Slow news week

How slow? We’re glad you asked.

So slow that the front page story in the May 7, 2008 Mt. Juliet News reported the passage (on first reading) of an “anti-crusing” ordinance. This action took place on Monday, April 28th – news was over a week old when printed by the paper. BTW, the vote was 3-1 with Commissioner Justice opposed and Mayor Elam absent due to illness. Perhaps Commissioner Justice would care to elaborate on his reasons for voting no?

The Chronicle’s top political story was headlined, MJ reps no-show for county tax meeting. The County Mayor claims he invited representatives from Mt. Juliet at the last County Commission meeting. Commission Justice insists no one from Mt. Juliet was invited. Anyway, a meeting was held. Representatives from the City of Lebanon and Wilson County attended. There was much talk over building a new fire station in the Eastgate Business Park (which is in Lebanon), but which would provide fire protection (they say) to parts of Mt. Juliet. And of course, Lebanon and Wilson County would like Mt. Juliet to help pay for it. You can read the whole story by browsing TheChronicleofMtJuliet web site and then clicking on the button for “View current issue.”

There will be more news next week.

The City Commission meets next Monday night, and the last item on the agenda is the FY08-09 Budget, sponsored by the city manager. The $64,000 question is: Will it propose a property tax?

– Publius

Advertisements

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

10 responses to “Slow news week

  1. Butch Huber

    Tune in tonight to the commission meeting either by going to the meeting or by watching it on channel 3. Tonight, they will discuss the budget for FY 08-09. I intended to pick up a copy of the budget today but my schedule got messed up and I wasn’t able. It will certainly be interesting to see what they include in the budget. Also, if I remember, there was to be a meeting today between city officials and county officials regarding the Old MJES site. I will be quite interested to find out how that meeting went. I will also be interested in finding out how the city intends to fund the acquisition of that land since they cannot use bond funds to pay for it. Will there be a line item for the acquisition “or” will they try to slip a fast one past us?

    While you are watching the budget portion of the meeting, keep in mind that the city employees are being paid an average 11% less than their counterparts in other comparable markets around the metro area. How long can the city continue to underpay its staff?

    Oh, yeah, about the county tax meeting…can someone tell me why the county, whenever it wants to do some business with Mt. Juliet, seems to contact Ray Justice rather than the mayor? I mean, shouldn’t the mayor be the point of contact for such issues? If not the mayor, shouldn’t it be the city manager?

  2. Butch Huber

    As citizens you should be aware that your government is currently underpaying your government employees by 11% when compared to similar markets in the Nashville area. Now, with the proposed budget for next year, if approved as is, they will be underpaid by as much as 13.4%.

    Following is an e-mail that I have sent to the city manager, city commissioners, and city attorney. As you read this e-mail you will find that the city employees will be paying for more than half of the cost of the purchase of the land that the city will be giving away to the YMCA through an effective reduction of pay. This should be considered to be unsatisfactory to you and I encourage you to call your commissioner and the Mayor and let them know that it isn’t okay to underpay city employees and at the same time give money away to the YMCA. Regardless of how you feel about the YMCA land donation deal, I don’t believe that you could possibly feel it is okay to make city employees pay the freight for that deal.

    Mr. Robertson

    As you know, I have obtained a copy of the budget that you have submitted to the city commission. Having read through it I have developed great concern for the employees of the city of Mt. Juliet. I served on the city payroll committee and I am well aware of the disparity that exists between the average pay of the employees of Mt. Juliet and the average pay of the employees of the comparable markets. Several city employees and several civilians spent 8 months working on the city pay scale. What we found, among other things, was that the average pay of the average employee working for the city of Mt. Juliet was 14% less than the average pay of the average employee of the comparable markets. We petitioned the city commission to address the other issues that we found and to increase the pay scale by 3% across the board for all employees. This was developed as a stop gap measure to ensure that something was put on that budget for the employees so that they would see that the city was going to fix the problem. We were supposed to go back to committee after the commission approved the 3% and develop a comprehensive pay plan that would address all of the shortfall and other concerns of the commission. The 3% was a safe increase in pay because it would not overcompensate any single position within the city, but it would help close the gap. Unfortunately, once the city commission approved the 3% the committee basically fell apart. By the time the budget came out, the committee chairman was preparing for his upcoming election, and I guess the employees were satisfied with what they had gotten and there was no longer a significant desire to fix the problem any further. I for one disagree with leaving the problem to fester. Regardless, upon approving the 3% raise the city closed the payroll gap from a 14% gap to an 11% gap.

