As the senior center and preschool initiatives appear to be gaining momentum, we all know from experience that they will both end up costing way more than what is initially pitched. Capital projects, after all, are the holy grail of money grabs. Obligatory Painful Reminders The Blankenship parking lot went from $69K to $265K; Dredging … Continue reading Of Moochers and Looters
Sixteen years ago, Partners for Progress successfully lobbied the city to spend over $15 million of your (the taxpayer) money to launch a major development on the West End of Oak Ridge. The promises were enough to make people starry eyed. There was to be a picturesque subdivision of nearly 4,000 homes along with an industrial complex that, when … Continue reading Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now
I was recently invited to speak to the Anderson County Tea Party. The following were my talking points. Critical documents are hyper-linked in blue. Why Your City’s Financial Matters Matter Just about anything that happens (or doesn’t) in Oak Ridge has a direct tie to money, your money. Local government spending directly impacts your wallet. Think not only … Continue reading City of Oak Ridge Financial Snapshot: Why Your City’s Financial Matters Matter
A lot of incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate, information has been disseminated to the public regarding the FY2015 city and school budgets. Such inconsistencies compound citizen frustrations as they begin to feel the impact of both bodies’ decisions. I would like to offer some clarification along with supporting resources which are hyperlinked below. First, let me … Continue reading Afterthoughts on the 2015 Budget Discussions
My last in-depth analysis of the school budget was in 2011. It's interesting to see what has changed and what hasn't. You can read for yourself here. Dr. Borchers and Members of the Board of Education: I have reviewed your budget proposals and would like to share my thoughts for consideration in your final deliberations. I … Continue reading 2015 Oak Ridge School Budget Alternatives/Considerations
Mr. Watson, I commend you for your willingness to reduce spending in your formulation of the FY2015 City Budget. This approach is essential to making Oak Ridge more attractive to prospective residents and businesses. As you know, Oak Ridge has the third highest city/county property tax rate in East Tennessee at $4.74. What you may … Continue reading 2015 City Budget Recommendations
Why Your City's Financial Matters Matter 1. Just about anything that happens (or doesn't) in Oak Ridge has a direct tie to money, your money. 2. Local government spending directly impacts your wallet. Think not only property taxes, but sales taxes, utilities, fees, permits, fines, etc. 3. The growth or decline of our community, in very … Continue reading YPOR Presentation: City of Oak Ridge Financial Overview
For the first time in two years (and since I joined council), the Oak Ridge Board of Education (BOE) and City Council held a joint meeting. The agenda was heavy and the mayor unilaterally established a time limit of 1 ½ hours at the very beginning. The meeting room was packed and a crowd formed … Continue reading Report on the 2/21/14 Joint Meeting Between Oak Ridge City Council and the BOE
In order to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the recent school system fiasco, I’d like to expound upon my characterization of it as a “manufactured crisis.” I will first provide a brief summary and then, for those who are interested in the details, I will elaborate. I will conclude with my suggestion for … Continue reading Manufactured Crisis: A Joint Venture After All?
