2008 Budget (FY08-09)

Here’s the text of the memo sent by City Manager Randy Robertson to the City Commission on May 12, 2008 along with the budget sheets:

May 12, 2008

Mayor Elam, Vice Mayor Hagerty and Commissioners Bradshaw, Justice & Sellers:

Attached, please find submission of the City of Mt. Juliet FY 2009 budget.

From a fiscal perspective FY09 appears to be a year of transition. As you know, Mt. Juliet has experienced unparalleled growth for the last few years. Our population now exceeds 25k, the Providence Marketplace is near full capacity, and several major projects, including Paddock’s Place are scheduled to open in the not too distant future. New businesses are coming to Mt. Juliet every month while existing establishments have indicated they plan to expand in the near future. Simply based on those variables the prospects for future growth appear bright.

However, as each of you know there has been a measurable slow down in the national economy, with incremental declines affecting both Middle Tennessee and Mt. Juliet. Housing starts in the city over the last quarter have declined by nearly a third from the same time last year. The price of fuel is at an all-time high, which ripples through virtually every operational element of city government; the same can be said for utilities, with TVA and MTEMC raising their collective rates by nearly 12%. Health care expenses continue to rise at a double-digit rate, while costs for capital projects, particularly those related to roads and infrastructure have seen comparable price increases. Finally, every economic barometer in this region reflects that sales, property and income (e.g., the Hall tax) tax revenues are on the decline.

With the above in mind, the Department Heads and I are presenting a budget that has already been sharply reduced from its initial version. From an operational perspective, the budget before you is essentially a reiteration of the FY08 budget. With the exception of our new Animal Control mission, this budget is remarkably similar to last year’s. There are no mission growth areas in Public Works, the Police Department, Planning, Zoning, Sewer, Parks and Rec, Administration, Finance, Economic Development or Human Resources. As indicated, the only new missions embedded within the FY09 budget is related to operational expenses for our new Animal Control Facility. We believe the Animal Control budget is as austere as possible, however, without a benchmark of prior years’ activities, we have developed that budget around the experience of comparable facilities in this region.

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As noted, we see FY09 as a transition year for Mt. Juliet finances. With the projected opening of Wal-Mart, Lowes, Publix Grocery and Two Rivers Ford during the first six months of the FY, we anticipate significant economic changes starting in the January ’09 timeframe. Simply stated, if those businesses open as planned, and if sales tax is comparable to other similar stores, we project as much as $500k will be generated as sales tax revenue between February and July of next year. Those factors were considered in developing this budget, highlighted by a list of
unfinanced requirements (UFR’s) included within your book.

Overall we see general fund revenue at approximately $ 10.4m, with an estimated ending FY08 general fund balance of roughly $1.4m. As previously indicated, departmental budgets are essentially flat, with exception of the Animal Control Facility mission, and an initial 2% cost of living adjustment in July, followed by an additional 1% in January predicated upon the opening of Paddock’s Place. While this COLA is well below the Department of Labor’s consumer price index (CPI) of 4.9% increase for south urban areas (CITATION: U.S. Dept of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/cpi’), we are proposing that to posture a reasonably healthy fund balance.

Based upon the attached, the FY09 year end general fund balance would be approximately $850k. Approval of the budget provides Mt. Juliet with the capabilities to sustain its current operational pace, care for the citizens, the mission and its employees, while making significant inroads in servicing debt associated with ROW acquisitions for 1-40 and the extension of Mt.
Juliet Road. Unlike last year’s, it is not based on projection that may or may not occur.

Recommend approval of the proposed FY09 Mt. Juliet city budget.

Randy Robertson Kimberly A. Vollet
City Manager Finance Director

There apparently is no budget ordinance yet. The budget ordinance is the summary document actually passed by the City Commission and contains the estimated fund balances for June 30, 2008 and the projected fund balances for June, 2009.

Until an ordinance is drafted, it’s hard to actually determine the full effect of this budget.

It IS puzzling that Robertson estimates the FY08 ending general fund balance at $1.4 million, and projects that falling to $850k at the end of FY09. The City borrowed $10.0 million in February of 2008. The bond proceeds should have been placed in the general fund. If there is only $1.4 million in the general fund, then WHERE DID THE $10.0 MILLION GO?

The detailed, depart-level budget worksheets are in the .pdf file linked here.
It’s a 3.75mb .pdf file, so be patient.

Here is a link to an updated version of the FY08-09 budget – this includes the text of the ordinance and is what the City Commission considered at its June 09, 2008 meeting.

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43 responses to “2008 Budget (FY08-09)

  1. Pingback: The City of Mt. Juliet doesn’t want you to watch… « Radio Free Mt. Juliet

  2. Butch Huber

    Folks, I thought you should be aware of a letter to the commission that I just e-mailed. It is quite long, so I will Capsulize what it means and then you can decide for yourself if you want to read the meat of the letter.

    It is quite possible that around the March timeframe next year the city will have spent nearly all of its available budget. For six straight years this city operated a budget that returned surpluses to the city, starting with last year the city has had deficit spending of over $100,000 per month. According to how I interpret the proposed budget for next year it appears that the trend will continue through this upcoming year as well…unless something is done about it.

    At the end of FY07, the year they got rid of Rob, the city had $2.8 million in reserve. At the end of this fiscal year the city will have $1.475 million in reserve. At the end of next year, according to Mr. Robertson’s budget, the city will have $775 thousand at the end of the next fiscal year. However, I believe Mr. Robertson has miscalculated, which will reduce the reserve even further. In fact, I believe you will see a time in the next fiscal year where the reserve will fall to as low as $561K, and if the $500K in new money that Mr. Robertson projects will come available does not materialize, I fear we may possibly see a reserve balance as low as $161,000 by the end of the next fiscal year. However, if the economy slips or there are other miscalculations, the city may find itself in a place next year where it has more month than it has money.

    There is hope. The city budget includes fluff of about $1.3 million that can be cut out…if this commission has the will and restraint to do what is right.

    READ THE LETTER TO THE COMMISSION IF YOU WANT DETAILS. I HAVE INCLUDED IT BELOW.

    Commissioners,

    During the budget workshop held this week, you commissioners asked Mr. Robertson if the expected revenue increases from the Paddocks were included when developing the budget. Mr. Robertson said “no”, that they didn’t include the Paddocks’ revenues, but that they did include things like Publix and other stores that he is more certain would open during the next fiscal year. However, the following excerpts from the city manager’s cover letter to the commission seem to suggest otherwise.
    “As noted, we see FY09 as a transition year for Mt. Juliet finances. With the projected opening of Wal-Mart, Lowes, Publix Grocery and Two Rivers Ford during the first six months of the FY, we anticipate significant economic changes starting in the January ‘09 timeframe. Simply stated, if those businesses open as planned, and if sales tax is comparable to other similar stores, we project as much as $500k will be generated as sales tax revenue between February and July of next year. Those factors were considered in developing this budget, highlighted by a list of unfinanced requirements (UFR’s) included within your book.” And;
    “”Overall we see general fund revenue at approximately $ 10.4m, with an estimated ending FY08 general fund balance of roughly $1.4m. As previously indicated, departmental budgets are essentially flat, with exception of the Animal Control Facility mission, and an initial 2% cost of living adjustment in July, followed by an additional 1% in January predicated upon the opening of Paddock’s Place.
    While this COLA is well below the Department of Labor’s consumer price index (CPI) of 4.9% increase for south urban areas (CITATION: U.S. Dept of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/cpi’), we are proposing that to posture a reasonably healthy fund balance. In other words, if the revenue does come in the employees will receive an additional 1% raise starting in January predicated upon the opening of Paddock’s Place.”

    The excerpts included above strongly suggest that the budget was in fact developed with revenue projections from Paddock’s Place included in the projected general fund balance.

    If Mr. Robertson included sales tax revenues he anticipates will be generated by the new enterprises that are slated to open in the Paddocks shopping center in the early part of next year in the FY 08/09 budget, as it appears that he indicates in the first excerpt included herein that he has, the first thing you should do is subtract the anticipated new revenue of $500,000 that Mr. Robertson projects in the last half of next year from his projected year end balance; which has been downwardly adjusted in the amended version of his budget proposal from $850,000 to about $775,000. The reason you should do that is to determine where the city’s general fund reserve balance, or buffer, will be standing around the end of this calendar year and the beginning of the next. I say that because it appears that, despite an influx of $500k in new revenue from new businesses, the remaining reserve funds available in the general fund will diminish from $1.475 million (as adjusted in the last budget workshop) at the end of this fiscal year to $775k by the end of the next fiscal year. This means that with each passing month there will be an ever-decreasing buffer in our general fund.

    Mr. Robertson’s projection of an additional $500,000 in new sales tax revenues start in February of next year, so it is important to discover what the budget will look like “before” those revenues begin to flow. I would suggest that you ask for the city budget to be presented to you in the form of a line or bar graph representing projected receipts, funds available for distribution, obligations that need to be paid each month from that fund, and finally a bar or line indicating how much money will be available in reserve after each month’s receipts and distributions. I believe if you have the city manager do this exercise for you it will cause you to be more conservative with your spending, as you should be.
    When you subtract the $500k in anticipated new revenues that are projected to come from new enterprises from the $775,000 projected to be remaining in the general fund at the end of FY 08/09, it leaves you with a remainder of only $275,000. That $275,000 represents the reserve balance in the general fund before the influx of new revenues. In other words, the $275,000 mentioned here is the amount that will be available after all receipts and disbursements have been calculated for the next fiscal year not including the projected new revenues of $500.
    Based on the budget ordinance from FY 07/08, the city entered FY o7/08 with a projected reserve balance of $2,805,394 and ended the year with a projected reserve balance of $1,475. Which means that the city had deficit spending in the current fiscal year of about $1,330,000, or a little more than $110,000 per month (This figure does not consider any unanticipated revenues that occurred during the fiscal year, but that were not included in the budget. In other words, it is possible that the city had deficit spending in excess of $1,330,000 this year.) We are entering into the next fiscal year with $1,475,000 and, in spite of increases of about $500k in new revenues, we are projected to end the year with only $775,000 in reserve at year’s end. That means that we are anticipating another year of $100,000+ per month in deficit spending. The question begs to be asked and answered, what are you going to do to stem the tide of deficit spending? Unless you answer that fundamental question you are destined to have a budget in FY09/10 that will not balanced, and since it is illegal for the city to have a budget that isn’t balanced, you will need to identify a new major source of taxes or drastically reduce operating expenses. The most likely source from whence to obtain those increased taxes will be a property tax. In other words, your fiscal behavior this year and next will determine whether or not this city is forced to increase the property tax rates.
    The deficit spending that is obviously occurring will create a tense situation around March of this coming year. Barring any infusion of new monies, the city will have a reserve balance of approximately $675,000. In other words, when you subtract all liabilities, or bills, from the amount that should be available in the general fund at the end of February of next year, the remaining balance available that can be used to pay bills and debts will be $675,000. From that point, without the assistance of new revenues from new enterprises, the city will dip into that reserve by an additional $100,000 per month, every month. That means that in March of 09 the reserve will be $575,000, April will be $475,000, May will be $375,000, and by the end of June it will be $275,00.

    What this means to you is that you will have to trim a minimum of $100,000 per month from Mr. Robertson’s budget in order to continue to tread water; that is at least until the revenues from the new enterprises materialize. However, based on trends, it is reasonable to assume that the new growth will bring with it additional operating and payroll costs to the city, so it is possible that any new revenues will be offset with new costs. Therefore, simply trimming $100,000 per month from the proposed FY 08/09 may not save this city from a fiscal disaster.

    However, there is another issue that needs to be addressed. Mr. Robertson has projected the hotel/motel tax to generate $225,000 in the next fiscal year. I suspect that he projected that figure to be so high in order to provide political cover for Mr. Justice. Mr. Justice stated that the Hotel/motel tax would provide a source of income that would cover the costs of the $210,000 annual payment for the land deal with the county for the Old MJES site. However, it is rather obvious that the hotel/motel tax won’t cover that expense. I say that because the real world reality is that the hotel/motel tax is generating about $8,000 to $9,000 per month (averaged over the final five months of the current fiscal year. I am being generous with those figures), and those numbers won’t likely change much over the next fiscal year and could quite possibly shrink (especially when you consider that Americans have drastically reduced the miles they are driving due to the increase in gas prices.), so, based on the factors mentioned herein, it is unreasonable to project such a high figure from the hotel/motel tax. With the hotel/motel tax only generating $8k, to as much as $9k, per month (and, again, I am being generous with those figures.) the city will more than likely only collect between $96,000 and $108,000 in hotel/motel taxes during the next fiscal year. To reach Mr. Robertson’s projection of $225,000 in hotel/motel taxes the city would have to collect an average of $18,750 per month throughout the next fiscal year. If you consider $9,000 per month as a more likely reality, it leaves you with a negative differential of $9,750 per month. This means that by February of next year the reserve balance in the general fund will be another $78,000 shy of Mr. Robertson’s projections.