    Now, with your proposed budget, you are effectively wiping out all but .6 percent of all of our effort to correct the payroll disparity. By only providing 2% COLA for the first six months of the next budget year, and then 3% for the final six months, (If paddocks opens by then, which it most likely will not) you are providing them with an effective COLA rate of 2.5% for the year, (It is actually less due to time value of money). Since the COLA for this area should be 4.9%, you are basically giving the employees of this city a decrease in pay of 2.4% for the next Fiscal Year. That means the gains of the 3% increase in pay across the board has been diminished by all but .6%! That means that the city employees will once again be underpaid by as much as 13.4%. This may not make much of a difference to you because your pay scale was opened up and increased to over $110,000 from, I believe, $97,000 just before you took your position. Your position is close to being on target, however, the rest of the city employees have been underpaid for a very long time and should be granted not only the full COLA, but should actually be given a raise!

    The city of Mt. Juliet continues to overwork (through understaffing when compared to the comparable markets) and under-compensate its employees year-after-year. City Commissioners look for sexy projects that will get them re-elected while at the same time neglecting the people who work for the city. This, to me, is an unsatisfactory situation and must be reconciled.

    Your budget estimates that the Hotel/Motel tax will bring in $225,000 in the next fiscal year. I don’t believe you have any basis for that projection. In fact, you have estimated only $39,318 from the hotel/motel tax for the first six months of this year. The figure of $39,318 should represent 5 month’s collections, which means that the city is actually only receiving around $8000 per month average this year. The hotel/motel tax would have to more than double by July of this year and then remain at that rate for the full 12 months of the next fiscal year in order to arrive anywhere close to the figure you have projected of $225,000. That is obviously not going to occur when there is about a 50% occupancy rate in the existing hotels located in this city. Based on current trends and reasonable projections it is safer to say that the hotel/motel taxes will likely be much closer to $100,000. The effective decrease in pay the employees will realize will provide the city with an extra $110,000 because it doesn’t have to spend that money on payroll. The increased availability of revenues created by the effective decrease in pay to city employees, added to the more realistic revenue of $100,000 in hotel/motel taxes, will be enough to pay the $210,000 note on the proposed purchase of the Old MJES site. (We still haven’t seen where the city plans to come up with the $950,000 to pay down the credit to the county in that land deal. I will be watching to make sure that you don’t use bond money to pay that credit.) This all simply means that the city employees are not only underpaid, they are now helping to purchase the land that the city is giving to the YMCA. If you really expect to be able to give away $1.2 million dollars to the YMCA and at the same time give the city employees an effective decrease in pay of 2.4% without it becoming a major issue I assure you that you are wrong. If this city commission passes a budget that authorizes the purchase, and subsequent donation of $1.2 million dollars of land to the YMCA and at the same time provides an effective reduction in pay to its employees, I will certainly do my best to make sure that the voters are fully aware of this issue. It is high time for this city government to provide adequate and fair compensation to its employees. The city can’t afford to purchase this land to give it away and it can’t afford not to pay its employees properly. The long-term repercussions of improperly compensating employees is much more expensive than properly paying them in the first place. If the city employees were overpaid, or even paid properly, and the city couldn’t afford the full COLA, and if it were not doing things like giving money away to the YMCA, I am sure that the city employees would accept not getting the full COLA, they probably wouldn’t like it, but they would accept it. Mr. Robertson, you have a good bunch of people working for you, you would do well to take care of them. Making them pay for this donation to the YMCA is not taking care of them in my estimation. How will you be able to look them in the eye once they realize that you are facilitating the purchase of land to give it away and at the same time creating a situation in which they are effectively getting a cut in pay to pay for the land? I suggest that you revise your budget to provide them with the full 4.9% COLA (If not an additional adjustment of 2% to 4% to help close the pay gap between the comparable markets and Mt. Juliet.) If the city commissioners want to cut and slash the budget let them, but as the leader of the staff of Mt. Juliet government you have a duty and responsibility to properly take care of your subordinates. Now that you have been properly informed of the actual pay gap and its severity you have an obligation to the employees to support them and help fix the issue.