On September 9th, your City Council will likely vote to approve additional water/sewer rate increases. When combined with the last two increases, the average user’s bill will have spiked 62% in just 34 months. Subsequently, should council adopt the fully proposed schedule through 2019, most residents and businesses will be paying double what they were … Continue reading Why It Will Cost Even More To Flush & What You Can Do About It
The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the July 8th, 2013 City Council Regular Meeting. The complete agenda packet as well as a video of the meeting can be viewed here. Draft meeting minutes will be posted at the city website, most likely, as part of the August … Continue reading THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 7/8/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY
Hello! I hope you are all having a wonderful summer! Here are the highlights of current council activities: Monday night we will hold our regular monthly meeting. The complete agenda can be found here. The significant items are as follows and you can see my questions/concerns to our city manager in the email pasted at … Continue reading July 8th Agenda/Updates —— Mall/Land Bank/Sign Ordinance
As reported here, I recently attended a public hearing on the budget at a Roane County Commission meeting. Though the meeting did not start until 6:30, the place was packed by 6:00. Two courtrooms were full to capacity as was the long, wide hallway where I spent most of my time. At issue was a … Continue reading Roane County Property Tax Increase Debate 2013
The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the May 28th, 2013 City Council Regular Meeting. The complete agenda packet as well as a video of the meeting can be viewed here. Draft meeting minutes will be posted at the city website, most likely, as part of the … Continue reading THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 5/28/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY/FINALIZATION OF FY2014 BUDGET
The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the May 16th, 2013 City Council Special Meeting. The complete agenda packet can be viewed here. Draft meeting minutes will be posted at the city website, most likely, as part of the May 28th Regular Meeting Agenda packet. Note that … Continue reading THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 5/16/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY/FY2014 BUDGET
The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items voted upon during the May 13th, 2013 regular city council meeting. The complete agenda packet and full video of the meeting can be viewed here. Draft meeting minutes will be posted at the city website as part of the May 28th Regular Meeting Agenda packet. VII. … Continue reading THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 5/13/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY/FIRST READING OF THE FY2014 BUDGET
During our May 13th May 16th and May 28th meetings, the Oak Ridge city council will determine your property tax rate for the next year via our annual budget. Our decisions will directly affect your personal finances. Of greater consequence, however, we will establish our city’s competitive position. Currently, Oak Ridge has the third highest property … Continue reading Because Every Penny Counts
Friends, City Council will hold its next regular meeting this coming Monday night. A complete copy of the agenda packet can be found here. I’ve extracted the most notable items and pasted below with the most significant item being the first reading of our annual city budget. As promised during my campaign, I have endeavored … Continue reading May 13th City Council Meeting Agenda Items/FY2014 City Budget First Reading
THE PROBLEM This month, the Oak Ridge City Council will establish your property tax rate for 2014 via the approval of our annual city budget. And though it appears that taxes will remain flat, our excessive spending levels are unsustainable and continue to hinder our ability to compete with surrounding communities. In spite of all … Continue reading Strategizing a Path to Prosperity
In an apparent last ditch effort to save their inflated annual taxpayer subsidy of $269K, the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce Chairman, Stephen Whitson and President, Parker Hardy, responded here to my column in which I challenged the value that the chamber provides to the city. Ironically, rather than refute any of my specific points, they … Continue reading My Response to the Chamber of Commerce/USEC Claims
The topic of city council’s work session this month was Economic Development. Since the city manager’s initial presentation to council on the subject in January, the two most heavily funded organizations (of the Economic Diversification Fund) have made multiple attempts to persuade council to continue funding them at nearly the same levels as in the … Continue reading Changing the Game of Economic Development in Oak Ridge: Part 2
Since I first published this article, council has increased sewer/water rates multiple times and is poised to do so again in 2016. To date, rates, on average have increased by over 100% for water and by approximately 135% for sewer. The following has been submitted to all local newspapers for publication: Last month, Oak Ridgers … Continue reading The Rest of the EPA Mandate Story/Final Plea to My Fellow Councilmembers
There’s no nice way to spin it: the results of our city’s bad decisions for the past decade are catching up with us. In addition to having high debt and property taxes, our sales tax revenues continue to decline, we are exporting over $727 million per year in DOE payroll* and we have a comparatively … Continue reading Changing the Game of Economic Development in Oak Ridge
I submitted the following to the Oak Ridge City Council in an effort to explore alternative funding of the EPA mandated changes in our sewer system. Upon learning of an error, I've made a correction regarding ownership of the Chamber of Commerce building. ALTERNATIVES TO INCURRING ADDITIONAL DEBT - As suggested by Trina Baughn 1/14/2013 … Continue reading ALTERNATIVES TO INCURRING ADDITIONAL DEBT
Hello and Happy New Year! City Council will hold its first regular meeting of the year this coming Monday night. A complete copy of the agenda packet can be found here. The most important item on the agenda involves increasing your debt load by $18 million which will result in a 3rd and possibly more … Continue reading Items of Interest on the City Council Agenda for Monday
We are only a few days into 2013 and most of us have discovered that we will have to make do with less this year. Before January ends, Oak Ridgers will realize that fact again when they receive their water/sewer bills which will reflect the second rate hike since last May. But before you have … Continue reading $18 Million Loan Request (City Council Jan 14th Agenda Item)
City Council has a number of significant matters to address in our meeting tomorrow night (see the complete agenda packet here). Ideally, I would like to provide summaries of each in advance of these meetings for the public. Time limitations prevent me from doing so fully this time, but I will comment on two items … Continue reading The 2 Most Important Items (on tomorrow night’s city council agenda)
My opponents have repeatedly stated that we have a “revenue problem.” They do not see our debt as a problem and believe that the solution is to simply increase revenue. Translation: They want MORE of your money. The truth is, revenues aren’t down. They are actually up by $55Million for the last 10 years. The … Continue reading Does Oak Ridge Have a Revenue Problem or a Spending Problem?
