All the talk about conservatism in county government was just that---talk, meaningless babble.
At yesterday's budget meeting, County Mayor Bill Brittain pulled out the old shell game--moving taxpayer/public money from one pile to another and then from another to another.
Since this shell game and exercise in money-shifting accomplished nothing, Brittain then proposed a 20-cent property tax "solution." A10-cent hike for the General Fund (sheriff, courts, mayor's office, county clerk, Cherokee Park, etc) and a 10-cent hike for the Highway/Road Department (paving projects).
And even that huge 20-cent property tax hike didn't take care of the Brittain spending budget, so Brittain also proposed that the county appropriate the spending of $447,000 from the county fund balance (savings/reserves). Sort of like a person getting a hefty salary increase and then still having to dip into their savings account to meet their proposed spending plan.
Brittain then distracted commissioners with some "pick your poison" options for the Highway Department---instead of a 10-cent property tax hike for the Highway Department, he said commissioners could enact a $22 increase in the wheel tax OR they could do a 3-cent property tax increase and a $16 wheel tax increase,
Brittain saved any mention of the school budget to the end of his presentation. The school budget is primarily a function of State BEP money and local money which can not decrease from year to year.
To his credit, Stancil Ford asked Brittain about the state BEP money. Brittain stated that the schools are getting 2 million in new state BEP money for the next budget year.
Then the discussion turned to local money for the schools. Last year, the schools received $25,736.740 in local money. That amount can not decrease, but there is no requirement that it increase. Despite the county's and the taxpayers' economic situation and despite the fact that the schools are getting a 2 million boost in state money, Brittain proposed that the local money for schools be increased by $515,987 to $26,252,727.
Ford pointed out to commissioners that the local money did not have to increase. With the schools already set to get 2 million more from the state, the local money budgeted for education could stay the same as last year ($25,736.740) and the $515,987 could be moved to the county general fund or highway department.
It was an amazing presentation from the conservative Mayor of Hamblen County who handed out his budget changes and sweeping "spend and tax" proposal(s) at the beginning of the meeting, leaving commissioners little time to read and study the different scenarios. Of course, making budget changes and tossing out multiple proposals at the last minute gives a distinct advantage to the Mayor in that most commissioners are not prepared to ask questions right after they get a new 19-page document outlining convoluted revenue and spending changes.
Just like Washington DC, the game is the same in Morristown and Hamblen County, Tennessee.
Grow government. Hide the ball. Make a few token budget "cuts"--"cuts" that are not really cuts but are simply reductions in the previously proposed increases. Then increase taxes and spend other people's money to grow the little kingdoms at the courthouse and at the city center.
Hire and make jobs for relatives and friends. One-bid contracts. Boards that provide zero oversight so that $225,000 can be stolen (Solid Waste Board). And while salaries and benefits are the largest component of the county and school budgets, don't provide a list of employees by name and position with 4-year historical data on hourly rates or salary.
And then let the chest-thumping begin as all proclaim themselves the most conservative people on the planet.