    Butch Huber

  3. Glen Linthicum

    Hey Butch
    I still have some of the documentation if you need it.

  4. Lori

    Butch
    Please let us know if what (if any) response you get to your email.

  5. Butch Huber

    “We are people who just want to tear down what is good.” That is the attitude that Ray Justice has toward those of us who oppose his plan to give the YMCA $1.2 million worth of land.
    Let’s examine the “Goodness” of his plan:
    We will start with the “Goodness” of his idea that 10% of the people being interested in the YMCA coming to Mt. Juliet is good enough reason to make 100% of the people pay for at least part of it.
    Ray Justice was so bold and assertive when he answered: “The new hotel/motel tax”, when asked where the city would get the money to pay for the Old MJES site from the county so that the commission could then give it away to the YMCA. However, all one need do is go through the FY 08/09 budget proposal and they would easily see that the hotel/motel tax will fall woefully short of being able to pay for the purchase.
    The commission had to pass a covertly worded amendment to the Hotel/motel tax ordinance in order to be able to pay for the purchase of the Old MJES site with hotel/motel tax money. Now, let me ask you, if his plan was so “good”, why did they have to try to word the amendment in such a way as to hide what they were up to?
    The city manager stated in a recent commission meeting that “the numbers aren’t working out” when talking about the budget. I don’t know exactly to what he was referring in that statement, but one thing (Of many) that I have discovered in his budget is that part of the way that they are going to fund paying down the loan from the county that the city will take out so that they can purchase this land (land they are going to give to the YMCA) is to not give the city employees their full COLA. I have already posted on this issue, but I can’t tell you how much that chaps my backside. These people put in 2000+ hours per year helping to take care of the business of the city and the plan is to make them pay for more than half of the cost of the YMCA donation?!
    The commissioners hate it when we say, “they are borrowing money so that they can give it away.” They emphatically and vehemently deny that they are borrowing money to give it away, but if you will look at the proposed budget you will see that they have listed the purchase of that land in the debt service fund; G/L 900 Land note – 5 yrs, no interest: principle 1.025 million Budget FY 08/09 $210,000. (I know, I know, there is a mistake. It should say $1.05 million instead of 1.025 million, but I did not write the budget.) If it is listed in the Debt Service fund, doesn’t it mean that they are planning to “BORROW MONEY TO GIVE IT AWAY”? Folks, this fall, as people are parked in the parking lot that will be Mt. Juliet Road as they try to commute back and forth to work each day or as they try to get through the traffic catastrophe that will be the Lebanon Road/Curd Road intersection, they may see people holding signs that say…”If you are sitting here long enough to read this sign you can thank Ray Justice, Will Sellers and Ed Hagerty because they are more interested in treadmills than they are roads.” Don’t let them fool you, they are “BORROWING MONEY TO GIVE IT AWAY” and Ray Justice wants you and I to believe that there is something “Good and wholesome” about it.
    But it isn’t over, Folks. In order for Commissioner Justice to make this deal go through he has to get the commission to give the county $950,000 in a credit toward the construction costs associated with straightening out the reverse L portion of Curd Road “AND” give the county an indemnification stating that that the city won’t come after the county for additional contributions toward those costs. Please pay very, very close attention to me on what I about to tell you. The cover letter of the budget proposal for FY08/09 states: “Based upon the attached, the FY09 year end fund balance would be approximately 850K.” So what does that mean to us? I am glad you asked. It takes a little insight to be able to pick up on what they are doing, so obviously it will take a few words to explain it as well. The $950,000 credit is being played like a type of shell game. So far, I have not been able to account for the $950,000 anywhere in the budget. I don’t see any line item that indicates how they plan to pay down the $950,000. However, the city knows that they will have to expend those funds in the next budget year because the county really needs the road to the school to be taken care of as quickly as possible. County officials are not going to want to have people sitting in traffic on Curd Road thinking that the reason they are in traffic is because the county made some stupid deal with the city of Mt. Juliet so that the City of Mt. Juliet’s Commissioners could somehow gain some political capital by bringing a YMCA to the center of town. God forbid that there is a major accident in that area that could be attributed to this debacle. No, the county is going to make the city move on this