Privatization suggested to restrict your tax payments

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Suggestions on how Marshall County government spending could be cut were heard recently when the newly elected county GOP chairman spoke to the local Tea Party.

"All government services that don't have to compete... need to be investigated on any front that's possible," Republican Party Chairman Billy Spivey said last week while discussing his appearance at a Tea Party program in Lewisburg.

Spivey cited the county Emergency Medical Service, the ambulance service headquartered at Spring Place Road on South Ellington Parkway.

"There are for-profit ambulance services," he said. "Ours gets a $1.1 million subsidy.

"Without going any further, we need to look at things from a more capitalistic approach," Spivey said. "In the private sector, you can't just raise your prices to cover your expenses."

Marshall County owns school buses, but other counties pay drivers who own buses to be independent contractors to carry children to and from schools. Should the county consider privatizing school bus service?

"Sure," Spivey replied, suggesting that "all the services we, (though the government,) provide" for residents should be examined for cost savings.

Restaurant inspection?

"Why not?" he asked. "It could mean a number of things.

"You can't outsource a police department or anything that protects people," the Tea Party speaker said later, "but there are for-profit ambulance services and for-profit bus services."

Spivey served as a county commissioner who was elected by the commission to be its chairman. He ran for the state House seat to represent Marshall and Giles counties in the Tennessee Legislature. State Rep. Eddie Bass (D-Prospect) was re-elected in November.

Sherry Ferguson is a founding member of the Tea Party in this county who describes herself as a "facilitator... not a leader." She reports the March 5 discussion as being "about our county taxes and how they can be better spent."

"He talked about involvement," Ferguson said. "It's people who make a difference. It takes concerned citizens to get off the couch and roll up their sleeves and go to work" to make change.

Discussion that Saturday included reactions to county commissioners' refusal to permit residents to speak about two applicants for an open seat on the school board to represent Cornersville and nearby parts of the county.

"To me that was an infringement of free speech... and a carnival trick," Ferguson said.

She acknowledged commissioners invoked a legal procedure, but it's seen as arcane.

"It was odd that it wasn't used until this came up," Ferguson continued. "Naturally the Tea Party is against that.

"It has nothing to do with Sam Smith," Ferguson said of a former commission chairman who was appointed that night of Feb. 28 to succeed Dee Dee Owens who resigned from the school board. "It has to do with free speech.

"If people had an issue with this person and wanted to speak, they should have been allowed to speak," Ferguson said expressing her opinion and quite possibly that of others at the March 5 meeting.

"That's what our Constitution is about," she said.

Ferguson reported Spivey's point on ambulance service. It includes - they said - deliveries of papers back and forth between Lewisburg and Chapel Hill.

"It's just an example of a waste of money," Ferguson said.

MCEMS Director James Whorley was called Monday when messages were left asking for his side of the story.

People attending the Tea Party meeting were asked to think about the issues raised.

"I tried to raise awareness of what we're focusing on," the county Republican chairman said. "Pay attention to what's important.

"Taxation is too high in Marshall County," he said.

"We have taxation in Marshall County that discourages growth," Spivey said, referring to fees charged per square foot of new construction. "You have to pay something to put something in Marshall County."

Such fees are charged in Bedford, Williamson, Rutherford and other nearby counties. They were justified as a way to make new growth pay for the cost of extending government facilities and services because of new buildings and people.

"They wanted more water lines," Spivey said.

Marshall County's Board of Public Utilities (MCBPU) is constantly being asked to extend water service to rural homes. Several years ago, MCBPU embarked on a major water pipe construction project. In the years before the current budget (from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011) almost all of the adequate facilities tax on new growth had been allocated to the MCBPU to pay for water service extensions.

"Discouraging people from building houses was not a good fix," Spivey said.

"I hate the term, but we've got to start thinking out of the box."