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 … Continue reading My Forum Statements
The regular city council meeting of the month is scheduled for tonight at 7:00. Time for them to spend more of your money. The full agenda is found here. Of note are a resolution to incur $5 MILLION more in debt for the water/sewer issues (which will, in turn, mean another increase in your rates) … Continue reading It’s Only Money
At under 45 minutes, this month’s city council meeting may have been the shortest meeting they’ve ever held. While it was a nice change from the normal 3 hour meetings, I wonder why council didn’t take the opportunity to discuss anything of significance given our city’s various, not to mention serious, problems. After all, they … Continue reading Twenty Four Years of Payments and Decades More to Go!
The future of Oak Ridge is entirely dependent upon our ability to attract new residents and businesses. To do that, we must first acknowledge an unspoken truth: Outsiders view Oak Ridge as being too expensive. We MUST work to change that. Oak Ridge MUST become competitive. Why do people say that it costs so much … Continue reading How Can We Compete?
6/22/2012 Email to Oak Ridge City Council Council – Please see this agenda for the Oak Ridge Schools BOE meeting scheduled for Monday night. In it, you will find on page 36 an FY13 budget amendment to adjust for council’s decision last month. Of greater concern to me, are two other items. First, on page … Continue reading Do YOU Own a $38,832 Car? Parting Gift for the Super?
My friends over 50 often ask me, “Why won’t more young people get involved in solving our city’s problems?” My friends that are closer to my age often tell me, “Oak Ridge just isn’t what it used to be.” While I hope that people of all ages will read on, I am particularly addressing this … Continue reading To My Fellow Gen X & Y Oak Ridgers
The following information supports my claims from my column this week. I will publish the column in its entirety here on Friday, but here is a summary: Oak Ridge city government will use $10 million more of your money for the high school project to cover what the schools are withholding while they (the city) … Continue reading Capital Spending Sources – Things That Make You Go Hmmmmmm?
BOE Treasurer Angi Agle responds to my challenge of the BOE's hijacking of the high school debt payment here. In her column and in her communications with council, she has called into question both my facts and my character all while perpetuating absolute fabrications about unwritten agreements and handshake deals. The BOE fully expected … Continue reading I Call B.S.
Tonight for a third time, City Council was faced with a resolution to approve a $900K increase to the schools' 2012 budget. The administration appropriated this additional money PRIOR to receiving legal approval by council, some 9 months after council first declined a similar request. Though the mayor closed public comment on the agenda item, … Continue reading Strike 3!