project very quickly and the city will have to pay for it in this fiscal year. The city cannot use bond funds to pay for the purchase of the Old MJES site or they would be in violation of the Bond offering. So, if they can’t use bond money to make this happen, how will they pay for it if they haven’t included it in this budget? They only have a surplus at the end of the FY 08/09 of $850,000, so they won’t have the reserves necessary to pay the bill with cash, so where is the $950,000 going to come from? I will remind you that I have asked the commission where they intend to come up with the $950,000 and they won’t answer me. I am sure that the state comptroller will be able to figure this out for me. If what they are doing is so “GOOD”, then why can’t they answer my questions? If I were wrong wouldn’t they jump at the chance to make me look silly? I mean, come on, do you really believe that Ray Justice wouldn’t gush and act like a giddy school girl if he thought he had a chance to tear me down? I think the reason they won’t answer my questions is because they know that I am right. I sincerely believe they have been planning to use bond funds to purchase this land and then give it away. Bonds are borrowed money. If I am right, and I don’t see how I could be wrong on this one, and they really are intending on using bond funds to pay down the $950,000 credit, and since bond funds are borrowed money, by using simple logic that even Ray can understand, they are “BORROWING MONEY TO GIVE IT AWAY”. So when he says that we are tearing down something that is “good”, he must also believe that it is “good” to “BORROW MONEY TO GIVE IT AWAY”. Ray, your Jedi mind tricks don’t work on me…you are “BORROWING MONEY TO GIVE IT AWAY”. (BTW, Ray, you aren’t fooling anyone else…everyone is talking about how you are BORROWING MONEY TO GIVE IT AWAY.) You and I are supposed to believe that it is a good thing to BORROW MONEY TO GIVE IT AWAY.
    Folks, the city manager projects that the total revenue for FY08/09 will be $10,994,025. The $1.2 million gift that Ray and the other two members of his triumvirate intend to give the YMCA this year is the equivalent of roughly 11% of the annual budget to the YMCA. Somehow I am supposed to believe there is something “Good” about taking that much tax money and giving it away.
    Now, let’s talk about other local government give-aways for a moment. The combined total of all other social grants (44300) included in the FY08/09 budget come to a grand total of $234,910.26. That figure includes a new proposed grant of $100,000 for the Mt. Juliet Youth Football and Cheerleading-special field project. If the commission doesn’t approve that proposal the combined total will be dropped to about $134,910.26* (*If the commission doesn’t change any other proposed grant.) The gift that the commission is about to give the YMCA is the equivalent of between 5 years and about 9 or 10 years worth of grants to all other social organizations combined! According to Ray Justice this is a “Good thing” not a “bad thing”. I for one have a hard time with the idea of taking all of the people’s money and giving it to “any” private organization, but the idea of taking that much money ($1.2 million when you only have an $11 million dollar budget.) and giving it to one organization gives me a headache. According to Ray Justice, people like me should be ashamed of themselves for trying to stop him from giving away our money…because what he is doing is “good”.
    Let me recap….according to Ray Justice’s philosophy, it is “good” to: forsake 100+ employees who work for the city by giving them an effective reduction in pay; to make all of the people of this city pay for a project that only 10% of the people are interested in; to BORROW MONEY TO GIVE IT AWAY; to manipulate bond funds to pay for land to give it away; to play political games and thereby delay road development to the high school; to create a new hotel/motel tax, telling citizens that they will get new money for city owned parks and recreation, and then turn around and amend the ordinance that enacted that tax to enable the city to use the tax to pay for a donation to the YMCA (A private organization that we will have to spend money to join!) Also, according to Ray Justice’s philosophy, people like myself should be ashamed of themselves for trying to tear down what he feels is “good”
    Folks, if the city can afford to pay for the $210,000 it will have to pay the county each year for the next five years, and if it can afford to the pay-down of the $950,000 credit to the county, the city can afford to rectify the payroll disparity that exists between what this city pays its employees and the pay that employees who work for other local governments in the area enjoy. The combined pay disparity that exists between Mt. Juliet and the comparable markets is about $610,000 per year. What that means to you and I, and to the employees of the city, is that the city employees are shouldering $610,000 per year of the burden that all of us should be shouldering. Somehow, according to Ray’s philosophy, that is supposed to be a “good” thing.

