County to eye metro, borrowing

Friday, October 21, 2011

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

With a local economy that still reflects recessionary conditions, Marshall County commissioners are scheduled Monday to make decisions on money management and consider a request that they, at least, study consolidation of government to see if it can save taxpayers' money.

"I believe we have some commissioners sitting around the table who don't understand dollars and cents, and do not understand the economy is in a tight situation," Commissioner Don Ledford said Wednesday when asked about an issue he raised a month ago - examining the metropolitan form of government as a way to reduce the cost of government.

"You can't spend more than you take in," Ledford said. "We should do that all the time."

Meanwhile, to the west, Maury County leaders have revealed their proposed metro charter that would consolidate Columbia and the county if voters approve it in March next year, according to The Daily Herald of Columbia. It quotes some officials as saying lower taxes and operating costs might result, but it may depend on who voters elect and what they do.

However, it's not like Marshall County commissioners - set to meet at 6 p.m. Monday in the Courthouse Annex - haven't been examining ways to deal with revenue and spending.

* A fiscal services contract for the county is being offered for authorization.

* Highway Superintendent Jerry Williams' request to spend $1 million of borrowed money for roadwork in two years is to be addressed with a resolution for a three-year spend-down plan.

* A debt management policy is scheduled for a vote, although Commissioner Barry Spivey, chairman of the Budget Committee, says the state requires such a policy.

* County Trustee Marilyn Ervin is to be authorized by commissioners to accept partial payment of property taxes and of delinquent taxes.

Ervin has been accepting partial payments. Approximately 200 county property owners have made partial payments, she said.

"The County Officials Association of Tennessee advised that we need to get it approved by the commission," Ervin said. "It does help a lot of people, especially in this economy."

Nevertheless, property owners who make partial payments will still see their tax obligation defined as delinquent after Feb. 29, and after March 1, the debt increases by interest and penalties. Partial payment does reduce the sum if complete payment isn't made.

Still, partial payment is part of the county's revenue stream.

During a Budget Committee meeting last month, the highway superintendent said he wanted to spend $1 million in borrowed money over two years, but commissioners there indicated they saw the appropriation as for three years.

While that difference is to be resolved Monday night, commissioners will be asked to vote on a fiscal services contract with a company based in Hohenwald to provide services for the issuance of promissory notes and sale of income tax free bonds to raise money for the county.

"As far as hiring the company," the budget committee chairman said, "I think we need to explore more options. I've looked at the contract and the price is atrocious.

"You need to be a lawyer to understand all of it," Spivey said.

"As far as the plan and limitations on borrowing," he said, "I think that's a good idea."

Asked for his thoughts on Ledford's request for a committee to study how a metro charter might save the county money, Spivey said he'd not heard anything from friends, other constituents, leaders or relatives on the subject since the September meeting.

Ledford brought it up at the end of the Sept. 26 meeting.

"The discussion," Ledford said that night last month, "should not be if metropolitan form of government will work, but how can it serve Marshall County citizens better?"

Commission Chairman Mike Waggoner placed the topic on the agenda that lists it as: "Chairman Waggoner to address Commissioner Ledford's request."

Spivey said Waggoner "may open a discussion on it."

Waggoner declined on Wednesday to reveal his intentions, indicating he felt obliged to place the issue on the agenda. He refrained from expressing an opinion, emphasizing his role is to chair the meeting so business may be conducted.

Spivey's question about consolidating Lewisburg and possibly other municipalities with the county was simple and direct.

"Is it worth it?" he asked. "I don't know if we're a big enough community to do it."

While the proposed consolidation west of here is just for Columbia and Maury County, Spivey indicated that here, "Cornersville and Chapel Hill would have to give up their authority."

Maury consolidation advocates have indicated including Spring Hill would be difficult since it's in two counties like Petersburg, the Herald has reported. Mt. Pleasant hasn't been a critical part of the Maury proposal.

"The only advantage the county will get is that you'd be able to get the sales tax revenue that the city gets and spend it in the county," Spivey said. "I don't know that the city will throw up its hands and say, 'Hurrah.'

"I don't see the city as in favor of it," the budget committee chairman said. "Our coffers would be better..."

Ledford had "no clue" on what to expect on Monday when the commission meeting gets to Waggoner's statement on the request for a study.

"It would appear to me that if someone comes up with an idea that would be beneficial to the masses," Ledford said, "then let's move on to some type of study... I don't know if the request is going anywhere. That's where it may die.

"I thought my request was pretty straight-forward," he said. "There were no hidden agendas. The purpose is to do the best for the people."

Ledford emphasized fiscal conservatism.