I attended Thursday night’s meeting in which the Elder Citizens Advisory Board, Parks and Recreation Board and City Council heard the results of the UT survey as well as the Studio 4 assessment with regards to the possibility of building a new senior center. As I discussed here and here, this is the third attempt … Continue reading Senior Center Update
As this article describes, last week I challenged the school administration to explain their need to amend/increase their budget by almost a million dollars nearly 9 months after council declined their total budget request by about that same amount. Their explanation remains the same....it is an accounting entry correction. The letter below along with all … Continue reading A Matter of Trust
Last week, the Oak Ridge Board of Education (BOE) chairman, Keys Fillauer, responded to one of my columns that asked of our schools, “Are we getting what we’re paying for?” Rather than address our problems, Mr. Fillauer lamented, “Why would I want to move to a place where all I read is negativity?” Since we … Continue reading Post-Haste
The front page of the January 25th edition of the Oak Ridger presented an interesting juxtaposition of news. One article informs the public that the Oak Ridge School Board and Administration intends on pushing the city to fund an “emergency capital repair project” in the amount of nearly $700K to fund structural repairs at Woodland … Continue reading Step 1: Get Mad
The Oak Ridge Observer ran an editorial last week entitled “Year-Round School, Take 2.” In short, the newspaper felt they'd jumped the gun in their earlier criticism of the Oak Ridge Schools administration and staff for not being more aggressive in providing the BOE with information on a potential year round school calendar for the … Continue reading Data? We Don’t Need No Stinking Data.
The following is directed to the Oak Ridge Schools Administration and Board of Education and shared with the citizens of Oak Ridge: In 2004, Oak Ridgers residing in Anderson County generously voted to increase the local sales tax rate from 2.25% to 2.75% in order to fund the high school project. The verbiage of that … Continue reading High School Debt Payment 6 Months Past Due
City Council has two competing resolutions on their agenda this evening. One could direct $1 million ($800K from a TDOT grant + a $200K city match) towards improving the city owned parking lot and areas within Jackson Square. You can review the potential design plan here. The other would add sidewalks and a bicycle lane to … Continue reading Let’s Improve Jackson Square!
You have an outstanding bill of $13,701. It is your household’s share of our city’s debt and for as long as you live in Oak Ridge, it is the minimum you will owe, regardless of any payments made.Unlike you, the City of Oak Ridge (your loan co-signer for nearly $200 million) does not have a … Continue reading Make Payment Payable To
****The first public meeting to solicit input for a new Senior Enrichment Center has been announced (with less than 3 business days’ notice) and is scheduled for Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.in the Social Room of the Oak Ridge Civic Center.*** Please consider attending Tuesday’s meeting and letting the city know that we … Continue reading New Senior Center Project Moving Full Speed Ahead – Public Meeting this Tuesday
On August 8th, city council unanimously approved a resolution to pay $15,000 to an architectural and engineering firm to study the need for the construction of a new Senior Enrichment Center. The City of Oak Ridge website has a time table posted entitled “Projected Schedule for New Senior Enrichment Center.” According to the Recreation and … Continue reading Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right on Senior Center
It's that time of year again - time to drown our future grandkids in more debt. I sent the following email to council regarding an important item on tonight's agenda. Please read and respond to council with your thoughts. They need to hear from as many of us as possible. Your voice counts in Oak Ridge, … Continue reading $168 Million and Counting – Email to Council Re: $10 Million Bond for EPA Mandates
This week, city council selected Chuck Hope to fill Tom Hayes’ vacated seat. I applaud Chuck on his win and thank the city for giving me the same opportunity to apply. I share the following statement I made before city council with the public because I intend to expand my focus in the coming year towards … Continue reading Refocusing
For the Oak Ridge schools' 2012 budget, the Board of Education is requesting a 7.32 percent increase in funds from the city, $1,059,171 more than last year.However, it is critical that we maintain, not increase, funding, given the serious state of our economy, our extremely high tax rate, and the overwhelming level of debt we … Continue reading Recommended Adjustments to the OR BOE 2012 Budget