    Ray, you can’t ignore the problems that exist in the city and turn around and give money away and, at the same time, deny that the philosophy that I have outlined here is one that you have adopted.

  6. Butch Huber

    Lori.

    I won’t get a response, I am in the “big freeze”. I am getting the silent treatment…as if that will work.

    Glen,

    I appreciate your offering the paperwork…but it wouldn’t do any good…facts are too confusing to them.

  7. Butch Huber

    Included in the proposed budget that the city manager has given to the city commission is a section on the Eastern Connector. The budget for this item includes G/L 989 Legal-$20,000; G/L 268 Engineering – $ $200,000; G/L 910 Land and Easements – $250,000; and G/L 966 Construction $5,500,000 for a total of $5,970,000. Conspicuously absent from this item is the $950,000 credit to the county. It would seem to me that they would have to include the $950,000 credit in this section of the budget as a separate line item. They won’t though. They will include that $950,000 credit in the construction costs and try to pay for it with bond money.

    Once they have an approved budget for this year, and once they have concluded this deal with the county, I will be sending copies of the documentation for the purchase of the land from the county, any documentation for construction contracts for the Eastern Bypass, and a full copy of the budget to the SEC and the Tennessee Comptrollers offices for their review.

    The comptroller’s office and the SEC will readily be able to take the construction contracts and determine what the construction costs for the road project are, then subtract the $950,000 Credit the city is going to give the county for the purchase of the Old MJES site from those costs, and determine what portion of the costs are allowable under the bond offering. Once they have done that they should be able to audit the city to determine if bond funds have been expended to cover the $950,000. It will be easy for the Tennessee Auditors to determine if they have misused bond funds because the city will have to be able to point to a separate funding source for the $950,000, and it doesn’t have one. From what I can tell, by looking at the budget, the only way that the city can make this deal with the YMCA happen is to use Bond Funds to make it happen…that is, unless they want to raise the property tax rate to do it.

    Because the proposed budget includes nearly 6 million dollars toward the construction of the Eastern Bypass it would stand to reason that they intend to build it this year. (Not likely to happen, but it appears that is what they are intending.) That means that they are going to have to move very, very quickly. Because they will have to move so quickly the documentation should be available before the next election cycle.

    To the commissioners, I would suggest that you think long and hard before you vote on a budget that does not show how you will fund this $950,000 credit or that would require the $950,000 to be paid with bond funds.

    Jim and Linda….you voted against this YMCA deal, here is your chance to make it go away. They can’t use bond funds to pay for this credit and they can’t afford to do it otherwise without either taking out a separate loan or by raising property taxes. Here is the way to stop this deal…ask Ray, Ed and Will how they intend to fund the $950,000 credit to the county without using bond funds….if they can’t answer that question then they simply don’t have a plan. If they don’t have a plan for funding the purchase they can’t make the purchase.