    All this blends together to create a basis for my belief that the $675,000 figure I arrived at in the scenario above must now be reduced by another $78,000, which gives a month end balance in February of $597,000.

    However, there is another compounding problem that must be considered. The city commission has directed, by ordinance, the city manager to purchase the Old MJES site. Under the terms and conditions of the offer that was made to the city by the county, the city of Mt. Juliet will have to pay the county $210,000 on September of this year. That $210,000 figure is included in Mr. Robertson’s budget, however, you have to consider the impact of that $210,000 in relationship to time. I say this because, had the first payment come due at the end of the next fiscal year, and if the hotel/motel tax were sufficient to cover that charge, the city would have had a chance to collect the money before the $210,000 came due. However, that is not the case. In reality, the city will have to pay the $210,000 from the general fund balance in September of 08 and wait to replenish the general fund as the year progresses. Since we have already accounted for the difference between projected revenues from the hotel/motel tax and the more realistic number based on current trends, and since both the hotel/motel tax and payment to the county have been included in the budget projections, we have to subtract that differential from the impact of this early payment on a prorated monthly basis to determine its impact in the budget at the end of February. I estimate that you have to reduce the reserve balance by another $36,000 by month’s end in February, which places the reserve fund balance around $561,000.

    Remember the deficit spending of $100,000 per month? That still applies, so by the end of March, baring any influx from new enterprises, the reserve will be $461,000, April will be $361,000, May will be $261,000, and June will leave us with $161,000 (enough for less than one week’s operating capital.)
    Note: without the benefit of having all of this information in the form of a spreadsheet, including projected monthly inflows and outflows, it is difficult to be precise in my projections, however, there is enough data available to develop a realistic picture that the city is teetering on the brink financially. Exactly when we will reach the lowest point during the year is difficult to pin down, but, from the information that is available, there will be a very narrow, if non-existent general fund reserve balance at some point during this upcoming fiscal year. (Barring any income from one-time deals with land or other considerations not foreseen or included in the budget.)

    However, there is another very real issue that you seem to be avoiding, and that issue is that the proposed purchase of the Old MJES site requires that the city give the county a credit toward the construction costs necessary to straighten out the Reverse L portion of the eastern connector road. This is a very sticky subject because you are combining two issues into one transaction, which means that it slaves one issue to the other. In other words, when you purchase that land from the county with a credit toward the road project you are at the same time forcing yourself to have to correspondingly reduce the amount of the road construction costs that you pay for with bond funds by an amount equal to the credit. (The county makes it very clear in the resolution they passed that makes the offer of sale to the city that they are selling this land to the city for $2,000,000, with a credit toward the reverse L of $950,000.) If you pay for any portion of the costs associated with this land purchase with bond funds, or even if you cover the costs with bond funds and then reimburse those funds at a latter date from the general fund or through some other financial arrangement, you will, in my opinion, be misappropriating bond funds and, again, in my opinion, will be entering into possible, and most probably, bond fraud. All of this means that the city will have to pay the $950,000 credit from the general fund. Considering that it appears that by the end of next year you will only have about $161,000 in available reserve funds in the general fund, and considering that, when contemplating any land deal, the construction of Curd Road at the earliest possible moment will be of utmost importance to the county, where on earth are you going to come up with the $950,000?

    Another thing of major concern is the 2% COLA for city employees when the CPI for this year is 4.9%. The remaining 1% COLA spoken of in Mr. Robertson’s cover letter is yet to be seen because it is based on whether or not the money from Paddocks actually materializes. I believe that means that the 1% COLA is not factored in this budget proposal, but I am not certain. If all of you, as Mr. Justice has stated, determine not to approve “anything that doesn’t include at least a 4% COLA” you have to also consider how this will impact the budget throughout the fiscal year. If you increase the COLA by another 2% you will be adding a fairly substantial amount to the obligations the city has to pay during this upcoming fiscal year, however, if you fail to provide the city employees with proper compensation it could negatively affect the city for quite some time as well. If you pay the employees what they should be paid and also conclude this deal with the county for the Old MJES site, the city could be in for a real problem around about the March, April timeframe. If I am off my projection regarding March, and if the city doesn’t realize the $500k in the first half of 09, the city will still have real problem by the end of FY09.
    One thing you have to consider is whether or not we are on a downward plane of deficit spending that events like the opening of Paddocks temporarily reverse, but which cannot permanently alter. There is credible evidence to suggest that, starting at least the beginning of this fiscal year, the city has gone from a fiscally conservative posture to a posture of “tax and spend” and borrowing.

    Either way you look at the numbers, taking Mr. Robertson’s numbers or mine, this city cannot afford to continue spending at the rate that it is spending. This city has gone from surplus budgets year after year, mounting up to over $4,000,000 in surpluses over six years, to deficit spending over two years that will have effectively depleted the general fund reserve. Taking down the reserve from approximately $2.8 million at the end of FY06/07 to a possible low of $161,000 by the end of FY 08/09 ($661,000 if the $500k materializes). This deficit spending has come at a time when the city has enjoyed record revenues and has incurred record debt. This city doesn’t seem to have an income problem, it seems to have a spending problem.

    The questions also need to be asked and answered: “are you so determined to do this deal with the county that you will risk spending the city down to zero and have to take on some type of special financing in order to pay the remaining balance?” ; “are you really willing to forsake the city employees by giving them less than half the COLA they deserve just so you can provide the YMCA with this $1.3 million dollar donation; a donation that will not add much, if any, revenue to the city coffers and a donation that will take a very valuable piece of future retail sales tax generating property out of play?”; and, “are you ready to face possible municipal bankruptcy or be forced to raise the property tax rate in order to conclude this deal with the county?” Further, regardless of how much you ignore me, my questions, or my warnings, you will one day have to account for your actions if you illegally or improperly use bond funds to conclude this deal with the county.

    Another consideration that you must take into consideration is an e-mail that I have received from Rep. Susan Lynn, which states:

    “April 2008 was the worst month on record for revenue growth in Tennessee, and the third quarter of this fiscal year was the second worst quarter on record. Projections show that the fourth quarter—of which the state is halfway through—could be even worse.”
    I hope that the above statement is not a harbinger of what will befall this city in the ensuing 12 months, but it certainly is not something that should be ignored. Concluding from Rep. Lynn’s statement, this budget year could quite possibly be one of the trickiest budget years this city has ever seen. Prudence would dictate that you shake off any tendency to be overly aggressive with spending in this upcoming budget year and instead become stringently fiscally conservative and only focus on the “have to” items rather than funding a bunch of “want to” items, such as a $1.3 million dollar gift to the YMCA.

    I realize that you are anticipating additional revenues from some land swap deal you are working on, but it isn’t the best of ideas to include “one-time money” in your budget to fund recurring expenses. That may stave off the wolves for six months to a year, but it also creates a false sense of security. When the “one-time money” runs out you are left with an entirely different picture, one that you may not have properly prepared for because of your reliance on the “One-time Money”. Besides, it would not take much of a slip in the economy to eat up that “one-time money” and then you will really be in a bind (at least those of you who are still in office in December will be in a bind.)

    Consider, with inflow projections of a little more than $10,000,000 over this next fiscal year, all it would take is for the city manager’s projections to be off by a few percentage points, or for the economy to retreat by a few points, and for there to be construction delays on new enterprises, and this city could easily be drowning in a sea of red ink.

    You should also consider that this city has litigation to endure due this coming year. I am quite certain that it will cost the city lot of money to litigate those lawsuits. If the judgment in those suits goes against the city in the lawsuits there could be very large settlements. If you spend the reserve fund down to zero, where will the city draw funds for those lawsuits? The lawsuits are coming, and the city cannot avoid them or pretend they don’t exist, so how are you going to prepare for those issues?

    Obviously, I don’t anticipate a response from the city or the commission regarding this e-mail, as you have seemingly ignored all my other e-mail and admonishment. I write this to you so that it becomes a part of the public record. That way, when the city finds itself in a real bind, I will be able to go back to this e-mail and point out that you were warned of what was to come and you did nothing about it. You won’t be able to blame anyone but yourselves if this city has to raise the property tax rates to recover from your indiscretions.

    I also offer you a solution.
    1) Abandon the idea of this donation to the YMCA. That alone will provide an additional $210,000 to the city budget this year.
    2) Cull out the $320,000 requested for the quiet zone. From what I was able to discern from your casual conversations in the city’s budget workshop, the RTA is in financial trouble and appears to be on the brink of going under without substantial help from the local governments. Until you are certain that the RTA will remain viable you should refrain from spending money that does not have to be spent on developing the quiet zone. This runs counter to my emotion, because I believe that the citizen’s of this community deserve the quiet zone, but we could really just be wasting $320,000 on the quiet zone if the RTA goes under. Even if you do anticipate that the RTA will survive, we need to wait until the city can afford the quiet zone before we develop it.
    3) Don’t approve the grants that are requested, or at least reduce the amount of money that you give away. This can provide an additional $100,000 to as much as $163,000 in available funds.
    4) Look to see how you can either push off some of the unfinanced spending requests, eliminate them altogether, or reduce the cost of them by finding alternative solutions. The unfinanced spending requests amount to $1,185,000, I am quite certain that you will be able to find several hundred thousand dollars worth of funds within those requests that can either be put off to the next year or eliminated. (I would recommend putting off the $250,000 Community Center Expansion, the $88,000 skate park, and the $360,000 Greenway. Those three items will put almost $700,000 back into the budget. )
    5) Focus your attention on roads. Roads lead to businesses, which lead to increased revenues to the city, which lead to funding for “want to” items. (This won’t improve this year’s financial picture, but it will serve to help subsequent years’ financial pictures, which in turn will help improve the future financial situation of the city.

    I believe the items I have included in this solution will etch out about $1.330 Million in available funds. The additional $130,000 could, and should, be used to pay the city employees a better COLA. Any unanticipated influx of new revenues should be added to the city general fund reserve balance until the city one again has a 90 to 120 day general fund reserve balance, or buffer.

    Whatever you do, you have to find about $1.2 million dollars to cut out of this budget in order to refrain from deficit spending. I believe it is worth it for this city commission to form a committee for the purpose of studying the city budget to develop a clear, unbiased, picture of what has been happening with the finances of the city and to suggest what must be done to improve our financial situation. It appears to me that since the time Providence opened this city commission’s posture has changed from being very frugal and tight with spending to a commission that is spending more than it is taking in. I believe the cause of that change is obvious. I believe this commission saw the influx of capital from Providence as an opportunity to spend money on projects that are sexy and appealing to particular groups of people within the city and it has lost sight of the need to provide infrastructure.

    I believe you have to decide whether this city is going to be one of conservative spending habits, but that fosters growth by providing infrastructure, and does its business without a property tax “or” are we going to be a city that provides lots of parks, recreation, and social appeal, and one that fosters growth, but has to have a property tax?

    We can have our own fire department, Aquatic center, social center, multiple parks, recreation programs, roads, and practically everything else this city wants and needs, and we can have them now, if we are willing to pay the price for them. The price for having all of those things now is that we have to raise the property tax rates to cover the new funding requirements. However, we can have all that we need, and a lot of what we want, without a property tax increase, but the cost for doing it that way is patience. Remember, as politicians you are not able to give all of the people all that they want and need, but you can help to provide a means to help them get those things for themselves. That, in my opinion, should be one of the main goals of government: “To empower the people so they are able to help themselves.”

    You are going to alienate one group of citizens or another no matter which way you choose. You can be fiscal conservatives, and cut out the fat in the budget, which will put the city back on stable ground and possibly avoid a property tax increase “OR” you can leave in the fat and probably have to amend the budget at some point during the fiscal year to include a provision for an increase in property taxes (If that is even legal.) I am sure that there are other items in the budget that can be cut out, but the items that I have included herein are certainly options, and they are options that you have not already approved, so if you cut those things out of the budget you won’t be taking away something that has already been approved.