So, here’s what happened. For whatever reason, the school administration has been hell bent on cutting the a.m. transportation to the preschool (our head start program that services the most disadvantaged children in our community). When they tried it last year, as I discussed here, they claimed that it was to increase instructional time. The … Continue reading Screwing Over the Poor and Disabled Kids
It's that time of year again. I submitted this prior to last night's public forum and was very encouraged to hear some board members took my suggestions, along with others, seriously. Public interest and feedback appears to be at an all time high. That's a very good thing.Oak Ridge School Board Members:With regards to the … Continue reading Proposal for ORSB FY2011 Budget Adjustments
As expected, the ORSB voted to extend Dr. Bailey’s contract this evening. We are now stuck with him through 2013. Before bestowing more glowing praise on the super and after thoroughly patting themselves on the back, the board had the administration provide a partial response to my letter. Unfortunately, as Mr. Green pretty much stated, … Continue reading Digging Deep into the Data
I submitted the following to the ORSB this evening. The formatting isn't as pretty as it should be, but it's been a very long day, so this is what you get.------------------------------------RECOMMENDATIONS Propose that all staff be afforded a 1% pay raise in lieu of a step increase and that the school system forego the $135,000 … Continue reading Proposal for the ORSB FY2010 Budget Adjustments
Because the school funding campaign has already begun with the numerous articles about the need for a new preschool (and you can bet a new administration building will be thrown in again as it was a few years ago), I decided to respond to the articles recently run about how enrollment is up and how … Continue reading Aug 23, 07 LTE (Observer) School Attendance and Spending
Should City Council inquire about specifics in the OR School Budget?There have been a lot of public statements made that our City Council has “no business” even looking at, let alone questioning, specific line items in the School Budget. For the life of me, I cannot understand the basis of this belief. Our City Charter … Continue reading Jul 20, 07 LTE (Oak Ridger) City Council’s Obligation
After having received a substantial increase in funding from council and having received $1.9 million unexpected dollars from the state’s new BEP plan, the OR School Board still cites insufficient funding for the 2007/2008 school year.On July 11, 2007, the school board held a work session to discuss the $1.9 million BEP funds. Their attached … Continue reading Jul 16, 07 Submission to City Council – BEP Discrepancies
For many years now, the Oak Ridge School Board has requested additional funding from the City Council while inferring that our schools are in jeopardy. While certain members have indicated that they do not desire “to pit one city service against another” year after year, this is exactly what has happened. When council cannot meet … Continue reading Jul 5, 07 LTE (Observer)/Jun 28, 07 Statement to ORSB
With the signing of the new BEP by Gov. Bredeson last week, the OR School Board has indicated that the Oak Ridge Schools will receive $1.9 million additional dollars for FY2008. This amount will more than cover the $140,000 cited shortfall as well as the reinstatement of the bus transportation previously cut to students living … Continue reading Jun 18, 07 LTE (appr) / Email to ORSB RE: Return of Funds to CC
I've sent the following to all members of the school board. I believe I know the answer, but wanted to be certain that I understood correctly. Maybe this is something everyone but me had already understood, but, then again, maybe not. ORSB Members, In my continued quest to understand the budgeting process and thus, participate … Continue reading Jun 3, 07 Email to ORSB – Confirmation of No Intent to Reinstate Transportation in 08
There’s a lot of uncertainty in our city’s future and our struggle to find answers continues. We lack a consensus on what factors are essential to our vitality. I don’t claim to have the answers as to what those factors may be, but I do know that increased taxes and increased debt DO NOT make … Continue reading May 31, 07 LTE (Observer) – The Big Picture – Pre Election
Oak Ridgers you just got played. In a quick phone call to Oak Ridge School Board member, Dan DiGregorio, I asked if the board intended on reinstating the transportation for the 2007/2008 school year that had been cut last year. His response was “No, I just don’t see any way that we could do that … Continue reading May 28, 07 LTE (Oak Ridger) Oak Ridgers Get Played
Loudest to be heard at expense of others As an educated, school-supporting, taxpaying citizen of Oak Ridge with children in the Oak Ridge School System, I am voicing my OPPOSITION to the proposed property tax increase to be voted on May 21st. Do I support our schools and our educators? Yes — as I’ve stated … Continue reading May 18, 07 LTE (Oak Ridger) Opposition to increased Property Tax