My Forum Statements
There was a great turn out at last night’s LWV Candidate Forum. I appreciated the opportunity to participate and enjoyed hearing all of my opponents’ comments. My mission was to share your concerns, those that you have been sharing with me for a number of months. I believe that I delivered our message very clearly and distinctly. If we are to retain our quality services and schools, we must become financially competitive. More Options & Better Living through Lower Property Taxes, Lower Debt & Lower Spending.
WYSHTV will likely re-air the debate numerous times before the election. I’ll try to find out what the schedule is.
My sincerest thanks to all of you for supporting me and to those who came out last night. I will continue to work harder than any other candidate out there to earn every possible vote that I can all the way up through election day.
Ten years ago, our total city debt was around $104M. Today, it is around $186M. Ten years ago, our annual city budget was $135M. Today, it is around $180M.
According to the 2002 city budget ,the average Oak Ridger’s electric/water/sewer bill was around $111 per month. I checked that number against my home’s average and it came pretty close – we were spending about $118 per month. Today, our monthly average, in the same home, is in excess of $281…that’s a 138% increase. That’s after having replaced single pane aluminum windows with $1,000’s worth of high efficiency windows two years ago. Those rates will rise again in January since council just approved another $5M worth of debt for more EPA water/sewer work .
With the 2nd highest property taxes in the area, and the single highest tax rates in the state for full-service cities, Oak Ridge simply cannot compete. We have priced ourselves out of consideration, sight unseen, to new residents and businesses. We cannot afford to continue down this path.
- I will relentlessly pursue establishing a debt policy that includes limits and parameters.
- I will work to reduce our property tax rate. I am very familiar with both sides of our budgets and I know how we can achieve this goal without sacrificing our quality services or schools.
- Finally, I will fight on your behalf to alleviate the financial burden of the EPA mandates. I will do what has yet to be done and request an executive session by council and ask that our city attorney provide us with alternatives. I will pursue fair contributions from DOE and I will personally delve into the mandates to identify requirements verses recommendations.
The 2002 Strategic Plan stated at the time that critical outcomes were to achieve a competitive property tax rate, a competitive housing stock, effective economic development and enhanced quality of life. Our core needs are really no different than anywhere else or from what they were 10 years ago: Housing, Jobs, Retail.
What has not changed is our approach. Every year, your tax dollars fund countless organizations, employees and initiatives that are all supposed to be working towards these goals.
Over the last decade, over 21M of your tax dollars have been spent in the name of economic and community development with the end goal of increasing revenue. This is in addition to the dozens of tax breaks that we’ve given to select businesses. Every way that there is to throw money at our problems, we have done it. And what do we have to show for it? Revenues are still declining and people are still leaving.
Yes, we have some recent developments that we can celebrate. But we need to be realistic about their impact. For each new store, how many have quietly closed up shop and left town? We need to compete for a total increase,not just replacement revenue.
I love Oak Ridge! I love the people, their passion and all of the wonderful attributes of this beautiful city. We have so much to offer and I want to ensure that my family and yours can still call Oak Ridge home for 20-30 years from now. But it is time for a serious strategy change.
For Oak Ridge to thrive, we must work to increase revenue while controlling spending. I will work to make Oak Ridge competitive by reducing our property tax rate and our debt. Citizens and small businesses are the lifeblood of our community. If elected, I will insist that your city government respect you as such in their treatment of you and your contributions.
My name is Trina Baughn and I humbly ask for your vote on November 6th. Thank you.