    P.S. As I understand it, the city has a cap on grant money of 4%. It appears that the maximum you are allowed to contribute toward grants this year will be $163,000. Those are your figures, not mine. If this is the case, how will you be able to legally give away $1.3 million worth of land to the YMCA? Are you ready to defend your position with the Tennessee Comptroller’s office?

    Respectfully

    Butch Huber

  3. Butch Huber

    I sat at the commission meeting last night wondering if the commissioners were hearing themselves talk. At one point they were trying to fund a drug and crime prevention unit, which consists of three police officers and associated equipment, at the cost of $275,000 per year. I don’t believe the measure was approved, the reason being that the city doesn’t have adequate money for the proposal. However, I could easily come up with the $275,000 out of the budget…cancel the YMCA deal and cut back on grant money, simple. Folks, what is more important, funding the police force or making a donation to a private enterprise that competes head-on with for profit enterprises? Mr. Justice was trying to do the right thing for the police department…he was trying to help them get drugs off the streets in Mt. Juliet and help them prevent crime. Crime prevention is a lot better thing in my book than having a need to respond to calls about crime. What is better, to be out in front of crime and “nip-it-in-the-bud” or be behind the power curve and be limited to only responding to crime?

    This commission voted to direct the city manager to purchase 12 acres of land from the county and donate 8 acres to the YMCA. The ordinance directing him to do so was very specific and direct. However, it appears that there is more going on than just buying 12 acres and giving away 8 acres as per that ordinance. The commission has found out that there are hurdles to cross in order to consummate this deal, so now they are talking about a land lease purchase deal.

    The County made an offer to the city of Mt. Juliet to sell the city the Old MJES site for $2,000,000. The county resolution was specific in what it wanted from that offer and how they wanted it. The city developed an ordinance that provided specific direction to the city manager as to how he was to purchase this land (even though the city’s version did not provide what the county offered). Now, the city is doing something that is different than what was directed in the ordinance directing the city manager to purchase the land.

    Here is why that is a problem. The commissioners are the voter’s voice on the commission. The commission can only speak with one voice, which is a proper vote in a properly called public meeting. There were three commissioners who voted for the ordinance that directs the city manager to purchase of this land and two who voted against it. If the city cannot purchase the land as directed by the commission, and if the city still wants to pursue this property, the commission must either vote to amend the original ordinance that directs the city manager to purchase the land under the strict guidelines outlined in the ordinance or rescind the ordinance altogether and vote for another ordinance directing him in some other manner. Doing what they are doing, in the way that they are doing it, takes you and I out of the process. How can we call our commissioners and voice our concerns when they are doing what they are doing out of the public eye? How can we address the city commission with our concerns if we are never given the opportunity to even be concerned?

    It’s simple. If I work for you, and you send me out to purchase something for a set amount of money and in an established manner, without stating that I have the authority to negotiate a different deal under different terms, then I need to go do the deal the way you said, and if I can’t, I need to tell you what is happening and ask for further direction. Had the commission wanted Mr. Robertson, or his representatives, to have the latitude to negotiate a deal other than the one contemplated under the ordinance that directed him to purchase the land they should have included such language in the ordinance. Mr. Robertson needs to ask for further direction from the commission…the full commission, in a proper vote in a properly called meeting. They need to provide the city manager with proper authority to arrange this deal if they want him to negotiate for them. Mr. Robertson is the administrative head of city government, and as such may, and probably does, have the authority to arrange land purchase deals for the city and present such deals to the commission. However, once given specific instructions from the city commission on “HOW” to structure a contemplated deal, he no longer has the legal latitude to structure a deal that is different than the one he was directed to construct. It takes a full vote of the commission to amend the directive he has to purchase the Old MJES site. This land lease purchase deal was never discussed, to my knowledge, in any commission meeting and/or put to a vote. I believe this is another prime example of the public being left in the dark about what is happening in city government.

    They are having to work so hard to do this deal because what they are trying to do is wrong. They are taking all of the people’s money and they are giving it to a private entity. This should be sending alarms throughout the entire community. I say that because if they can legally do this deal for the YMCA, and since they have virtually unlimited taxing power, all it would take is to get three commissioners to get together and they could do just about anything they want with our money. Folks, “WE” pay the bill for what “THEY” vote on. Their actions are leveraged with our homes! If they make wrong moves financially we are liable for the debt in terms of property taxes on our homes…and if we can’t pay the increased property taxes, we lose our homes!

    In last night’s meeting I heard talk of building a building on the land…after the budget workshop I spoke with someone who is an insider in city government who told me that they (The commission) is giving the YMCA a lot more than the money they are investing in the land they are determined to give to the YMCA. Now, I don’t know “WHO” the entity building the building is, but it could easily be “US”. If they can vote to buy the land and give it away they can vote to build the YMCA a building as well. Since they are doing everything else in secret, is it possible that there has been a behind the scenes agreement to build the YMCA a building as well? Exactly how much is this deal with the YMCA going to cost us? I know it is costing us at least $2,000,000+ dollars, considering that the price of the land being donated represents 2/3rds of the purchase price of the whole property and considering that the city has to relieve the county of its obligation to pay for construction on curd road, which was $950,000 two years ago but could easily be twice that now that the price of oil has gone up and asphalt prices have soared as a result. Folks, the commission has determined that we can afford to donate this kind of money to the YMCA, but we can’t afford police officers?..does that make any sense to you?

    Mayor Elam was speaking of “illegal taking” when she called Bobby Franklin to discuss the requirement on her then employer/developer boss’ property. The position was that the city was taking her employer’s property for the purpose of providing access to the adjacent property, and because the portion of road being provided in that situation was of no current value to her employer, and because that action would have conveyed a benefit to the owner of the adjacent property, the city would be illegally taking property. (She didn’t say it exactly that way, but that is the bottom-line.) Folks, like it or not, agree with me or not, you and I are going to pay for that land and any subsequent deal they make. Although it may be a commonly accepted practice in government, how is taking tax money from the people, any people, whether they are citizens of Mt. Juliet or not, and giving it away anything other than “illegally taking of property (Cash) and giving it to another person or entity for their enjoyment and use”? What they are doing is no different technically than if they were to purchase that land and give it to Gold’s gym or Bally’s health and fitness. What is different? Is it different because the YMCA is a non-profit? How? Really folks, how is giving money to a non-profit any different than giving money to a for profit these days? Was it ever? The people who work for non-profits can make very nice incomes and have very nice benefits packages, just like for-profit entities do. The non-profit can invest money just like for-profits. In fact, the only real difference I can see in this matter is that the non-profit must donate any remaining money and property it has to another non-profit if it goes out of business; whereas, the for profit company can be sold and the proceeds distributed to the owners. However, in practice that isn’t really much of a difference because the managers of the non-profit can sell the assets off and live on the proceeds until they are depleted and then go out of business. So, again, I ask, how is giving this land to the YMCA any different than giving it to Gold’s GYM or Bally’s? How is this not “illegal taking” just like the deal with CRS? The reality is that the CRS deal wasn’t illegal taking of land and neither is the YMCA deal…I think. It appears that they have the right to be stupid, but some rights don’t need to be exercised. That having been said, I still feel like I am being robbed over this YMCA deal, and I feel like they are still sticking their hands in my pockets!

  4. Unknown Soldier

    I hear the city attorney is leaving.
    That’s the rumor from Nashville.

  5. Butch Huber

    Dear commission,

    Obviously you know by now that I am scrutinizing your budget for the upcoming year. Mr. Robertson says he is confident that his numbers are correct. He is blaming the discrepancies that I noted on monday night to prior administrations.

    Please observe item 31911 in your grids included in your budget workbook. Notice under FY 07/08 actual thru 4/30/08. See where it says 340,149.31? Now look beside it in “Projected thru 6/30/08. See where it says 340,000.00? Please tell me where the $149.31 went?

    Please observe item 34315 under charges for services. Notice under FY 07/08 actual thru 4/30/08. See where it says 87500? Now look beside it in Projected thru 6/30/08. See where it says 67,500? Please tell me where the $20,000 went?

    Please observe item 36715 under miscellaneous revenues. Notice under FY 37/08 actual thru 4/30/08. See where it says 8550? Now look beside it in Projected thru 6/30/08. See where it says 8000? Please tell me where the $500 went?

    I know that there are discrepancies in Mr. Robertson’s version of the FY 06/07 grids, the cause of which is not presently known to me. However, if you look at the audits that you have in your possession, you will clearly see that Mr. Robertson’s numbers do not match up to what is in the audits, nor do they match what Rob Shearer put in his budget ordinance. Why is Mr. Robertson incorrectly stating revenues for 06/07 and then blaming the error on Rob? Why is Mr. Robertson incorrectly stating revenues in 07/08 and blaming it on Sheila? These are his mistakes in his budget workbook, not Sheila’s or Rob’s mistakes. Why do you ignore me and allow Sheila and Rob to take the fall for Mr. Robertson’s mistakes? Are you too lazy to look at what I am telling you or is it that you disdain me so much you would rather ignore obvious errors than admit that I am right? Or could it be that you know that you made a terrible blunder in how you treated Rob Shearer, a man who consistently returned surplus budgets with unbelievable accuracy, and you don’t want the public to discover your blunder? We went from having reserve funds of $2,800,000+ to teetering on the brink of an unbalanced budget; a budget that is only being buoyed by one time money and a sliver of reserve funds, which could actually be depleted by these and other discrepancies?

    I purchased a copy of the budget workbook for $27. Then I paid $13 to get the updates before the budget workshop. When I added the numbers in the far right hand column, Mr. Robertson’s Estimated FY 08/09 numbers didn’t equal what was stated “total revenue” cell in the grids that I was provided. I inquired about this with Ms. Vollet. She made a comparison between what I had in those cells and what she had in those cells and determined that we had the same numbers. The version of the grids given to me had the total revenue for FY 08/09 stated as being $10,994,025. However, using the exact same set of numbers that are stated in the individual cells in my grids, the newest version now correctly states that total as being $11,030,735. There was a difference of $36,710. I originally had told Ms. Vollet that I thought her number was off by $130,000. I must have been confused about which numbers were off. I do believe that I came across a discrepancy of more than $130,000. In fact, I think the number is $130,100. However, at this time I can’t bring to mind exactly where that discrepancy is located in the grids. But you might ask, “Why is this important if she has the number correctly stated now?” I will tell you, why. I noticed that Ms. Vollet has these numbers punched into a computer system. I believe that the numbers automatically update the total revenue as you enter different numbers into the cells in the program. If I am right about this, tell me how the computer had the wrong number once (in the documents given to me) and now has them right in the newest version of the budget? (I am not saying that Mr. Robertson’s projections are right, I am just saying that if you add the numbers in that column together the sum is now correct in the total revenue cell.) Ms. Vollet could not explain.

    Why is all of this important? I will tell you “why”. BECAUSE YOUR NUMBERS ARE WRONG! YOU DON’T HAVE AN ACCURATE PICTURE OF THE CITY’s FINANCES! UNTIL THE CLEAN UP THIS PROBLEM YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IS ACCURATE AND WHAT ISN’T ACCURATE! IF THE COMPUTER PROGRAM IS MALFUNCTIONING THE NUMBERS COULD BE WAY, WAY OFF AND YOU WOULDN’T KNOW IT! OBVIOUSLY YOU DIDN’T TAKE THE TIME TO INSPECT WHAT YOU WERE GIVEN BECAUSE SOME OF THE MISTAKES ARE QUITE NOTICEABLE! HOW COULD YOU NOT NOTICE A $4,000,000 DIFFERENCE IN WHAT WAS STATED IN THE FY 06/07 ACTUAL THRU 6/30/07 WHEN IT STATES TOTAL REVENUE OF $5,995,278.76 AND THE FIVE NUMBERS THAT COMPRISE THAT TOTAL ARE $5,079,444.00 + $1,789,689.93 + $2,114,391.26 + $915,834.77 + $54,623.34?!!! JUST THE FIRST TWO NUMBERS ADDED TOGETHER EQUAL MORE THAN MR. ROBERTSON’S TOTAL REVENUE NUMBER! EVEN IF MR. ROBERTSON WAS RIGHT, AND THIS IS THE FAULT OF MR. SHEARER, HOW COULD HE MISS THE DISCREPANCY AND NOT INVESTIGATE? HOW COULD YOU HAVE MISSED THIS WHEN YOU LOOKED AT LAST YEAR’S BUDGET?!!!!

