Spending in Watertown and South East Wilson County

$37,000,000 for 412 Students.

While the average investment per pupil by Wilson County when it constructed Mt. Juliet High School, Lebanon High School, and Wilson Central High School was in the $22,000 to $26,000 range, its per pupil investment into the Watertown High School has been in the $90,000 range.

Wilson County’s Board of Education recently approved the construction of a Wrestling Center at Watertown High School.  There are 13 wrestlers in their program.  They invested $841,000 into the project.  That roughly translates to $65,000 per wrestler in their program.

Watertown accounted for 1% of the County’s Growth between 2000 and 2013.  It is highly unlikely that the unincorporated areas of South East Wilson County grew any faster.

When you read the accounts of things supposedly stated by certain school officials, they seem to believe that the answer to overcrowding in schools in Mt. Juliet and the surrounding area is to build schools in the eastern part of the county.  They also mention the concept of building schools in the eastern part of the county in a effort to lure growth in that direction, away from Mt. Juliet.

It has been stated that, in order to fill the Watertown High School, the county is now going to engage in redistricting the school districts.  This is going to necessarily translate to students that could have gone to Wilson Central or Lebanon High School, are now going to be making the trip out to Watertown in order to go to school.

Wilson County is ranked number 1 in the state when it comes to investment into new school construction.  However, we aren’t number 1 by just a small margin.  In fact, out of every seven dollars spent statewide on new school construction in recent years, Wilson County has spent one dollar.  One dollar invested here, for every six invested throughout the other 94 counties, combined.

While Wilson County has been growing at a much higher rate than the rest of the state, (37% vs 12%), our growth does not substantiate this incredible amount of investment into new schools.  That having been said, we are soon going to be spending perhaps another $200,000,000 to $300,000,000 on new schools.  All of this construction is going to be debt spending.  We do not have the cash available to build these schools with current funds.

The question must then be asked and answered:  “Why are our schools so expensive to build?”

Let’s use round numbers.

Let’s say that this county invested $200,000,000 in new schools.  (This number is actually low)

There are 17, 117 students in our school system right now.

This translates roughly to $12,000 per student.

If we spent $200,000,000, and one out of seven dollars invested statewide was invested here, then the State must have invested $1.4 billion on new schools.

There are roughly 1.1 million students in this state.  Of that number, not all attend public schools.  When you add everything in and take everything out you get to a per pupil spending statewide of roughly $1,200.

Why are we spending approximately 10 times as much per pupil in Wilson County than is being spent statewide when it comes to new school construction?  Yes, we grew at a rate that was approximately 3 times that of the state.  But how does that translate to us spending 10 times as much per pupil on new school construction.

Now, take that to Watertown.  Why are we spending about 75 times as much per pupil to build a school there?

The common argument I hear when I bring this up is, ,”Are you saying that our children aren’t worthy of having the same quality of school that the rest of the students in this county have?”

No, I am not saying that their children aren’t “Worthy of having the same quality of school that the rest of the students in this county have”, I am saying that they aren’t entitled to such lavish spending using my money.

We cannot afford to spend upwards of 3 to 4 times as much per pupil for those who live in the South Eastern portion of this county as we spend on the rest of the students.  Heck, we can’t afford the level of spending we have in the rest of the County, we certainly can’t afford 3 to 4 times as much for those who live in the south east.

Mt. Juliet was responsible for 43% of the growth in this county from 2000 to 2013.  We grew roughly 43 times faster than Watertown.  The growth in West Wilson was likely 43 times as fast as it was in South East Wilson.  In fact, no other area in this county, including Lebanon, grew anywhere remotely close to the growth that occurred in Mt. Juliet.  Regardless, this county has been on a spending spree in East Wilson County, and especially in South East Wilson County.