    To any county commissioner that is a reader of Radiofree…do you really want the county to be tangled up in all of this mess? Remember, we are your voters, too. If I were you I would make sure that the city of Mt. Juliet could identify where it is going to come up with the $950,000 before I voted to approve this deal. I think it is a good idea for the city to purchase this property, and I think that the $2,000,000 offer is a good purchase price for the city, but I think that they city commissioners are trying so hard to structure this deal in a way that makes it appear as though they aren’t BORROWING MONEY TO GIVE IT AWAY that they are taking risks they should be taking.

    In all fairness to the rest of society, if the city of Mt. Juliet wants to purchase this land they should have to come up with the money and pay for it just like any developer would have to pay for it. In other words, if the county wouldn’t extend a five year no interest loan to a private buyer the county shouldn’t sell this property to the city under those terms. In fact, I am not sure that it would be legal for the county to offer the city of Mt. Juliet a land deal that it wouldn’t offer a private entity.

  8. Butch Huber

    There will be a budget workshop on the 27th of May @ 5:30. Anyone interested in being a part of the process or interested in observing first hand what this commission and the city manager are planning for the next year might want to attend that workshop.

  9. Butch Huber

    WANTED: THREE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO RUN FOR LOCAL PUBLIC OFFICE.

    Mt. Juliet is currently in desperate need of three honest people to fill three vacancies on the city commission this November. We need three people to run for office who have integrity, who will vote the will of the people, who will follow the laws of the United States of America, who will follow the laws of the State of Tennessee, who will follow the City of Mt. Juliet’s Charter, who will follow the ordinances and resolutions of the City of Mt. Juliet, and who will conduct themselves in a respectable and honorable manner, to replace three who haven’t done these things.

    Interested applicants must not have any obligations to local builders and must not enter into any private arrangement or employment that would cause him/her to vote improperly or that would be a conflict of interest, must not have any skeletons in his or her closet that would embarrass the city or its residents, must be willing to state all sources of income on their disclosure of interests statement, must follow election laws, must have a healthy sense of right and wrong, and must abide by the ethics ordinance and adhere to the city personnel manual.

    Experience as a local politician is not a plus for this position as those experienced politicians in this city seem to all be allied to political factions that are self-seeking, self-serving, and that tend to promote issues that will be financially rewarding to them while costing taxpayers money and opportunity.

    Potential candidates must be willing to listen to the citizens and do what is in the best interests of the people rather than vote for special interest projects that only serve 10% of the public while disenfranchising the remaining 90%. Potential candidates must be willing to put their own personal agenda and personal interests aside and focus on what is best for the city and its inhabitants. Potential candidates must have a working knowledge and basic understanding of the importance of developing roads and infrastructure in this city. Potential candidates must have a sense of vision; they need to be leaders who will lead this city through its transformation into becoming a thriving community rather than be drug numb-mindedly through the process. Potential candidates must not be egotists, but rather they must be humble and contrite and be willing to remember who works for whom in the governmental and political process.

    The positions we seek to fill require a lot of long-hard hours for little pay and little thanks.

    Anyone interested in becoming a commissioner or mayor need only apply, the eventual exposure of the misdeeds of the incumbents and/or enlightenment of the public of just how ridiculous some of their initiatives have been will likely be enough to get you elected for the position you seek. If not, there are plenty of people available to work long and hard developing a political campaign the likes of which Mt. Juliet has never seen to ensure you get the job.
    Disclaimer: In the event that you have a desire to fill one of these positions and you feel that you may not be quite up to the task or you don’t meet one (or any) of the qualifications or requirements, take heart, for if you are able to fog a mirror and if you promise to do nothing at all it will be an improvement over what we have had over the past four years.

    Respectfully,

    Butch Huber
    Cabal member since March 27th, 2007.

  10. Butch Huber

    The budget workshop scheduled for May 27th has been changed from 5:30 to 4:30.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s