    Your continued ignoring of this problem is quite alarming! This city just had an employee steal $10,000+ from the city. You couldn’t even determine how much was actually stolen because you have a loose tracking system! Now I am telling you that there is a budget discrepancy of more than $4,000,000 in just one item, that five of five numbers given to you are grossly in error, the city manager admits that I am probably correct and that it is the fault of the prior administrations, and you move on and vote on the budget without even looking into what I was telling you?!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! (Pulling my hair out by the handful!)

    STOP!!! FIX THE PROBLEM BEFORE YOU TAKE ANOTHER STEP!!!! MY, GOD WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET YOU TO PAY ATTENTION???!!!!!

  6. Butch Huber

    Folks,

    I sent this e-mail to the city manager. I am trying to get him to acknowledge that he submitted a budget to the city commission that is full of errors. If he doesn’t fix the budget it could be a financial disaster for the city. I am trying to do this without filing an official complaint. Please call the city manager and insist that he listen to me to determine whether or not I am right. (I am right) If you don’t want to end up with an emergency property tax increase around November or December of this year you would do well to make the call. You can reach him by e-mail at rrobertson@cityofmtjuliet.org or you can call him at 754-2552, Ext. 201

    Mr. Robertson,

    I have done about everything I know to do to get you to listen to me about the budget. I have met with you and the finance director, I have met with the city attorney, I have spoken to the city commissioners at two commission meetings, I have informed the papers, I have sent e-mail upon e-mail, I have left post-it notes stating the errors and what the correct numbers are in your budget workbook for the city finance director, and now I have actually sat down with Vice Mayor Hagerty and proven to him that your numbers are wrong (BTW, he saw the errors and acknowledged them.) I am telling you once again that your numbers are in error. They are not in error because I have a difference of opinion with you, they are in error because they mathematically don’t add up. They are in error because they don’t match audits. They are in error because they are simply wrong. Mr. Robertson, your numbers are wrong. They aren’t just a little wrong, they are wrong to the tune of $788,000 to more than $2.6 million. In fact, they are so wrong that if you based your projections for next year on the numbers you have stated in the budget workbook it is quite possible, and highly probable, that the city will run out of money in the next fiscal year. I am sending you this e-mail as my last gesture to get you to correct your numbers before I am forced to file an official complaint against you for misfeasance. I don’t want to do that to you, but if you don’t correct the errors I will be forced to file my complaint. Now, I want you to know that there is no doubt your numbers are wrong. That is easily proven. I will make this as easy as pie for you to begin to verify that I am right. If you take the totals of each of the five funds as stated in the budget workbook for April 30th of this year Mr. Robertson, and you add them together, the sum of those five fund total revenue numbers should equal the total revenue you state as overall general fund total revenues in the budget workbook. Mr. Robertson, you will find that your total as stated the general fund for that column is more than $788,000 more than the total of the five fund total revenue figures added together. You are wrong! Please stop ignoring me, I am trying to help make the budget right! This is only one of many errors Mr. Robertson. I am willing to come to your office and sit down with you and go through the spreadsheets with you and point out the errors one by one. Mr. Robertson, I am going by your numbers and finding that you are wrong. This isn’t conjecture on my part, it is simple math and basic reference exercises that I am doing. Your budget is egregiously in error and you don’t even realize it. The errors are not the fault of a previous city manager, and I can prove that statement true. The problems that exist in your budget are a product of your budget and your budget alone.

    There has been much ado about some error on the part of Rob Shearer, however, the budget audit proves otherwise, and I will be glad to show the evidence to you.

    There are so many errors in this budget that it is impossible to be sure that money hasn’t been stolen from the city. I aim to get to the bottom of what is going on even if I have to go to chancery court and seek an injunction. You stated that the auditors are here right now, give me five minutes with the auditor and you will see that I am right. In fact, just let me point out to you five simple numbers that you can add together on a calculator, numbers that you have provided to the commission, and then reference them to the total number you gave to the commission and you will see that I am right. If I can prove to you that your number in that column is wrong, then provide me the courtesy of allowing me to show you the rest of the errors that I have found. If I am wrong I will shut up and leave you alone. In fact, I will provide you with the five numbers here, so it is easy for you to add them together and see that I am right. You stated that the actual April 30, 2008 total revenue for local taxes came to 4,991,988.14, that the intergovernmental revenue for that same period was $1,943,736.91, that the charges for services total revenue came to $1,141,194.83, that the permits and licenses total for that period came to $718,809.76, and that the Miscellaneous revenues for 2/29/08 came to $65,295.00 (Why you used that date for miscellaneous revenues I don’t know, but that is what you did.) If you add those numbers together they come to at total of $8,861,024.64, Mr. Robertson, but you stated in the budget worksheet that those numbers add up to $9.649,832.73. Mr. Robertson, you missed by $788,808.09! You are saying that we brought in $788,808.09 more by april 30th of this year than the total of the five separate revenue funds add up to. That is a dangerous error when you are making projections for next year based on that error! Especially since we are projected to close out next year with only $1,000,000 in the general fund balance. Mr. Robertson, these are your numbers and your errors, and are not the product of some mistake made by a previous city manager. Please stop blaming other people for your mistakes.

    Mr. Robertson,
    Please don’t make me have to file an official complaint. The city attorney will have no choice but to tell the commission that I am right or he will be risking being in serious trouble with the american bar association. Mr. Robertson, I don’t think I am right, I know that I am right. If I wanted to cause you trouble I would have already filed my complaint, it is written, but I don’t want to have to file it.

    If you fail to correct the issues after having received this e-mail it will be evidence that you don’t care whether the numbers are right or not. I think you should be able to tell by now that I don’t give up, and it will be very embarrassing for you when you find out how out of whack your budget numbers in the workbook are and that you didn’t catch the errors, especially considering how many times I have told you that they are wrong and how I actually physically pointed to them with my finger and showed you the numbers are wrong! Mr. Robertson, I am going to send this e-mail to the paper and to Radiofreemj so that the world knows that I tried to do this without it going to an official complaint. I will call your office tomorrow to see if you are willing to meet with me for five minutes so that I can begin to show you the errors in your budget workbook. If you are willing to meet with me I will point out the errors, if you are not willing I will file my complaint. You will be forced to eventually face the fact that your numbers are wrong. I prefer to get you to acknowledge them without there being a formal complaint, but I assure you that I will file a complaint if I have to. I have a right to see the real numbers, accurate numbers, of the city finances; I have a right to be sure that nothing else has been stolen from the city. Your continued posture of ignoring me will end up being very embarrassing to you, Mr. Robertson.

    Feel free to call me to schedule an appointment if you would like. You have my number.

  7. Butch Huber

    Here is something to chew on, folks. You and I are subject to audits by the IRS at anytime. They can scrutinize your finances with a microscope. They can put you through sheer financial hell if they want. However, I am simply trying to get the city of Mt. Juliet to report their numbers accurately and I am having to make a federal case out of it!
    What are they hiding? What are they covering up? Could it be that they don’t want us to find out that they have been wasteful? Did someone walk off with a bunch of money?

    I am looking at some of the expenses that they have developed, along with some drastic increasing in spending, and trying to find out why they need so much money to run this government. We have doubled the budget, but we haven’t hardly increased the size of our government at all, so why are we spending so much money? I think I will dig in a little more.

    They doubled the debt, so they shouldn’t need funds from the general revenues to pay for roads.

    When you think of it, doesn’t all of this sound really strange?

    Like Mr. Franklin said, double income, double debt, spend down the general reserve, all in a matter of a year? What’s up with that?

  8. Butch Huber

    I want the public to know just how much I have done to try to get the real financial numbers from the city of Mt. Juliet. I know for a fact what has been reported is inaccurate, and it is important that the public be told the real numbers.

    So here is what I have done:

    I have sent several e-mails to the city manager, city finance director, city attorney, and city commissioners telling them that they have errors in their budget workbooks.

    I have gone to city hall and met with Ms. Vollet and Mr. Robertson to show them that their numbers are wrong.

    I have purchased copies of their budget workbook and budget ordinance so I have a copy to work from. (The numbers are grossly off)

    I have done extensive research on this matter.

    I have gone to city commission meetings and told Mr. Robertson, Ms. Vollett, Mr. Holleman, and each of the city commissioners that the numbers are wrong.

    I have gone to city hall and left post-it notes in a copy of the Budget Workbook for Ms. Vollet, and on those post-it notes I pointed out numbers that were wrong and what the numbers should be.

    I have pointed out some of the errors to the City Recorder, (Who used to be the finance director, and who was acting city manager for the city before Mr. Robertson took over). (I was hoping that she might be able to get someone’s attention.)

    I have met with Vice Mayor Ed Hagerty and proved to him that the numbers were wrong. (He didn’t deny what I was saying and he admitted that there is no way to get an accurate projection for this year’s budget if Mr. Robertson relied on the erroneous numbers stated in the budget workbook.)

    I sent out a last effort offer to the city manager before I filed an official complaint. I offered to come to city hall and sit down with him and go over the mistakes. I offered that if I were wrong on the April 30th, 2008 numbers I would go away and leave him alone. (He keeps saying the errors are the fault of the “prior administration”. April 30th is during “his” administration.) I got no response from Mr. Robertson.

    I filed an official complaint against Mr. Robertson. I included in my complaint, along with other issues, the fact that Mr. Robertson never even had an oath of office administered to Mr. Holleman before he allowed Mr. Holleman to enter into his duties. (Mr. Holleman stated that the reason for the oversight must be because he is the first “salaried” attorney of the city. Read the TCA…it says that the city attorney is to be paid a salary. Also read the rest of the law regarding the oath of office. You will find that he is required to take the oath regardless of whether he is salaried or not. The city attorney doesn’t know he is required to take an oath of office? The City Attorney is also a metro councilman, surely he should know that he is required to take an oath of office.), The oath of office for a city attorney is required by the State Constitution and is required by state law. I included this matter in my complaint to point out that Mr. Robertson is not paying attention to details and also so it isn’t so easy for Mr. Holleman to simply dismiss my complaint against Mr. Robertson. However, it is going to be difficult for Mr. Holleman to investigate Mr. Robertson for not administering the Oath of Office to Mr. Holleman. I can’t seem to file a complaint against anyone in this city without the city attorneys being involved with the matter I am complaining about. I wonder if this complaint will also be illegally dismissed like my last complaint was illegally dismissed?

    I sent an e-mail to the Governor of Tennessee, who responded back to me that the City Commission is the final authority that is responsible for ensuring that the budget is correct.

    I have made sure that a local paper has been aware of what I have been doing and that the numbers are off in the Budget Workbook.

    This isn’t just about the budget anymore, folks, this is about my right to be given accurate numbers regarding the financial state of this city. This is about dealing with obstinate public officials who refuse to do their duty to the public. Folks, your government, my government, is clearly falsely representing numbers to the public. Whether or not they are intentionally falsely reporting numbers is yet to be seen, but they are in fact falsely reporting numbers to you and to me. Anyone who would like to challenge me on this issue is welcome. I will gladly meet with you in the lobby of city hall and I will prove it to you.

    Now, the governor of this state is on record as having said that the city commission is responsible for dealing with this matter. If they don’t deal with the errors that I have been trying to point out to them they will in turn be derelict in their duties as well.

    Now, Ed Hagerty asked Mr. Robertson, the City Attorney, and the City Finance Director to address what I have been saying before he voted for the FY 08/09 budget. The city manager stood behind his numbers! It is going to be interesting to watch as this commission tries to defend Mr. Robertson. He is wrong, he is absolutely, positively, without a shadow of a doubt wrong about his numbers. He was given an opportunity by the Vice-Mayor of this city to come clean and admit that his numbers are wrong. Mr. Robertson refuses to accept that his numbers are wrong. However, Mr. Hagerty now knows that the numbers are in fact wrong!

    Now, I want to show the contrast between how this commission treats Mr. Robertson and how they treated Rob Shearer. If this were Rob, instead of Randy, they would listen to me. They would use this issue to run him out of office for cause. Well, they really wouldn’t, because Rob wouldn’t be so stubborn and obstinate! He probably wouldn’t have made the mistakes in the first place, but he surely wouldn’t be so stiff-necked when a citizen tried to point out the mistakes.