Now, because they invested so heavily in East Wilson County, and largely neglected the need for substantial growth in West Wilson County, they are having to play catch up here as our schools in this area are bursting at the seams.  However, when I read what the paper quotes regarding things that were said by certain public officials, instead of addressing the real and present school overcrowding and growth that is taking place here, which will only add significant pressure, it seems they plan to build yet more schools in the east and the north of the county.  They could build three brand new, state of the art school campuses here in the heart of Mt. Juliet and they still would not address the current and immediate need for schools.
Mt. Juliet is an absolute boom town.  If consumer confidence kicks back in, and the economy really recovers, Katy bar the door!  This place will be hitting the national news.  We have Belair@beckwith coming in, we have Providence central or providence west, whatever it is called, coming in, and we will have even more coming on the heels of those two projects just as soon as the city constructs the golden bear gateway eastern connector road.  Over the next 5 to 10 years, we will add no less than 10,000 students just inside of Mt. Juliet.  There is “NO WAY” that building new schools out on the other side of 109 or in the northern portions of this county will adequately and appropriately address the need for schools here in Mt. Juliet and the surrounding area.  If things go like they could go, we will have as many new students arriving in West Wilson County over the next 10 to 15 years as this county currently has enrolled in all of the county today.  That’s new students.  In other words, it is possible that West Wilson County may contain as much as 75% of the student body in Wilson County within 10 to 15 years.

One has to wonder why someone would think that the appropriate way to address student population growth in West Wilson County is to build schools in East Wilson County.  They aren’t growing at anywhere near the rate that the growth is occurring here in the Greater Mt. Juliet Area.  By comparison, South East Wilson County is at a near standstill when compared to the Greater Mt. Juliet Area.

This brings us to debt.  This county has amassed no less than $195,000,000 in School Debt, however, I think that number recently was increased by a substantial amount.  In order to address the need for school construction, this county will no doubt have to incur somewhere between $200,000,000 and $300,000,000 in additional debt, however, it could go as high as $300,000,000 to $500,000,000.  We literally could be looking at doubling the school population within 15 to 20 years.  Even the board of education seems to believe that we will need to double the amount of space in schools within 24 years, and they have asserted that the population growth projects are way off from our current reality.

This debt can’t be kicked down the road unless and until this county becomes an AA+ rated county.  It isn’t a good idea to kick the can down the road anyway, however, there are those in this county who are working hard at the task of increasing our credit rating so that we can do just that.

What we are witnessing is a financial tight-wire act in this county.  This county is so banking on growth that, if it ever stops, we are in big trouble.  However, it growth is composed of the wrong kind of growth (Growth that puts children in schools instead of businesses and residential communities that don’t add to the schools, like Del Webb), this county is in big trouble.
Instead of investing the money that is generated here, mostly from business and commercial growth, back into this community in a way that generates growth in industry, this county seems hell bent on trying to create a bedroom community to the east of Mt. Juliet.  How insane is that?  Why would they do that?  Votes.  The only thing that I can think of is that they want to keep the voting power on the County Commission east of 109.  What other logical explanation could there be?

Neighborhoods are expensive propositions.  Each child added to this county is going to create between $10,000 and $12,000 in annual spending for the county.  That’s hard to make back up unless you have a very healthy level of commerce going on in the county.  The county would do well to stop trying to artificially engineer growth in South East Wilson County, where it will not naturally occur for another 30 to 50 years on any appreciable level, and stop trying to create a bedroom community to the east of 109 and to the east of Mt. Juliet, and instead it needs to start partnering with Mt. Juliet for commercial growth.  It should be doing everything in its power to draw in major corporations and foster massive industrial and commercial growth in this county.

They need to build a road that goes from Beckwith Road to where Couchville Pike intersects 840.  They need to invest to straighten out and widen Central Pike and Stewart’s Ferry from the far western part of the county to 840.  They need to assist us with the Central Pike Interchange and assist us in expanding the widening South Mt. Juliet Road to the county line.  They need to widen Lebanon Road from the Kangaroo station in Mt. Juliet to 109.  They need to help widen Division and Old Lebanon Dirt Roads.  All of that road investment will open corridors for commercial growth in Wilson County.

This county needs to recognize and accept that Mt. Juliet is quickly becoming the major contributor of tax dollars in this county and will continue to do and be so for the rest of our lives.  Mt. Juliet can be the next Cool Springs of Middle Tennessee, but we have to get this county to stop thinking so much about growing schools long enough to grow commerce.

Final Thoughts on what this county has done for Watertown.

If this county were to spend as much money per student going forward as it spent per student in Watertown, we would have to spend somewhere between a billion and a billion and a half on new schools in the coming years.  If we were to spend as much per student on extra-curricular activities as what we did for Watertown’s Wrestling Team, we would have to spend upwards of $1.1 Billion just on extra curricular activities.  This translates to about $26,000 per household for extra curricular activities and another $24,000 to $40,000 on buildings.  I am not so sure that $50,000 to $70,000 per household debt in this county is the best thing we can do.

