certified rate of $1.86.]

Haste makes waste. Trust but verify. You might save the taxpayers a boatload of money or save the commission from having to do multiple votes to finally get it right.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June 29, 2010 Sheriff and Mayoral Debate Videos Are at Citizens for Accountability Website

Citizens for Accountability (CFA) has the video of the June 24 debate between Sheriff candidates Ernie Burzell and Esco Jarnagin available at the CFA website.

CFA also has the video of the June 24 Mayoral debate between Bill Brittain and John Litz available at the CFA website.

Click here to go directly to the debate pictures and videos.

You can view pictures from the debate or click the "play" button below each video to hear and see the actual debate with each candidate's 2-minute opening remarks, 10 questions and answers, and 5-minute closing remarks.

The videos are broken into three segments, so you can view one, two, or all three.

1. Sheriff Debate Video
2. Mayor Debate Video I
3. Mayor Debate Video II

The CFA homepage is at

Friday, June 25, 2010

June 25, 2010 WCRK Broadcast of Citizens for Accountability Mayoral and Sheriff Debates

Mike Rypel of radio station WCRK attended and taped the CFA (Citizens for Accountability) Hamblen County Mayoral and Sheriff debates last night.

WCRK (AM 1150) will broadcast the debates three times prior to the August General Election. The first broadcast is set for today at 9:00 am.

See pictures of the mayoral candidates at the debate here.
See pictures of the sheriff candidates at the debate here.

Citizens for Accountability website is at

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 24, 2010 Hamblen County Mayoral Candidates Spar at CFA Debate

Democrat Mayoral Candidate John Litz (left) and Republican candidate Bill Brittain (below) respond to questions at the CFA (Citizens for Accountability) Debate at the West Hamblen Volunteer Fire Department this evening. Topics ranged from school funding and construction issues to economic development to meeting times for County Commission committees. A large and attentive crowd was present. The debate was moderated by Charles Cook, founder of CFA. CFA will have the video of the mayoral debate up for viewing in a few days. The website is

June 24, 2010 CFA-Sponsored Sheriff's Debate Is Big Success

Esco Jarnagin and Ernie Burzell went toe-to-toe at the CFA (Citizens for Accountability) debate between these two candidates for Sheriff.  Esco (pictured above) and Ernie (pictured below) fielded 10 questions ranging from immigration to gangs to funding issues. Both candidates also made opening and closing statements and then talked with attendees at the close of the debate.  A large crowd was present for the debate sponsored by CFA and moderated by CFA founder Charles Cook. CFA will have the video of the debate on its website in a few days.

June 24, 2010 Hamblen County Sheriff and Mayor Candidates Debate Tonight

What: Debate between Hamblen County Sheriff Candidates followed by debate between Hamblen County Mayoral Candidates
When: June 24 at 6:00 PM
Where: West Hamblen Volunteer Fire Department at 6301 W. A. J. Highway
Debate Sponsor: Citizens for Accountability

6:00 PM Candidates for Hamblen County Sheriff
               Ernie Burzell, Democrat
               Esco Jarnagin, Republican

7:00 PM Intermission

7:20 PM Candidates for Hamblen County Mayor
               John Litz, Democrat
               Bill Brittain, Republican

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22, 2010 Stancil Cancels Tax Levy and Budget Vote

During public comments at the beginning of yesterday's meeting of the Hamblen County Commission, I pointed out to Chairman Stancil Ford and all commissioners that there is currently no certified tax rate for Hamblen County. I noted that Commissioners could not vote on a tax rate or budget yesterday since they are still waiting for the certified tax rate. [Ironically, it was Stancil Ford who had changed Commission's regular meeting date to June 21 just so he could try and push a tax and budget vote through quickly.]

As the tax rate and budget discussion begain toward the end of the meeting, Ford acknowledged that there is no certified rate and admitted that the budget and tax rate could not be voted on at this meeting.  Bill Brittain said that appeals of appraisals were just ending, and he thought that a proposed certified tax rate might go to the state on Friday and perhaps be approved by the state on Monday, June 28, after which a vote on the tax rate and budget could be taken.

What's funny in all this is that it was Chairman Ford who created all the uproar by changing the regular meeting date from June 24 to June 21. As usual, haste makes waste. No matter how quickly Ford wants to push a budget and tax rate through, state law requires that certain procedures be followed and, in re-appraisal years, the certified tax rate must be set prior to tax rate and budget votes. 

Stancil and all commissioners need to realize the importance in taking time to do things right and even check the math before attempting to pass a tax rate levy and a budget.

Just how important is it to get the certified tax rate and check the math in Hamblen County? In 2005, it was worth ONE MILLION DOLLARS in savings to taxpayers.