    Now, for those of you who are going to be voting in Ray Justice’s district this year. I want you to know how little understanding Mr. Justice has regarding budget numbers and their importance. He stated in a commission meeting, (as Ms. Vollet was pointing out things that I was right about concerning the 06/07 budget year)….”Good thing we aren’t voting on the 06/07 budget.” Folks, Mr. Robertson’s numbers for 06/07 are either wrong by as much as $2.6 million (Originally they were off by $4 million until Ms. Vollet changed the end of year number for that year. She had to post the actual for that year in the paper, so she tried to get that number right, but in spite of her effort, she still got it wrong! At least according to two audits anyway.) Mr. Justice does not understand what numbers are wrong or why, but he just passes off the fact that the numbers for that year are off by as much as $4 million at one point and says “Good thing we aren’t passing the o6/07 budget”! I guess it would be fine with Mr. Justice if someone walked off with $4 million dollars of taxpayer money less than one year ago as long as it doesn’t interfere with this year’s budget!

    For the record, I don’t think that someone has walked off with $4 million dollars, (Someone may have walked off with some money, but I don’t believe they walked off with $4 million) but Ray would never know it if they had because he doesn’t do the due diligence to ensure that the numbers presented to him are correct and he doesn’t study the numbers to determine if they make sense. If he did study the numbers he would be on my side of the issue. You see, if the numbers can be off as badly as they are, Mr. Robertson cannot have done a good job with this budget. It is impossible to make accurate projections using bad data. But that is exactly what Mr. Robertson has done here.

    Please remember this issue in November. One of the following facts must be true…either the commission as a body doesn’t care whether or not they get the budget right, or, they are complicit with Mr. Robertson in reporting incorrect numbers. I say that because a child could figure out some of the mistakes that they are ignoring! Mr. Justice can make snide remarks and sneery little comments, but the truth is he isn’t doing his job.

    The budget they passed is their budget. They Adopted it, now it is theirs. They like to try to smear Rob Shearer for some fictitious major error Rob made while he was city manager, but they adopted his budget, just like they Adopted Randy’s budget. They are the responsible party if the budget is wrong once they adopt it!

  9. Nathan Clariday

    Unfortunately, half the commission is ignorant, half have vested interest and one just doesn’t understand. I don’t know how they have any records; considering every other month they have a new finance director,lawyer, city manager, and police chief. Maybe these past years hasn’t been faulty employees but a faulty council. Nothing will change until we get a good city council that stabalizes the city.

  10. Butch Huber

    Nathan,

    I couldn’t have said it better.

  11. Butch Huber

    To the people running in Ed’s district and Ray’s district, please let me know what your e-mail is so that I can include you in the correspondence I am sending to the Commission and to others. I would hope that you would be concerned over the issues I am dealing with.

  12. Butch Huber

    If it sounds like a cover up, it looks like a cover up, and people act like it’s a cover up, is it a cover up? In most places I would say “yes”, but here in Mt. Juliet, you can’t be too sure.

    Yes, I know that money was stolen from the city recently, and I know that we have had several employee transitions in both the IT Departments and in the Finance Departments, (As well as others) and I know that the city had a hard time trying to figure out how much was stolen from the city, and I know that the city has had all kinds of shake-ups over the past year, but that doesn’t mean that there is a cover-up going on…But it doesn’t mean that there isn’t either.

    Remember that Ethics Ordinance the city commission recently passed? You know, the one where they give themselves a thirty day statute of limitations? That’s right, I said thirty day statute of limitations! Remember that one? If you don’t remember, or in case you hadn’t tuned in yet, the city commission passed an ordinance that basically says that unless you see one of the commissioners or the city manager commit an ethics violation with your own eyes, or hear the violation with your own ears, you can’t file a complaint! And if you do see or hear the ethics violation yourself, or if you figure it out on your own by looking at evidence (Like examining the city finances), you have to file your complaint within thirty days of observing or discovering the violation, or thirty days from when you should have discovered the violation, or you cannot file an ethics complaint! Boy, the term “Within thirty days of when you “””should””” have discovered the violation” is coming home to roost. You see, I have discovered that there are serious “irregularities” (Major “mistakes”) in the city budget workbook (City finances) and on the budget ordinance, but as of yet I can’t determine if someone has actually stolen money, tried to cover up something, or if there is just a serious problem with the financial software (Excel) and/or the people using it. Now, here is where the problem comes in, if I don’t now continue to press on with my pursuit of the truth, this commission could later come back and say “Well, you should have discovered the violation back in June or early July, now that it is September you are outside your thirty day window, so you can’t file an ethics complaint.” I know, you might not believe that this commission would illegally or immorally dismiss a citizen’s complaint, but I just can’t risk it. I am not saying that there is any evidence that someone has stolen any more money or has been trying to cover up anything, but they certainly are doing as much as they can to keep me from uncovering something and/or proving them wrong.

    Let me ask you something, if someone who had a copy of your finances told you that your checkbook register or your financial accounting records were off by an amount equal to as much as 40% of your annual revenues, wouldn’t you at least look at what they just told you? The city didn’t! In fact, they went back and corrected one of five incorrect columns in their budget workbook because they had to post that number in the paper (They still got it wrong!), but they let the other mistakes remain in the Budget workbook and on the budget ordinance! Doesn’t that sound strange to you? It certainly sounds strange to me. Why would they do that? Would you ignore it if someone told you your personal financial statements were drastically inaccurate?

    BTW, It has been said before, but it is worth repeating, we have had a record year of revenues, a record year of debt, and we have the lowest fund balance (rainy day money) that the city has had in about a decade, but the number of employees hasn’t drastically increased, nor has the normal operating costs (Except one item I am checking on, and it sticks out like a sore thumb)! What on earth is increasing the cost of doing business in this city? Could it be “Budget creep”, meaning we are increasing a little here and a little there because the city has a little more money to spend, but those little increases are adding up to big increases overall? Or could someone have made a major error, or indiscretion, and the government doesn’t want us to find out about it? Or could it be that someone has stolen a lot of money from the city?

    I know that a lot of people might say: “do you know how hard it would be for someone to steal from the city?”, but I will say back to them…”it just happened!” Some might say, “For most of the city’s financial accounts, it would take more than one person to steal money from them”, to which I reply, “Like that couldn’t happen”?

    Five commissioners sit on the board of commissioners, shouldn’t we have heard at least one of them step up and say “you know, much as I hate to admit it, Butch is right, there are errors in the budget workbook and budget ordinance”! (Spitting the taste out of their mouth. Wiping the last drop of disgust off their lips. Face drawn up like they just sucked on a lemon. Shuddering at the thought!)

    I mean, think about it, either I am going to really look silly when the truth comes out and it turns out that I have been wrong, “or” there are five commissioners who are going to be hating it when it is proven to the public that I am right and that they all ignored me. (I am right, I just threw the possibility that I might be wrong in there to give the liberals hope.)

    Doesn’t all of this sound like “Catch me if you can”? It does to me!

    I put in a public records information request last Thursday asking for a CD of the financial information contained in the 06/07, 07/08, and 08/09 budgets and projected budget. (I want the information on a disk so that I can look at the formulas to figure out what is messed up, fix it, plug in the correct numbers where they belong and produce an accurate budget workbook. Then, if money has been stolen or is missing, or if there is a major financial blunder somewhere, I will be able to figure out what happened, how much was taken or how much it has cost us, and from which account was money stolen or where the financial sucking chest wound is…I hope.) I didn’t get the records on Thursday, I didn’t get them on Friday, I called the city today to find out how the effort to get me the information is coming and was told that the finance director is having a hard time figuring out how to provide me with the information I am looking for. Seems to me like a simple request, they had to compile all of that information in order to develop the budget workbooks and the budget ordinance for FY08/09, I mean, how else could they project the next budget unless they had the historical data together in one place, and they had to produce the budget workbook and the budget ordinance, so why is it so hard to copy it to disk? I believe that everything I am asking for could be copied to disk in less than 10 minutes, so why such a long delay? The information that I am asking for is supposed to be available for me to look at anytime, and on any day, that the city is open for regular business. The information that I am looking for could contain the answers to the question “why is the budget all messed up and who messed it up”? (Is that two questions?)

    Now, I know that it is hard to believe that someone might actually steal money from the city, then go back into the financial records and try to cover up what they stole by changing numbers around, (But not really know how the program created the final numbers; which would cause the problems that I am seeing), and I know that it is hard to believe that at the same time the city manager, city finance director, city attorney, and five commissioners all decided not to look into the mistakes that I brought to their attention, but let’s pretend that all of that happened, and that it turned out someone or someone’s on the commission and/or the city manager tried to actually cover up a theft, or perhaps they were just covering for someone who wrote a check for too much money to a vendor or supplier, or perhaps they were covering up for some other blunder. In my imaginary scenario, I have a very real deadline of thirty days to file an ethics complaint, starting from the date that I “””should””” have discovered that something was amiss, or I can’t file an ethics complaint!

    Now is it easier to see why I filed a complaint against the city manager? Now is it easier to see why it is so important to quickly get the numbers from the city so that I can figure out what is going on? Now do you understand why I am growing more and more suspicious with each passing day?

    I am hoping that it this is all nothing more than a case of incompetence mixed with obstinate and stubborn mindsets, but how will I know unless the correct numbers are discovered?

  13. Joe Fleenor

    Butch, when you make these complaints or when you approach the commission at the meetings and make these allegations, do you ever get responses from them? Do they ever try to defend themselves by giving factual evidence? Do they ever respond at all?

    I want to hear their point of view on all the allegations you point out. I don’t care if they don’t like you or if they think you’re way off base, they should still respond and let the citizens hear what they have to say.

    As an outsider, all I am hearing is what you have to say. If I were to be a true “outsider” – meaning I’m new to MJ or new to caring about how our city is running things – and I were to read what you’re saying I would be discouraged because it’s all so negative and nobody is defending themselves. And if they are defending themselves, they’re not doing it properly. I have yet to hear one of them defend themselves.

  14. Butch Huber

    Joe,

    First let me say, contrary to what you may be seeing right now, I am actually a very upbeat, positive, optimistic, and caring person.

    I am trying to hold these folks accountable for what they have done, and what they are doing. I would like to actually debate them on the issues, bring the truth out into the light of day for all to see, pull back the curtains and see what is really going on in our government. You have to admit, it doesn’t look very good right now, does it? They seem to me to be hiding something.

    They won’t debate me on the issues, or even respond to what I say, because they know what I am saying is true. Joe, there really are errors of substantial magnitude in the city’s finances. I cannot tell you if those errors are actually “errors” or an attempt on someone’s part to cover up a major blunder or theft.

    Joe, the answer to your question is, “They ignore me”. Ignoring me is their only real defense. It actually works to a degree. They ignore whatever I say because they know that there isn’t a law enforcement or governmental agency that is willing to actually hold them accountable for what they do. So, if they ignore me, they will take a political beating on this site and elsewhere, but they don’t have to worry about prosecution or investigation. At least for awhile.

    Joe, what I am doing isn’t in vain though. I took the commission to task for talking to one another behind the scenes in violation of the public meetings law. The commissioners whined that they had to talk behind the scenes because they needed two sponsors in order to propose an ordinance or resolution. Later, after I went after them again and again in public, they passed an ordinance or resolution that made it permissible for one commissioner to sponsor an ordinance or resolution, thereby negating the excuse for breaking the open meetings laws. (they appear to still be breaking that law though.) Another issue that I was beating them up over was the oath of office. They had the wrong wording in their oath of office. My recent check proved that they had finally corrected the wording on the oath. (Although the city manager neglected to actually have the oath of office administered to the city attorney!)

    I did get at least one thing accomplished so far regarding the FY 08/09 budget. I brought to their attention that at the end of FY 07/08, the $185,00+ debt service fund was not re-appropriated back into the debt service fund, but rather was left in the General Fund. However, the money that was left over was in fact encumbered money, technically “Impact Fees”, which cannot be used for anything but roads. (There is some disagreement about whether the money can be spent on roads and parks or just roads. However, the act that allows Mt. Juliet to assess impact fees rules out the option of spending impact fees on anything but roads. I was told that the codification manual for the city says “roads and parks”, but if it does, I believe we will find out that the codification manual is wrong.) The city did accept that I was right about the need to re-appropriate the money, but you would have really had to be listening closely in the last commission meeting to hear them admit that I was in fact correct. (If they actually give me credit they build my credibility for all of the other things that I am saying as well.)