This spending there is so absurd this county should be investigated.

Standby and watch to see if we don’t end up paying for a brand new sewer and water system for Watertown now that we built this school there and now that we are going to be redistricting.  Folks, we are artificially engineering growth in South East Wilson County.  There is no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  This is being done under the auspices that the people who live in that part of the county always have to do without and they always get the leftovers and hand-me-downs and they are always lowest on the totem pole and that this is just some fairness coming their way.  From my vantage point, I see people who choose to live in a rural setting, and in so choosing they automatically choose to accept that rural areas are not urban areas and they don’t have the amenities and services that are typically found in urban areas.  This county seems determined that the people who live in the rural areas have the same of everything on a square mile basis that exists elsewhere in this county.

This county’s focus is so far off of center it is tough to imagine.  They have a choice.  They can invest all available dollars into a growth area that is responsible for as much as 60% to 65% of all growth in this county (The Greater Mt. Juliet Area) or they can suboptimize those dollars by investing in an area that is responsible for perhaps 5% to 7% of the total growth of the county.  If growth were stocks, which would you invest in?

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The trash man cometh…er, returneth.

Darth Jewell soon to be ousted as Grand Wizard of WEMA will be making his return to rubbish in the coming days.  After a supreme stint of trashing the local EMA and filthing up the reputation of emergency services, DJ will now waste away in waste as he is now tasked with trashing the trash department.  He has traveled full circle now, it could only get better if they allow him to mobile transmit radio commercials from the dumpster hooked to the back of a truck.  His replacement?  A minion.  After what will be touted as an exhaustive search from sea to shining sea, my guess is they will “settle” on a mindless, clueless, spineless,  wannabe that made a nasty reputation at the county bus shop.  Oh well, at least Sith Hutto is trying to clean up his mess, hauling his own trash to the dump.  Priceless.

“Who says you can go back…”   Bon Jovi

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County-Wide Fire Department Law Changed!

2012 Public Act  Chapter 771 § 1 codified into law the renaming of “Fire Taxes” and “Fire Taxing Districts” to “Fire and Emergency Services Taxes” and “Fire and Emergency Services Districts” to reflect what they were originally intended to cover.  According to Representative Phillip Johnson, “All we did was clarify what the tax already was.”  Haven’t I been saying that?  Isn’t that what I have been telling the county all along, that the fire tax was for the purpose of covering the services contemplated in, enumerated in, and contained in TCA 5-17-102?  Haven’t I been telling the county that all emergency services provided by the county are part of the county wide fire department that was established for the purpose of providing fire protection services to all of Wilson County?  Finally, FINALLY, someone of authority did something brilliant.  They codified in law that the districts and taxes are meant for “Emergency Services” and not just “Fire Suppression.”  

TCA 5-17-101 says, in pertinent part:

 (2) As an alternative to fire and emergency services tax districts, the county legislative body is hereby authorized to allocate revenue from the general fund of the county to fund fire protection services to be provided to the unincorporated portions of the county. Any such revenues allocated for fire protection services shall be generated by situs-based taxes collected in unincorporated areas of the county or shall originate from other revenue sources that have already been shared with municipalities;

Here is the problem that the county is going to have.  First of all, it will be ever more difficult for them to convince a judge that the general assembly never really meant for the county wide fire department to include ambulance, rescue, and first aid, and that those services are authorized under TCA 58-2-101 et seq now that this law has been passed.  Clearly it was the intent of the general assembly to provide emergency services other than just fire suppression as a part of the countywide fire department.  The second thing is that, once they have to accept that all emergency services are part of the countywide fire department, they will not be able to cover the costs of those services using the alternative form of funding authorized in TCA 5-17-101.  If they can’t cover those costs with the alternative form of funding, they will have to levy fire and emergency services taxes.  That requires that they establish districts so as to closely reflect the costs of services provided in a district.  

Fire and Emergency Services Taxes are the only legal way that Wilson County can provide emergency services on the level and scale that they are providing them because they simply cannot find enough alternative forms of funding to pay for them.