During the last re-appraisal year (2005),  I was on County Commission.  We received the certified tax rate in our budget packets, and the Finance Director, Trustee, Assessor, and County Mayor were using that certified tax rate in budget calculations.  Just after one quick look at the "certified" tax rate that was being used, I knew something was wrong. It was clearly too high. I pulled out the old pencil and paper, checked the math, and found that the certified rate was indeed incorrect and that the miscalculated rate would result in overtaxing the property owners in Hamblen County in the amount of more than ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

I brought this miscalculation and tax overcharge to the attention of Assessor Keith Ely. Ely then pointed out the miscalculation that I had found to the state. After my one question, the 2005 tax rate was recalculated and the certified tax rate was reduced  by about 10 cents, saving the taxpayers of Hamblen County over ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Haste makes waste. Trust but verify. Follow state law--it is there for a reason.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

June 6, 2010 66th Anniversary of D-Day, the Invasion of Normandy during World War II

The massive invasion of Normandy (D-Day) leading up to victory in Europe by the U.S. and its Allies occurred sixty-six years ago today. The leader of the Allied Expeditionary Force was General Dwight D. Eisenhower who became President of the United States eight years later. Eisenhower inspired the troops with the following words of encouragement:

"Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security to yourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have in­flicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Al­mighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Supreme Headquarters
Allied Expeditionary Force

Dramatic pictures taken prior and during the invasion on June 6, 1944, can be viewed here.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

June 3, 2010 Hamblen Finance Director Nicole Epps-Buchanan Leaves To Take Finance Job with Greeneville City Schools

Today's Hamblen County Budget meeting began with a resignation. Nicole Epps-Buchanan, Hamblen County's Finance Director, announced that she is leaving to become Chief Financial Officer for Greeneville City Schools.

On May 4, Epps-Buchanan lost a close race for Hamblen County Trustee to John Baskette. Today, June 3, she submitted her resignation as Finance Director and is only sticking around until June 30.

June 3, 2010 Mayor Barile Refuses To Comply with the City Charter and City Ordinance

The question for Morristown Mayor Sami Barile at the June 1 meeting of City Council was simple. Will you comply with the City Charter and obey a City Ordinance?

Mayor Barile's answer was a simple "No."

Apparently, Mayor Barile feels that the City Charter and laws and local ordinances do not apply to her or to council despite her sworn oath of office and her duty to enforce all ordinances: It shall be the duty of the see that all the ordinances of the city are duly enforced, respected and observed within the city; [and] to take an oath of office before he enters upon the duties of the same....

Mayor Barile, Councilmembers, and City Administrator Tony Cox have been provided with a copy of the section of the City Charter and a City Ordinance--both of which state that city sewer money must be kept in a separate bank account and not mixed with other city funds. Click here.

[Presently, sewer funds are mixed with all kinds of other city funds in one big old bank account. This is a clear violation of the City's governing charter and of an ordinance that was passed many years ago.]

Almost four months ago, I asked Cox to address this violation and set up a separate bank account for sewer funds.  He did nothing.

On May 4, May 18, and again Tuesday (June 1), I asked Mayor Barile to address this violation and set up a separate bank account for sewer funds. She did nothing.

In fact, on June 1 Mayor Barile made it clear that the City Charter means nothing to her and that city ordinances apply to other people but not to her.  Despite the fact that it is her sworn duty to enforce the laws and ordinances of the city, Mayor Barile refuses to direct that the Charter and Ordinance requiring that sewer funds be kept separate be followed.

With Mayor Barile's arrogant disregard of city law, is it any wonder that many elected officials are held in low esteem?

It was just a few short weeks ago that Mayor Barile and councilmembers were sitting as judge and jury and giving businessmen a choice of (1) $1000 civil penalty or (2) suspension of beer license for 30 days.

But when the shoe is on the other foot--and it is the Mayor and Council and City Administrator who are violating a City Ordinance AND the City Charter--Mayor Barile apparently thinks it's OK for elected and appointed officials to violate the law.  The "Barile Doctrine."

So, the next time you get a red light ticket or a parking ticket in Morristown, just tell the officer that you are covered by the "Barile Doctrine" ----the law doesn't apply to you, and even if it does, you'll obey it only when you are good and ready!

[What I expect the Council to do now that THEIR violation of the Charter and Ordinance has been brought out is to change the Charter and Ordinance at some future date. In the meantime, however, the City is violating its own Charter and Ordinance and the Mayor is clearly violating her oath of office in refusing to enforce the Charter and Ordinance requirements.]

What about the City Attorney and Councilmembers? On May 4, May 18, and June 1, City Attorney Dick Jessee and City Council did nothing and said nothing as the City continues to knowingly and willfully violate its Charter and Ordinance and as Mayor Barile openly violates her oath of office and fails to enforce the ordinances of the City.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

June 2, 2010 The Comptroller Requires That the City of Morristown Submit Monthly Financial Reports to the State

At yesterday's meeting of the Morristown City Council, City Administrator Anthony Cox once again had to read a letter from the State Comptroller into the Council minutes. This latest letter from the State to Mayor Barile is dated 5/21/10 and confirms that the City can go ahead and borrow $3,000,000 to make debt and other payments. The Comptroller adds that this TRAN (Tax Revenue Anticipation Note) must be repaid by June 30, 2010. [See the April 20, 2010, Comptroller's letter here.]  

After granting permission to obtain the loan, the State lowered the boom with very specific monthly reporting requirements and a cautionary reminder that the State could force the City to cut expenses or levy additional taxes to fix the mess. The reading of the letter was met with silence from Mayor Barile and all councilmembers.

You can click once or twice on the images above to enlarge and read the full letter. 

Page two includes: "We [the State Comptroller] are requiring that the City submit to the Office of State and Local Finance monthly financial reports (beginning May 2010...) indicating progress on meeting the above requirements, including the maintenance of a balanced cash budget."


The final paragraph: "The Administration of the City and the City Council need to be aware that if there is a failure to comply timely with any of the above requirements, this office has the power and authority to direct the City of Morristown to cut expenditures or to levy additional taxes."