    These may seem like small victories or accomplishments, however, when you contrast those accomplishments against the sheer obstinate and stubborn attitudes of some of the people I am dealing with, the accomplishments provide proof that what I am saying, at least in part, is factual.

    Joe, there is tremendous hope on the Horizon for the city of Mt. Juliet. There is an election coming in November. I am confident that there will be some fresh faces on that commission soon. I am hopeful that the new commission is one that has an actual concern for following the law. I hope to see some type of committee formed to investigate the issues that I and others have raised over the past couple years and return their findings to the commission for them to decide how to handle the matters appropriately. People have been harmed as a result of one or more of the elected, and perhaps other, officials of this city. The public deserves the truth….I deserve the truth.

    This commission has voted down not one, but at least two formal complaints against its members.

    They voted down Kevin Mack’s ethics complaint against the Mayor. Unfortunately, the husband of Kathy Reitz, made it seem as if the nature of a call between himself and Kevin Mack was different than what Kevin interpreted it to be, and the commission refused to look into the matter. However, I later got a phone call from Mr. Reitz, and during that call he stated to me that not only was Kevin Mack right on track with his complaint, but that Mayor Elam told his wife not only how to write her complaint against Hatton Wright, but “what” to write!

    Joe, this kind of thing needs to be investigated to the fullest. I would swear in a court of law to everything that I have said. I will sit and reason or debate with anyone on the issues that I bring forward. I will produce whatever evidence is available for anyone’s observance. I have nothing to hide in all of this. But they do, Joe, they do. And that is why they won’t deal with the issues, because of the Skeletons in the closet. If they start earnestly debating or discussing the issues based on facts and evidence their house of cards will come tumbling down.

    I am not saying that I am “right” about everything I say or suspect…I am saying what I “believe” to be correct about everything I am saying or suspect. Unless I am able to get the whole truth in these matters it will be difficult or impossible to determine what is correct and what is incorrect.

    You aren’t likely to actually hear any of them defend themselves because I am telling you the truth.

  15. Joe Fleenor

    I like the idea of a debate. What if we could get something like this organized, would you do it?

  16. Butch Huber

    Joe, I would be glad to debate the issues. Good luck getting them to sit down for one though.

    I will tell you, and anyone checking in, that I did get a phone call from the city manager around 4:45 today. He admitted that I was right about the numbers being wrong. He also admitted that the city attorney didn’t have an oath of office, and I believe that he said that the situation had been remedied. I will be going to city hall tomorrow to submit a revised records request, and hopefully the errors in the budget workbook will have been corrected.

    I will be retracting my complaint against the city manager. I didn’t want to file it in the first place, but it seemed as though that was the only thing I had left that I could do to force the issue. Mr. Robertson stated that he had asked the finance director to call me last wednesday and let me know that they figured out that I was right, but I never got that call.

    There is a lot more to write about, but in the end, it looks like I will be able to see the real numbers….we’ll see.

  17. Bobby Franklin

    On June 20, 2008 Governor Bredesen signed an update to the Tennessee open records law requiring municipalities to respond to open records requests within seven days. That new law went into effect July 1, 2008 – today!

    I find it highly coincidental that the City of Mt. Juliet has just now responded to Mr. Huber’s record request. Unfortunately the city has still not delivered those requested records. Mr. Huber has been asking for budget spreadsheets a long time.

    I worked for the City nearly seven years and know that the Excel spreadsheet files Mr. Huber has asked for could have been emailed to him within 5 minutes of his request.

    Using a computer mouse you just right click the Excel file and a click “send to”, click “mail recipient” and enter Mr. Huber’s email address and click “send”. Repeat this process for each file request. Done in 5 minutes.

    Surely there is that much expertise left at city hall.

  18. Butch Huber

    I finally received the CD with the budget numbers on it today. It took me about three minutes to figure out most of the problems that I was screaming about. All they had to do is look at the formulas and they would have been able to correct the problem. Rather than fix the problem and put my mind at ease, they ignored me and acted as if the problem was with the previous administrations numbers. They messed up the summing formulas, which threw off the numbers in the budget worksheets. Turns out that the problem was not with the “Prior Administration”, but was with the “Current Administration”. I will be working on getting the truth posted soon.

  19. Brent Dyer

    my email is:

    mbdyer@tds.net

    thanks,

    Brent Dyer

  20. Butch Huber

    Remember the saying, “watch your pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves”? The problem we deal with in government is the pennies. Each branch, each department, each office needs to watch their pennies in order to reduce and limit overall spending. A little more efficiency here, a little cut in spending there, and before you know it you have whittled down the cost of doing business quite a bit. However, the opposite is true as well. Most people, when they are put in positions of power and responsibility, tend to have a desire to build on, add to, and increase the scope of that position. They find more and more things that “need” to be done. In turn, you need more and more people to do what “needs” done. Before you know it your budget needs have doubled before your revenues have doubled and you are in trouble.

    This government has seen a doubling of its income over the past several years, yet we have spent down the reserve fund drastically. That, my friends, is the sign of a spending problem. We haven’t doubled the number of people working for the government. We haven’t added a lot of new buildings. Roads have already been budgeted for and funded from what I can tell. So, where is all the money going? They can’t blame the pay raise the city gave the employees a couple years ago because they have essentially erased that completely. So, what is happening with all that money? This commission missed the fact that 5 of 7 very important numbers in the budget workbook were off by millions of dollars, with one mistake being nearly half the budget for that year, so do you think they really look at the numbers? Sadly, the answer is “no”, they don’t investigate the numbers. No good business person would run a business that way. They should have caught that themselves, but instead, they fought me tooth and nail to discredit me when I brought it to their attention! They wanted me to be wrong so badly that they were willing to ignore what was right there staring them in the face! Turned out I was right and they were wrong! Folks, you have to ask yourself, is this the commission I want running things? A commission that missed a $4,000,000+ error? Can you trust a commission like that in such difficult financial times? Do you really want to have an increase in your taxes? Vote Linda or Ray back in office and I believe that is exactly what you are going to get, and increase in taxes. Vote for Bradshaw for Mayor and you can almost guarantee an increase in taxes, not because he favors a property tax, but because he will leave a hole where he now sits that will have to be filled by appointment, which could very easily be a tax and spend liberal, and because Bradshaw doesn’t know how to lead. Marlowe really seems to be from the tax and spend crowd as well, I can’t help but believe he is going to lead us to a property tax.

    Not only have we increased the revenue, but we have added $10,000,000+ in debt. While Rob Shearer was in office we enjoyed surplus budgets every year with half the current income, now, we see our reserve fund shrinking at an alarming rate. The person you have to thank for that is none other than Linda Elam. She, in what appears to me to have been a fit of rage, gutted this city of a team of leaders that was guiding this city through phenomenal growth while delivering surplus budgets!

    Please don’t forget, she was also the one who was trying to foist a $20,000,000 aquatics center on this city. $20,000,000!

    On this site you can read of many, many things that Mayor Elam has done to harm this city, not only in terms of direct financial harm, but also through indirect financial harm as well.

    She has a nasty habit of twisting the arm of developers (those she isn’t working for anyway) and stripping land from their projects, not to pay for increases in costs to the city brought on by the project, (the commission requires the developer to upgrade roads and intersections as a part of their project), but because she can’t help herself. She prides herself on hammering on developers.

    Let me help those who don’t know the score of how things get paid for in Mt. Juliet…we need businesses in order to pay our bills. We largely pay for the costs of running our government through sales tax receipts. Businesses means sales and sales mean new taxes. If you make a habit out of ripping off developers they won’t come here. If developers don’t come here, businesses won’t come here. If businesses don’t come here you and I end up spending money elsewhere. If we spend our money elsewhere, eventually, we will pay a property tax to offset the loss of sales tax income. You see, Mt. Juliet is likely to continue to grow residentially over the years, but if it doesn’t grow businesses at the same time there will eventually be a differential between the monetary needs of the city and the actual revenues brought in through sales taxes (sales taxes are not the only revenues that fund the city coffers, there are other taxes revenues as well, but a large portion of the city tax revenues come from businesses).

    Now, unlike some of my friends, I am not 100% against property taxes, but I am 0% “for” property taxes. I think we need to turn over every rock to find ways to avoid a property tax, but at the same time, I am certainly open to the possibility that at some point a property tax might make good financial sense and that it might at some point give a bigger return to the citizens than the investment itself. But I don’t believe that time is now. What you have in Mt. Juliet right now is a city that is experiencing the residual benefit of a boom in business in Mt. Juliet. That boom has made it possible for us to maintain our city without the need of a property tax. That boom will continue to make it possible for us to operate without a property tax if they watch their pennies.

    Let’s examine where that boom came from. Kevin Mack. I could leave it right there at “Kevin Mack” as far as a lot of people who have lived in Mt. Juliet for awhile are concerned, they know its true because they saw it with their own eyes. But for those who are new to this city, I will elaborate a bit. Before Kevin, builders didn’t want to come to Mt. Juliet. Everyone seemed to have had their hands out looking to get paid, there were backroom deals going on, and Mt. Juliet was anything but a “Business Friendly” city. Kevin got in office, threw out the welcome mat, convinced the development community that we were not going to rape them when they tried to do business here, and the rest is history…a $500,000,000 history. What I mean is that over the next few years this city had more than $500,000,000 invested here in development. Almost everything you see going on in this city is a result of what Kevin did for us years ago.

    You might say, “that’s not fair, he has been out of office for 4 years and you are trying to say that what is going on now is because of him”? You might also say “the mayor of Mt. Juliet is only one of five votes, how could he alone have had such an impact”? The answer, whether or not you want to accept it, is “yes, the growth is because of Kevin”. and “influence”. You have to know how things get done in order to understand that. Roads and major developments typically don’t happen overnight, they take years to complete. The fact that Kevin was able to accelerate the growth in this city so quickly was what was so remarkable. When you know how things get done, the fact that the growth currently going on being a result of Kevin’s effort isn’t so hard to believe.

    However, all of that brings me to another point. Folks, this commission, under Linda’s leadership, has done very little at all to plan for the next 4 to 8 years. She put all of her political eggs in the $20,000,000 aquatics center basket and her eggs all got broken. Now, she is left with nothing but a basketful of “yuk”. Between her misconduct and mishandling of her office, she has made a major mess of things. She lacks the vision to lead us through the next 4 years and she lacks the skill to get us there. Four more years of an Elam administration will spell nothing more than four more years of nothing.

    We need to get this city back on track for healthy and responsible growth, the best way to get there is with Kevin Mack. He knows how to do the job, he has proven that he can do the job, and he is willing to come back and go to work for us once again…we would be lucky to have him.

  21. Butch Huber

    In an effort to ensure that the next administration isn’t blamed for what is about to happen to the city’s finances (unless Linda and Ray happen to be re-elected), I am making a record of sorts here in Radiofree that we can come back to for evidence to protect the next commission.

    Please read this post and remember it in the months to come as it could be very, very important.

    In May of this year I became very involved in the budget. I asked for the budget workbook, which is a workbook that lays out for the commissioners the projected incomes at the beginning of the budget cycles in 2006-2007, 2007-2008, and 2008-2009. The budget workbook also includes actual income up to a date certain such as February, March, or April of each of the fiscal years including 2006-2007 and 2007-2008, the actual revenue taken in at the end of the 2006-2007 fiscal year, and the projected year end revenue for 2007-2008.
    The budget workbook also includes worksheets that outline where Mr. Robertson proposes to spend our money in 2009. The workbook is used to develop a budget ordinance. Once adopted, the budget ordinance is a hard budget that can only be altered by ordinance.

    Now, at the end of the year, the remaining balance (income over expenses) is called the reserve balance. The reserve balance is the amount of money that the city has after all of it’s expenses are paid for that fiscal year. Actually, it is the amount of money remaining in the “General fund”, not the actual amount of money remaining total. It is the money that is available in the general fund, the reserve balance, that is appropriated (added) to the next fiscal year’s budget projections. This money should not be counted as a continual source of revenue to pay recurring bills, though, because it isn’t recurring income, it is “one time” money.

    Now, the reserve balance is not a done deal on June 30th, the last day of the fiscal year, because there are lingering bills that come due over the next 30,60,90, or 120 days that are actually part of the previous year’s budget expenses.