Fire and Emergency Services Taxes are one of the most fair forms of taxes I have ever heard of, yet some don’t want them.  They would rather continue to have the rest of us subsidize Lebanon’s Ambulance Services.  You see, Lebanon receives so much ambulance service at county expense that it offset all of the costs of fire suppression provided to this city and still leaves a net balance in Lebanon’s favor.  It isn’t Mt. Juliet that is the problem after all, Mt. Juliet pays for more services than we are provided.  Lebanon is the problem.  Lebanon receives substantially more services than that for which they pay.  

This new law, for whatever reasons it was sponsored and approved, is a Godsend.  

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TCA 5-14-114

TCA 5-14-114

5-14-114.  Conflicts of interest — Illegal payments. 

(a) Neither the county purchasing agent, nor members of the county purchasing commission, nor members of the county legislative body, nor other officials of the county, shall be financially interested, or have any personal beneficial interest, either directly or indirectly, in any contract or purchase order for any supplies, materials, equipment or contractual services used by or furnished to any department or agency of the county government.

(b) Nor shall any such persons accept or receive, directly or indirectly, from any person, firm or corporation to which any contract or purchase order may be awarded, by rebate, gift or otherwise, any money or anything of value whatsoever, or any promise, obligation or contract for future reward or compensation.

(c) A violation of this section is a Class D felony.

Is it a felony to own communication equipment in a county that is leased to the county for financial benefit to the owner while the owner of that equipment is also serving in an appointed position for the county?

Go to the link below and make up your own minds.

http://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/op/2012/op12-65.pdf

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The overlooked losses we suffer.

While our city commission struggles and pontificates over things such as “how much shall we pay the new fire chief”, “when should we hire the fire chief”, “what kind of fire equipment will we purchase”, “who will provide EMS” and other such questions, ignored entirely is the gapping hole through which the county is sucking this city and North West Wilson dry through.  

Last Winter the city commissioned a company to conduct a study of the revenues the county receives from Mt. Juliet in comparison to what we get back.  If my memory serves correctly, we contribute 25% of the county’s receipts and they spend 21% of the money they take in back here in Mt. Juliet.  However, I am not sure that is even an accurate picture.  You see, the county takes money in from those who live outside of this city as well, and most of the expenditures the county makes in this area of the county are actually spent here or they are spent on things such as the Jail in Lebanon, etc.  I think the guy who conducted the study did a good job, I am just not sure that the disparity isn’t even greater.  However, even if you consider the numbers I have stated, it means we are missing 4% of the county’s budget being spent here in this city.  That translates to about $8 million to $9 million per year that isn’t be spent here in Mt. Juliet!  That, my friends, is a huge amount of money considering our city budget is only around $14 to $15 million.  Can you imagine if the county spent another $9 million per year on infrastructure and services in Mt. Juliet?  Can you imagine if they were equitable to all north west wilson county citizens?  We would probably see somewhere in the neighborhood of an extra $15 million or more being spent here in this area of the county.  Can you imagine what that would look like?  

Now I want you to consider the time value of money and consider inflation.  If the county was being equitable and fair, and was spending that money back here instead of in Watertown and such places, we would not have to pay city taxes to pay for those amenities and services.  This city and north west wilson county would boom that much more.  Now consider the growth that doesn’t happen here because that money isn’t being spent here.  Now consider the tax revenues that the growth would generate.  Now consider what that new tax money would do for us.  Are you getting the picture?  

This city should float a committee that sticks its nose in every knook and cranny of the county to study what they really do with our money. I am talking about taking a look at things like the student/teacher ratio in each of the county’s schools.  I would personally be interested to see if the student/teacher and student/administrator ratio is as high in Mt. Juliet and the surrounding area as it is in Watertown and in Lebanon and in the unincorporated portion of the county.  I would like to see where the money for emergency services comes from and where it is spent.  I would like to see where the road money is spent.  I think such a study would be quite telling, don’t you?  

Think about what $15 million being spent here this year, and next year and the following year would look like.  Can you start to develop an understanding of the real issue?  I can’t seem to get this commission to recognize this issue.  They are myopically looking at the fire issue and are knit-picking that.  

