Williamson County commissioners have ways to save taxpayer money but won’t give those ideas the time of day, one commissioner says.
Property taxes for the average Williamson County home will increase 27 percent, says a news release Commissioner Kathy Danner sent her constituents last week.
The $515 million county budget for the next fiscal includes no spending cuts, according to the Tennessean.
As reported, Danner believes commissioners should sell the county-owned Williamson Medical Center to a private party, which would remove any burden on taxpayers should the hospital lose money.
Danner told Tennessee Watchdog the county could also save money by selling the Cool Springs Convention Center, which it co-owns with the city of Franklin. The convention center is an annex of the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs Hotel.
Danner’s colleagues won’t even agree to study the idea.
“It’s frustrating to try to argue these things and also shout them from the mountain top to your constituents. Many other things have come up and been voted down or fallen on deaf ears and brought up in committee meetings and did not have any support,” Danner said.
“A lot of people don’t even know we own the Cool Springs Convention Center. It does slowly make money over the course of a decade. It made $2 million, but there’s many, many months where it’s in the red, and so that could be privatized.”
Franklin Marriott Cool Springs General Manager Michael Sanders said only, “I’m not at liberty to say anything. I am just hired to manage the convention center.”
Twenty-two of the other 23 county commissioners, as well as County Mayor Rogers Anderson, failed to return repeated requests for comment.
Commissioner Gregg Lawrence, Danner said, introduced a resolution to study the possibility of a health and wellness program, which would save $4 million a year.
“Greg wanted to do a study because surrounding counties are doing it and we’re not. The proposal failed,” Danner said.
“The majority of commissioners have been there a long time and, in my opinion, refuse to try anything new, even if it saves money.”
Hiring private corporations to run school buses would save county taxpayers $2 million a year. The county would also save money by bidding out professional services, such as those for legal, architectural and health care needs, she added.
“There is no state requirement that says you have to bid out professional services,” Danner said.
“The same companies just do the same work for decades.”
According to the Tennessean, the new county budget is a 9 percent increase over last year’s and is meant to accommodate the county’s growing population. According to the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce, the county — with a growth rate of 3.14 percent in 2014 — had the fastest-growing population in Tennessee.
Schools, the Tennessean went on, comprise 75 percent of the county’s budget, which includes a 4 percent raise for county employees, the paper said.
Commissioner Thomas Little voted to increase property taxes. He says the county had no alternative.
“There’s been a drastic increase in school growth. Yet our spending per pupil is still less than it was last year with the state not giving us the funds we need, even less than last year, and with the influx of all the students we really didn’t have a choice. There was no way to fund schools without it,” Little said.
“Yes, I voted for the tax increase. Did I want it? No. I just did not see any way that we could give to schools what they had to have and keep operating the county without it.”
But Danner says business owners, in particular, will suffer.
“Small businesses are going to get bit the hardest because they pay a higher percentage than residential,” Danner said.
“A lot of my neighbors are in the 30 percent range. Some might barely feel it. Maybe it’ll be a couple hundred dollars more a month, maybe a thousands dollars more. Some folks are upset about the increase, some on principle.”
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