    In Mr. Robertson’s budget for 2008-2009 he projected a $1.4 million dollar reserve balance at the beginning of the year, meaning he felt he would have $1.4 million in the general fund to start the new fiscal year off. Now, he is projecting a $1.8 million reserve balance (although he is hedging his bet saying that there are still bills from last year that need to be paid) will be more likely for the beginning of FY09. I take that as him saying that there will be an additional $400,000 more in this year’s budget ($1.8M-$1.4M=$400K) than he first anticipated. (I tried to tell them this to begin with, but they don’t listen)

    He originally projected a reserve balance for the end of fiscal year 2008-2009 (that’s next June 30th) of $1,050,000. This additional $400,000 should have increased his reserve balance to $1,450,000 (His projected $1,050,00 and the additional $400,000). However, his adjusted reserve balance has now gone down to $750,000 (according to the first quarter financial report anyway), or roughly $700,000 less than it should be based on his original numbers plus the extra $400,000 from last year.

    Now, when Randy Robertson developed his original budget for this year, he said he didn’t include revenue from Walmart, Lowes, and other big retailers that would open up during this fiscal year when he developed his budget. I have question about that, but so far that is the story he is sticking to.

    The city was fortunate in that it acquired $600,000 in one time money from some land swap deal down at the interchange or instead of there being a projected $750,000 in the reserve balance at year’s end there would only be $150,000. (You will learn later that $150,000 would have also been unrealistic as well.)

    When Randy came out with this budget, I broke down the expenses on a monthly basis. I also developed a realistic projected revenue model. Then, I overlaid the two projections. I wanted to see if there would be a time when we would run out of money before we ran out of month (An unbalanced budget). It turned out that it was likely that we would run out of money before we ran out of month around November or December of this year. Then, I was advised by my associates that I missed a thing or two in my projections. I readjusted my model to incorporate the new information. After readjustment it turned out that without significant revenues from Big Boxes such as Lowes and Walmart coming on line in January, or February at the latest, we would likely run out of money before we ran out of month by the end of March or April. (In case you haven’t figured this out yet, if the city runs out of money before it runs out of month, we are in the red, which means they will have to raise property taxes to offset the shortfall…it will be too late by then to cut expenses in order to remain balanced. Sure, they can still cut back, but the proverbial crack in the dam will already have occurred.)

    Remember, one of the things that is keeping us out of the red right now is one time money of $600K. And then there is the additional $400 at FY08 year end. In other words, if spending remained as Mr. Robertson has it right now, but we didn’t have the $400,000 bump from last year or the $600,000 from the land swap deal, we would be swimming in a pool of red ink right now.

    Mr. Robertson has over projected revenues from hotel/motel taxes for this year by about $150,000. I believe with everything in me that he did that to protect Ray Justice and this YMCA deal. They are trying the best they can to make us think that this deal with the YMCA isn’t costing us anything. They are saying that the Hotel/Motel Tax will pay for all of it, when in fact it won’t pay for half of it this year. If you reduce the $150,000 and the $400,000 and the $600,000 from the budget, you can clearly see how Mr. Robertson is seriously overspending in his current budget.

    Mr. Robertson has now taken things off his agenda because the city simply doesn’t have enough money to complete them. Granted, the commission has added items to his list-of-things-to-do, but if his projections were correct, and considering that he has had an extra $400,000 added to this year’s budget, you would think he would be able to accomplish them.

    Randy is still basing his projections for this year on figures that came in before the severe downturn in the economy. Sales tax receipts are up for the last quarter, but I can’t tell for sure if they are up as much as Randy projected or not because I simply don’t have the newest numbers…the iron curtain has fallen over Mt. Juliet. Sales will have to climb quite a bit to meet his year end revenue projections though, and that is what is unlikely given the current state of the economy. I advised the commission before they approved Randy’s budget that all it would take is a slip in the economy and we would be in a sea of red ink. They ignored everything I said. Who am I, except the guy that proved to them that the city manager’s budget was off by millions, that they had not re-appropriated monies to the proper fund regarding impact fees, the guy who showed them the reason for their wrong numbers, and the guy who pointed out to them that they were reporting projected numbers for the end of the last fiscal year that were less than they had actually received earlier in the year, why should they listen to anything I had to say?

    So why am I telling you all of this? Because, if I haven’t missed my guess, it is possible, if not probable, that we are going to see our reserve fund disappear soon, if it isn’t already gone, and we won’t have enough money to pay our bills as a city.

    The incoming Mayor and the next commission are going to likely be faced with one of three options, pull money from the capital improvement fund and put it in the general fund, which would mean that even less is accomplished over the next year or two (if it is possible for them to even pull those funds), reduce spending drastically now to avert a major problem in a few months, or increase property taxes to cover the shortfall. Our job is to decide who is most likely to make the “right” choices regarding what to do if I am correct in my projections. (I have been right 100% of the time regarding this matter so far {I have had high quality advisors}, if past results are a predictor of future results, I would bet that I am right {again, very high quality advisors}. Besides, Randy’s actions are speaking louder than my words…it was him who pulled things from his agenda, not me. What he does speaks so loudly that what he says I cannot hear!)

    A vote for Elam or Justice or Bradshaw will be more of the same….obstinance and bullheadedness. Who knows what Marlowe will do or if he will even get this at all. Brydalski is a businessman, he may get this. I really think that Floyd will get it. I know that Mack gets it.

    Tough choices will have to be made in the next few months if the economy stays in the tank no matter who is in office here in Mt. Juliet. The trick will be whether we act as though nothing has changed, refuse to face the facts regarding the current budget, and continue to increase and increase spending at a rate that is faster than income, or will we put someone in office who will work hard to rein in spending and curb waste?

    No matter what you may think about Mack, during his term in office as Mayor he and his administration were able to substantially increase the reserve balance each year, transfer tremendous amounts of money to the capital improvement fund, and at the same time they were able to acquire tremendous amounts of right’s-of-way and pushed forward many projects, built out the widening of Mt. Juliet road, and they did it with about half the current budget. Please consider Mack tomorrow…it could mean a lot of money being left in your pocket rather than being wasted by Randy Robertson and this commission.

    Also, please consider that D1 commissioner Ray Justice is trying as hard as he can to spend $2,000,000 so he can give the YMCA a nice Christmas gift this year. Folks, those $2,000,000 could, and probably will, come in very handy over the next couple years.

    Please remember that it was Linda Elam that caused all of this issue with the YMCA deal in the first place. Remember, she wanted to make it a $20,000,000 project, not a $2,000,000 project.

    If you are thinking that Bradshaw has the skills to lead this city through the next four years you might want to think again. He may have the mental acuity to keep this city from spending more than it should on certain projects, but he doesn’t have the skill it takes to move this city forward while still keeping costs low….Mack does, and he as proven it.

  22. Butch Huber

    The message that I am trying to convey in my last post here is that Linda, Ray, Ed, Jim, and Will, as well as Randy, the Finance Director, and the city attorney have all allowed this city to enter into an area where we could quite possibly have an unbalanced budget and end up spending down our reserve balance and enter red ink. If Ray and Linda are returned to the commission and it turns out that I am right, then they are all to blame even though it will be a new commission per se. However, I want to make it clear that Mack and Floyd will not have any responsibility for what this commission has caused. (I know, I am being a little presumptive here regarding Mack and Floyd, but I guy can be positive if he wants, right?)

    What I am telling you is if you end up having to pay a property tax to keep the city out of hot water, remember it was Linda, Ray, Ed, Will, Jim, and Randy who put us there….Mack had us in very good shape when he left office, as did Rob. They don’t have an income problem, they have a spending problem…only they haven’t a clue how to change it or where it is coming from. That is what happens when you gut the city of its brightest people. Thanks a hell of a lot, Linda!

  23. betty boop

    We are forgetting the $1,500,000 + in law suits coming this next year. Going to Federal court not local court.
    I think they are trying to burn the money before it happens.

  24. A MJ Friend

    As a “insider” for the city – I have a couple comments:

    1. I never thought i would admit it – but I have come to realize that I appreciate what Butch is doing, and I have learned to trust him and his research. he is more informed than many realize and much more than the commission is willing to admit. And for the record – I voted for Mac on Butches recommendation.

    2. Linda – is a lawyer first, a Mayor second. She had proven herself to be slippery at best. She did many things wrong, and stepped outside her authority many times. I pray we have a change in the figuritive leader tonight.

    3. City hall had no limitations or audits on spending. You can spend everything in your budget, and many times more than your budget allowed simply by a slight of hand in moving funds from one budgetted account to another, or by misreporting what the items were for. There needs to be someone who actually oversees the spending and approves every expenditure. This city has wasted a large sum of money making city hall pretty, catering to the YMCA, when it needed to focus funds on roads, services, bringing in business, and (I think Butch and I will disagree) the community center.
    The YMCA is a bad idea. I pray it goes away. I might have to run for commission next time just to get the good ole’ boys out and add some new perspective… Our commission needs to ask us what we want, and then act on our best interest… not their own.
    While Butch is overly long winded – I do trust his research and know he has great insight into what is going on in the city. I know that there are facts he isn’t aware of, but it’s because of one of two reasons:
    1. The city cannot legally release some information due to upcoming litigation (I don’t believe that to be true however);
    Or…
    2. The City representation is outright bluffing. They are lying to the public in hopes the mess will settle adn they will not have to admit fault.

    Good luck mac. If you do win – I hope you can fix this mess.

  25. Butch Huber

    Folks, I encourage you to go back and read, or re-read, my posts concerning the budget for this year as they contain some very interesting facts, figures and projections.

    If you read those posts you will see that I projected that we would be in a fiscal crisis by the end of this fiscal budget year. Mr. Robertson submitted a budget to the city commission that I urged the commission to trim. I cautioned them that any slip in the economy or slight error could cause us to be in a position where we have an unbalanced budget.

    If you read my posts above you will see that the city manager projected, after the approval of the budget, that there would be 1.8 million dollars in the reserve balance at the end of FY 07/08 instead of the previously projected $1.4 million that was included in his budget. That means that the city should have had $400K more to work with than what Mr. Robertson had projected in his budget. In addition to that $400k there was a land swap deal that was to benefit the city by another $600K. Add those two items together and you have $1,000,000 more in the general fund than what Mr. Robertson used as the basis for his budget proposal. Remember what has been posted in the papers lately? The city manager says that the city has about $900k in the general fund! The budget ordinance projected that the city would have $1,059,692 remaining at the end of the current fiscal year, meaning that Mr. Robertson projected, that after spending all the money he was planning to spend this year, and after all the money he was projecting would come in this year, he would end the year with $1,059,692 remaining in the bank at the end of this fiscal year, which is June 30, 2009. His year end projection was “BEFORE” the $600k from the land swap deal and “BEFORE” he realized that the city would start the year with $1.8 million in the general fund instead of the $1.4 he was basing his budget on. What that means, is that the city really should end the year with at least $2.059,692. We have already received, I believe, the big influx of capital to the city from Christmas sales tax collections, which means that there isn’t likely to be any major new revenues rushing in to increase our general fund balance. Now, they can’t say that the reason our revenues are so low is because of sales taxes being down, because the city’s sales taxes are up, and up considerably from what I can tell, over last year’s numbers.
    Mr Robertson is on record for having said that he was being conservative on his income projections for this year, even going as far as to denigrate the previous administration for having projected revenues too liberally.

    I have to wonder what has happened to all the money? The city manager cannot spend money that has not been appropriated or he is breaking the law. He had a set budget to work from, and based on his numbers, we should have a pretty sizable general fund right now. Considering that there have been more sales tax revenues than he projected he can’t blame the difference between what should be available and what is available in the general fund. So where’s the money? Something isn’t adding up to me.

    I do remember that they passed a budget appropriation at some point during this year, but I am certain that it wasn’t to the tune of $1.3 million, which is what the number would have to be in order to cover the difference between what we should have in the general fund and what we actually have in the general fund.

    But it gets worse. The $900K that is stated to be in the general fund will almost for sure have to be spent during the next four months to cover the difference between the city’s bills during those months and what the city takes in in taxes during those months. From what I understand, the city’s receipts during March, April, May and June are not as high as they are in other months, which increases the likelihood that the general fund will be spent down to next to nothing (or worse) over the next four months. If the city ends this year with a zero general fund balance they will need to explain why we are sitting with $2,059,692 less than what we should be sitting at based on Mr. Robertson’s numbers.

    Where has all the money gone?

    Perhaps this year, when they are working on the budget, they will pay more attention to me when I tell them they need to pay close attention to what they are doing…but I digress, they will once again ignore me.