Okay, here is an analogy for you, “you are in a boat, you find that you have sprung a leak and it is a fairly bad leak.  You are miles from shore.  You have nothing to bail with.  I roll up in a boat.  I hold up a thimble and a bucket and say, “you can have either, but not both, choose.”  Which will you use?  The bucket, right?  What the city is doing is tantamount to asking for the thimble.  They are focused on a million or two per year when perhaps as much as $15 million is disappearing from right before their very eyes.  Let’s say it is only $5 million per year instead of $15 million.  Can you imagine what even an additional $5 million would look like over time?  Five Million per year builds a new Mt. Juliet High School Building ever 8 years.  It builds a connector road.  I builds a really nice library.  It builds cultural centers.  I builds a medical center.  I builds an emergency services operation second to none.  It builds a civic center.  Yes, even just five million per year as a steady flow would be huge.  This becomes especially true when you factor the growth that money would foster and the compounding effect it would cause.  

We need to address the fire issue, no doubt, but we have to take a candid, sober and serious look at the lost opportunity that comes from what this county government is doing to us.  

 

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The importance of rule of law…

Politicians ask for our support when they run for office.  When they win, they take an oath to uphold our Constitutionally Guaranteed rights.  They promise to abide by the charter or governing authority over their offices.  They promise to uphold the law.  They promise to uphold the ordinances and/or resolutions of their political jurisdiction that are applicable.  They promise to do their duties.  Then, once in office, they too often set about doing whatever they want and whatever they think will get them re-elected.

What is the difference between Constitutional Rights and Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights?  The Bill of Rights are our Constitutionally Guaranteed rights.  I would go as far as to say that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution as originally drafted and approved, along with all amendments to the Constitution, are our Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights, but they are not Constitutional rights.  We derive our rights, not from government or any construction of man, but from our Creator.

When man endeavors to enter public office and finds himself violating our Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights, that person is necessarily, at the same time, at odds with God.  God institutes governments among men to serve His good pleasure and he turns men’s heads to the left and the right like the waters of a river.  However, that does not mean that God ignores our Constitution.  I think God very much acknowledges our Constitution and I believe He was the true author of it.  Obviously, I take the Constitution very seriously.  But what is most important for all of us to understand as citizens, in my opinion, is that we all recognize that we not only have been given tremendous and awesome powers to create, within God’s will, our own destiny and craft our our own futures, but we have also been given a tremendous charge to keep the republic.

It is not fitting that we should put people in public office and then turn our heads and our backs on them and not support them when they are correct and not hold them accountable and responsible for what they do or do not do when they are wrong.  In the immortal words of Clint Eastwood, that great philosopher and spaghetti western actor, “we own this country….”  We, ultimately, are answerable to God Himself for how we have taken care of His nation and His people.

The Constitution doesn’t give us rights, it acknowledges rights we have had all along.  It codifies in law that our government cannot infringe on the rights that God has given to us.  So, while we interchange terms and call our rights, “Constitutional Rights”, what we mean to reference are our “Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights.”

Our Wilson County Government has infringed on our Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights. It is incumbent upon us, as caretakers of God’s nation, state, county, and city, to hold the county accountable for its actions.  If we are unable, or unwilling, to take a stand here, then what are we willing to stand for as a people?  Any violation of our Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights, however small, in any area of this country, no matter how small the area may be, is a violation against all citizens of the United States of America.  No government should be allowed to infringe on the rights of any one of us, and we should, in my opinion, be willing to take the attitude, you trespass against one of us, you trespass against us all.

Our society has been split in two, those who do not see the value in a common set of rules, and those who don’t care that the other side is violating the common set of rules.  That always leads to one of two extremes.  With this apathy and attitude, we end up with either anarchy or totalitarianism, but we will meet with one extreme.

Isn’t it time we took a stand?  Isn’t it time we ended the rein of a certain group of people in this county where citizens talk about the “good ole boy network” and the “hillbilly mafia”, and where we know that they are about their work and yet do nothing about it?  Isn’t it time for us to introduce home rule to the county?  If politicians can’t be trusted with our powers, shouldn’t we take them back?

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Lynn vs. Elam?

Is it on?

The Tennessean thinks so: Susan Lynn files to reclaim former state House seat.

My new district

Susan put this map up on her Facebook account.

On the other hand, just a few months ago, former Rep. Lynn was complaining on Facebook that the legislature had deliberately drawn the new district lines to move her out of her former district and into the the 46th (currently held by Rep. Mark Pody).

See here: Susan Lynn: I can see my house from my old district.

Pull up a chair. Pop some popcorn.

This should be entertaining.

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