|County Commission report: Budget, Finance Act, and Pulte Rezoning|
|Thursday, June 21, 2012|
The Sumner County Commission unanimously approved two continuation budgets, one for the county and one for the school system for the new fiscal year starting July 1. Both will operate under the continuing resolutions until the commission approves final budgets. The holdup is the education budget expected to be put to a vote at the School Board meeting Tuesday evening after deadline.
The county commission did not act yet to set a tax rate. The Budget Committee last week recommended it remain the same at $2.0208 per $100 of assessed value.
The continuation budgets in Resolutions 1206-11 and 1206 -12 allow the county and schools to operate at last year’s spending levels with minor tweaks. The commission expects to consider the school board budget at its July 16 meeting. Meantime, capital spending is limited.
2012 Finance Act ratified
The commission ratified 2012 Private Act 70 to start the clock for the 2012 Finance Act with unanimous approval of Resolution 1206-07. Legislative Chairman Paul Decker explained that some changes were made to the county’s request. “There’re no changes that were significant,” he said. In response to an inquiry by Commissioner Frank Freels about where the changes were made, Decker stated, “They were made on Capitol Hill.”
County Attorney Leah May Dennen explained the changes were made by the state Comptroller and the Legislative Legal Office staff. “All of it was just verbiage,” she stated.
As part of implementing the 2012 Finance Act, the full commission approved 21-1 with one abstention spending $145,000 to hire a consultant for the Enterprise Resources Planning program for the county and education. Finance Director David Lawing explained earlier during the 2002 Financial Management Committee that interviews of the top three bids begin June 25.
After a public hearing and detailed discussion on the request by Pulte Group to amend its plans for Creekside at Station Camp Revised Final Master Development Plan, the commission approved it 17-5 with one member not pushing a button. The five no votes were Mike Akins, Paul Freels, Chris Hughes, David Kimbrough and David Satterfield. Jo Skidmore did not cast a vote. Bob Pospisil was absent from the meeting.
Glenn McGehee of SouthStar was the presenting consultant along with Matthew Scribner who dealt with lot specifications. A key part of McGehee’s presentation was changes in the market. Some 47 percent of the traffic was empty nesters and 46 percent of closings have been for one-level homes. Thus, a “minor” request for smaller square footage to fit single-level homes on lots.
The initial proposal upset the neighbors in a major way and Zoning promptly punted the matter to the commission as a major change. District 7 commissioners Trisha LeMarbre and Kirk Moser indicated they received numerous emails and contacts opposing the originally proposed changes. Both stated the developer had met and worked with residents to resolve the issue.
Moser reiterated his statements in committee last week: “Pulte has met with them. I have not received any communications since they met with them.” He added, “I am supporting my constituents.”
The Commission recognized the Sumner County Rugby Team and the Beech High School Girls Softball Team. Ed and Irene Bruckas were recognized for 60 years of marriage.
High School Valedictorians were recognized as follows: Douglas Wang-Lun and Miles Jarett Malbrough at Beech; Amber Ipock at Gallatin; Perry Koehler at Hendersonville; Emily Marsh at Merrol Hyde Magnet; Kolton Bullard at Station Camp; Hannah Ruth Borders, Michaela Marie Briley, Kelsey Gregory, James William Kemp and Kristen Mikayla Ray at Westmoreland; Lucas Hilliard, Carly Dickson and Kindle Williams at White House; Richard Dewayne Glover at Sumner County Alternative Education; and Josh Bland and Tanner Nelson at Portland.
At long last, retiree John Parkhurst received a retired service revolver for his 32 years of law enforcement service from 1974-2006. Law enforcement retirees frequently see their weapons and badges retire with them. In an oversight, Parkhurst did not receive a retired weapon from the Sheriff’s Department - until Monday evening, that is.
Weapon presented in closed case by Sheriff Sonny Weatherford; police protection provided by Smith and Wesson Model 64-1 .38 Special. Yes, Parkhurst reopened the case to double-check.
Meetings yet to come
A Special Called Meeting of the Budget Committee is now set for Monday (June 25) at 5:30 p.m. to work through as much of the departmental budgets as can be done. Chairman Moser noted that no motions have been made yet on departmental budgets. Some were made on non-profit agency funding at the last meeting.
The July 16 commission committee meetings will start early at 4 p.m. with the full commission meeting at 5:30 p.m. A special presentation to the commission led to a request to reset the times.
Money flows in and out
Finance Director David Lawing updated the 2002 Financial Management Committee Monday about the current inflows of revenues and a quirk with outflows. For an as yet unknown reason, the Health Insurance Fund suddenly dropped into the red. As of Friday, it was overdrawn by almost $212,000. As of Monday, Lawing said he is investigating whether it was a one-time incident or a recurring health care item.
The Health Insurance Fund is aggregated into a combined fund with related items. Together the combined funds should still end up about $300,000 to $500,000 in the black, barring its being a catastrophic incident.
On the revenue side, property tax collections remain about 1 percent above budget. Sales tax is almost 7 percent over budget. However, Lawing reported that so far Sam’s in Indian Lake Village has not produced quite the jump expected in sales tax collections. However, the closing of the Hendersonville K-Mart may also be having an impact.
With the increased push to maximize collections of accounts receivable, Emergency Medical Services should get close to making budget after all. It had been expected to fall significantly short after the conversion last fall in billing and collection processing.
“All in all, it’s looking pretty good,” stated Lawing. His current best estimate for Sam’s is $710,000 added to sales tax for the county. He said it may be $1 million but that he could not justify that figure at this time.
Commissioner Frank Freels noted that sales at Sam’s might just be money not spent at places where it would have been spent before and the county might not see an increase. Lawing pointed out that there is an expectation that some sales would follow Sam’s from Madison, the location of the closed store replaced by the new one.
Hendersonville Finance Chairman Garry Forsythe has been tracking the same trend in sales tax reports and trying to determine the impact of the opening of Sam’s. For now, both the county and Hendersonville have opted to make estimates they believe are on the low side while hoping for more revenue to roll in than projected.
The bottom line is there is just not enough isolated experiential data after the March 21 opening to run a regression analysis or any other statistical business model. Sam’s has declined to provide sales projections to the county or Hendersonville. The state Department of Revenue is bound by tax confidentiality laws as to what it can reveal about tax filings by compliant taxpayers and their specific account activities.
By Jesse Hughes