    Folks, we will have a property tax in next year’s budget. I want you to understand why you will be paying a property tax. You will be paying a property tax because Linda Elam illegally pushed Rob Shearer out of office and because Bobby Franklin was fired in retaliation. Rob was incredible with making the budget work, and he and Bobby were both awesome at getting the city money and at saving the city money. Because of Linda’s ego and her hunger for power she has cost this city more money than I know how to quantify at this point, but it appears that $2,059,692 + $75,000 (to pay for Bobby Franklin’s lawsuit) is a good place to start.

  26. Bettie Boop

    The new tax assessor rumored an audit coming for the city. Would this help get to the bottom of this?

  27. Butch Huber

    Perhaps the auditor would help get to the bottom of all of this if the auditor was actually ensuring that the city is operating its budget by law and by ordinance, however, if the auditor is simply looking to find out if the numbers all add up an audit probably wouldn’t really help much.

  28. Butch Huber

    I watched the commission meeting tonight. It appeared to me that the Mayor was trying to get the commission to pass a resolution to spend money from the general fund without a budget amendment ordinance. I may have missed something, but that is exactly what it looked like she was doing from my vantage point. Oddly, when it became apparent that Ed Hagerty and Jim Bradshaw were not going to go along with her, she told them that they were under crunch time (meaning that they were under the gun because there is an April 1 bond payment due) and she said that if they have to pass a budget amendment it would have to be approved in two regular commission meetings. So, if she knew that, then why was she trying to get them to spend money in a resolution? I don’t get it.

    Ed Hagerty reminded the commission that they are not under any gun or crunch time because they passed an ordinance directing the city manager to obtain a loan of three-hundred thousand dollars to pay the bond payment, therefore they had another 90 days. Then Jim Bradshaw reminded them that the $300,000 was enough to pay two payments, which I believe gives the commission a 6 month window. Six months should be ample time for the city to find a proper solution to the problem they are up against. The mayor was trying to get the commission to pass a funding authorization for a company that hasn’t even given the commission a price for their services! Good job Ed Hagerty and Jim Bradshaw for reeling Linda in and stopping her from ramming through what I believe would have been an illegal funding measure and what certainly was premature.

    It appeared that the commission was trying to blame this mess on the city manager that was in place in 2001, (what else is new), however, it isn’t the city manager’s fault, it was the commissions fault. The city manager can make recommendations, but he cannot pass a budget amendment ordinance, only the commission can do that. The commission is ultimately responsible for the votes that are taken. If they don’t do the due diligence to find the right answers that is their fault. I for one suspect that the conditions of the bonds that the city is having problems with were very good when the bond was obtained.

    From what I can tell, the way the bonds were set up in the beginning isn’t the problem. From what I can tell, and I could be wrong, there is something wrong with the insurance company or banks involved in the bond, and since there is a problem with the insurance company and/or banks, the accelerated bond payments are automatically activated. Now, who could have predicted back in 2001 that we would have such devastation in the insurance and banking industries in 2009, and that that devastation would have such a trickle-down effect on Mt. Juliet?

    I believe this whole mess is just a mechanism that is being used to force a property tax on us. The people who were hired to advise the city on this issue seem to be inclined to try to persuade this city commission into a property tax increase. They say that sales tax revenues are not a dependable source of income for the city. I say that property taxes are not a “dependable” source of income if property values can drop by as much as 50% as they have in parts of the country. In fact, I am considering looking into how I can have my property re-assessed. If the value of property has dropped, shouldn’t my property taxes drop as well? Or am I supposed to just keep paying inflated property taxes?

    I have a novel idea, let’s stop spending money!!! Let’s take a hard look at the budget and see what can be cut out or pared down. I am sure we can come up with the money that is necessary in order to overcome or delay this issue until the economy rebounds. We may just have to live with less as a society for awhile.

  29. Butch Huber

    Budget time again! For those of you that don’t know, this is sort of like a report card for the city manager. The most important thing the city commission does is set the budget. The most important thing that city manager does is provide them with the right tools to do their job and to follow the budget.

    I wonder, will there be $4,000,000+ mistakes in his budget again this year? Will he appropriate money improperly again this year? Will he set stiff-necked, refuse to accept the blame for the errors himself and blame the “prior administration” again?

  30. Butch Huber

    Sounds like they are having a real wing-ding of a time trying to make the budget work out right now. It appears that Mayor Elam and Bradshaw are determined to get health insurance coverage for the members of the board of commissioners. Elam is self-employed now, or at least that is how I understand it, and covering yourself for health insurance can be expensive. However, the paper seems to say that they would cut about $50,000 out of the budget if they dropped coverage of commissioners. $50,000 in insurance payments for five people? I cover 5 people on less than $10,000 per year. What’s with the $50,000? Are we talking about a golden-wrap-around policy here?

  31. Nathan Clariday

    When will we get an official 2009-2010 budget

  32. Butch Huber

    Nathan,

    First off, let’s remember that we are living in the Gulag Mt. Juliet, so it is highly probable that we won’t actually be able to “see” the budget…Czar Robertson is there to ensure that the citizen are kept in the dark. However, the law, assuming that the law still means something to them, requires that they publish the budget in the paper. I believe that is supposed to happen 10 days prior to the final vote on the budget.

    I don’t remember if they can do a continuance or anything like a continuance to enable them to enter July without a budget. If they can’t enter July without a continuance they need to post the budget in the paper very soon…like within a week or so.

  33. Paul Deyo

    I wish I could vote in paid healthcare for myself at every part-time job I’ve worked. This is outrageous for these people to vote themselves this benefit. Not to mention them recently doubling their own salary.

    Bradshaw is retired from the state, most likely with a pension and a coverage option.

    I am also self-employed but don’t expect all of you to buy me medical insurance.

  34. Paul Deyo

    How to write the budget? Cut back on stick-and-ball grants. Sell Mundy Park (I’ve heard a rumor the mayor is already trying to do that). No health insurance for part-time employees (that includes city commissioners). Keep funding for Police and parks, in the case of parks to be used only for land aquisition. Build a rainy-day fund for fire protection. Some of that is already on the table.

    Overall I think they are on the right track. The salary doubling and health plans for commissioners are just plain wrong, though.

  35. Butch Huber

    What?!?!! I just read in the Chronicle of Mt. Juliet that instead of ending the year with 100 to 150 thousand dollars left in the end of the fiscal year as was projected in March, the city ended the year with $1.65 million in the general fund. How the hell did that happen?

    How can the city be projecting 100 to 150k to be remaining in March, and then in June, only 3 months later, end up with $1.65 million? The paper didn’t elaborate! Isn’t it worth a question? Such as “how?”

    If I was expecting to only have 100 left after paying my bills for the year, and I somehow ended up with 1,650 dollars, I would surely be looking into how that happened. Folks, that is 16.5 times what the city projected in March, at least according to the Chronicle. How do you miss your projections by that large of a margin?

    What happened?

  36. Nathan Clariday

    You would have been even more dumfounded if you were at the meeting. They wanted to act like they had been good stewards of your money. How can your estimate be that far off? But another thing that everybody should be watching is the 9 million for the road; they went from saying “they had it but spent it all on the first portion, then said they were going to use it for the next portion of the eastern connector, then said they had part of it but weren’t going to start on the second part until they got a grant”

  37. Butch Huber

    AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  38. Bobby Franklin

    Appropriation and funding are two different things. The City Commission appropriates a budget then the City Manager spends it as work is done and bills come in.

    The fund balance should always exceed year-end estimates for many reasons. One, money comes in all year long every month. Two, capital improvement projects (mainly road projects) are always behind schedule. Three, the City Manager can never spend more than is appropriated without a budget amendment.

    Most of the ongoing road projects are funded through a matching agreement with the state. When TDOT asks for 20 percent they expect payment timely. But the work is always done in stages and billed after the fact. The Commission usually appropriates the total amount even though construction billing sometimes straddles multiple budgets.

    It is difficult to coordinate these payments since project control is up to the state. The worst thing that can happen is to be awarded a project and not have matching funds available.

    One such example looming for Mt. Juliet could be the Central Pike Interchange project. The recent Mt. Juliet Interchange improvement project was designed to rely on a Central Pike Interchange by 2013. I wonder if the Commission is planning ahead to fund a percentage of that project. Last I heard the Commission amended the engineering appropriation out of a budget. If the opening of Paddocks causes the Mt. Juliet Interchange to fail early, the state could “ramp up” the Central Pike project. Pun apology given..

  39. I placed this under budget, even though it isn’t a budget 2008 issue as the headline would indicate, because it has to do with revenues to the city. I attended the city meeting with Home Owner’s Association members (it was open to the public so I wandered in). During that meeting I once again heard the city manager going on about how difficult the city is to manage without a property tax. I want you to know that, given everything I have heard Randy Robertson say thus far, and everything I have seen that he has written, I conclude that he is desirous of the city having a property tax. He really comes across to me as being one of those people who are on the “City Property Tax” side of the aisle. He isn’t an elected official in this city, but he sure seems to be trying to influence the decision to raise our property tax rates from zero to some other number. Here is the problem I see with that. 1.) The city has no vision. They don’t seem to have anything on the agenda that a property tax would help make happen. 2.) Once you start a tax it never seems to go away….ever! 3.) They have had year after year increases in revenues and they seem to eat up those revenues year after year, even though they are not adding much, if anything, to their tasks. If they had spending under control, they wouldn’t need a property tax, then if they instituted one it would be dedicated to something that we desperately need as a functioning city. I don’t see that desperate need as a functioning city, I see the desperate need as a functioning county. The county obviously needs more money in order to solve the fire protection and ambulance service issue. But those issues aren’t “City Issues” they are “county issues”.

    Randy Robertson needs to stay out of the politics of this whole matter and stay within his pay grade. He is a hired civil servant whose job it is to do the job he is tasked with the money the commission gives him. His job is not to try to influence, using his position as city manager, the public into raising the property taxes. He is to follow what the commission tells him to do and that is it. His efforts to subvert their authority and position strikes me as being insubordinate. If I were a city commissioner I think I would have to smack him down a little over all of his chatter about how the city is so hard to manage without a property tax. I think I would have to tell him that if the job it too tough for him perhaps he should look for a different line of work where he doesn’t have to stress so much. If someone in the military, who was subordinate to Randy, acted like he does to the commission, I am quite certain that Randy Robertson would have a word or two with that fellow.

  40. Shawn Donovan

    Butch,

    I guess my question is the same as my fire post, if you know if they have a revenue report that is broken down by City District at well.

    This is where there is a gray area in a sense. If you are employed by the City (or the County) and live in the City, don’t you still have a say as a taxpayer and a citizen? I understand your point that City Manager should stay out of politics in his official capacity, but he lives in Mt. Juliet and has the same right as you or I to express his concern as a taxpayer? What stage he expresses his opinion might be the issue here. This would be the same as anyone who is employed by the city government, just because you work there, doesn’t mean you give away your taxpayer right to express your opinion.

    Honestly in general most government workers watch how much they do voice concerns in public for fears of repercussions at times especially at the Wilson County level, causing the thousands of dollars of EEOC lawsuit awards we as taxpayers have had to pay out.

  41. Doc Cider

    Does Randy live in the city? I don’t think he did initially but I could be wrong or that could have changed. And his pay grade is pretty darn good so he needs to stop whining in a public forum.

    He is doing a great job of hiring Elam’s friends and supporters, like Jay Cameli and that former City Planner with the swine flu who wanted to turn Mt. Juliet into Antioch. All Democrats.

    Butch, your best point regarding property tax is once you institute one you’re stuck with it. We already are, but the rate is set at zero. Perhaps with home rule it can be officially done away with.

  42. Shawn Donovan

    Yes, he does live in Mt. Juliet in a sub off W. Division.

    Don’t forget the two previous City Attorneys as well, both were appointments to the top post of the Commerce and Insurance Department at the state level in the current administration.

  43. Shawn,

    Unlike the city manager, I believe in personal rights. I wouldn’t think of depriving him of his right as a “citizen”. In fact, if I were the city manager and he was a citizen, I would provide him with unfettered access to records, which is something I can’t say he has done for me. My beef is that he uses his position as city manager to express his opinions about property taxes, either directly or indirectly. If his subordinates in the military were to do that to him he would have had their hides, but there he is doing it himself. He expresses his frustration over the fact that we don’t have a property tax and he does so in a public forum as city manager, which is insubordination to the commission.

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