Today is Friday, August 22, 2014

City budget, county school intertwined

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By LARRY HUBBARD

A lot of folks are stopping me and asking questions, some thinking I have a political ambition, thus this letter. I am just a simple person who for some unknown reason loves his community and wants only the best for it.

Really, the reason for me was I wanted my children and other children to have all they could have and experience as they grew into adulthood. I have had the pleasure to work and serve with many of the programs offered in Lebanon, some from the “I wish” stage to the startup process and I see what the programs have grown into.

Many do not understand the time, energy, resources and community involvement it has taken to get these programs to where they are today.  Some may believe these programs/parks/community centers have always been here, but they haven’t and it has taken a long time for them to develop into what they are today and what they will become in the future. If lost, we start over or maybe not.

I wanted somewhere my children would and could call home, that offered them a workplace, a place their children could have programs, a hometown. I see this being threatened by political agendas and self promotion, thus it has been hard for me to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye.

First of all, this city is run primarily on a commission-based income source (sales tax revenues), and as many bankers will tell you, most commission people are having a hard time including myself, thus goes the city finances. The city of Lebanon offers its services cheaper than any municipality in our area so when commissions are down you either find part time work (revenue) or cut out the extras.

With the hurdles we are already facing in recruiting new industry (more on that shortly) because of an aging, overcrowded high school, a recent quote by Dr. Matt Murray, associate director for the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, addresses such an issue. He said, “What you find is higher-quality schools lead to higher property values, (more property tax dollars collected) while schools with multiple problems can drag the local economy down. The reason is twofold. First business movers and shakers don’t want to buy their homes in an area that doesn’t place a premium value on education, second they want to locate in an area with a commitment to training a quality workforce. A community will pay a price for failing to make a commitment to education.”

This creates my own self-imposed, self-interest problem because I sell homes and want to continue to see my clients’ investments protected and be able to sell their properties and make a living for myself.

The Lebanon City Council wants to continue to cut the services further and deeper that will affect the quality of life amenities, which brings people to relocate to Lebanon. To what extent this will affect Lebanon’s growth we do not know as we have not explored or discussed the ramifications of employee and service cuts. All community events are now gone, are brush pickup, citywide cleanup days, sports programs, and senior citizens’ programs next?

How long will it take to get water breaks or gas leaks fixed? If a tree falls across the walkway in the park will someone be there to remove it? Are we always going to balance the budget with employees therefore jeopardizing services (police and fire protection) or will the city find a steady form of income through fees or continue to look to raise revenue through toll gate projects like the wading pool, pavilion rentals or the senior citizens door which puts us right back to commission-based income (if people don’t partake no new revenue)?

These minimal fees are less than going to get ice cream once a month, or one less pack of smokes, one movie ticket, one dessert after dinner. Two local real estate professionals were recently quoted, Judy Cox with C&D Realty and Annette Stafford of Cumberland Real Estate who both lost four to five buyers in Lebanon to other areas because of the high school. What do you think the adverse effect will be when we lose the quality of life amenities Lebanon once offered plus coping with the high school?

These are only two of hundreds of real estate agents in Lebanon with 10 lost home sales between them. What if 20 agents had the same response? That equates to a hundred home sales.

If this does not affect you today, it may when you wish or have to sell your home. I ask you to consider asking your county commissioner to lead us and implement a wheel tax to build a new high school instead of them asking us what we would like because I would like for the commission to put $100,000 in my account, but I know that isn’t going to happen.

Regarding the rumblings at City Hall now that a new form of government may be the answer, before we jump off the bridge, maybe we should look at what may have caused or helped caused the issue of slumping revenues. Well, that’s easy, it’s the economy, but as the old saying goes “go west young man” and we don’t have to travel far, about 10 minutes down the westward road to see prosperity in its fullest bloom.

New subdivisions are springing up like May flowers, commercial and retail growth spreading like weeds, new sales tax dollars and new property tax revenues for Mt. Juliet’s coffers. Who’s been spraying Roundup on Lebanon’s growth? As the city will be paying another lost settlement to a developer, doesn’t this sound as business as usual for any new development, industrial or job creating ventures have faced with the City of Lebanon? Mom always said if you don’t like the cake you baked change the ingredients. Well we took out half of the old ingredients (the previous mayor) and heck we got the same cake. So do we throw out the entire handed-down recipe and start from scratch or get new bakers and change some of the other half of ingredients?

Maybe there do need to be some charter changes made. How about electing the councilors at large since their decisions affect the entire city or how about implementing a policy as the one already in place for city employees, that if a councilor wishes to run for mayor he or she has to immediately resign from his or her seat (here we go again what’s good for the goose good for the gander)? This will forever stop the pain we have been going through for years with our old administration and now with our current administration. It is never a good idea to have a winner and loser placed on the same team. Putting a city manager in the mix would only confuse the issue further.

How about PUD’s (planned unit developments)? Developers want to use their investment dollars to the fullest extent, thus no development here, no PUD’s offered in Lebanon. As for the “shout heard around Lebanon,” I was basically explaining much of what is above to our city council with their permission, with the inclusion that the city has about $9 million in savings for a rainy day, (I think we are in a hurricane) we could “loan” ourselves some money until policies, procedures and a solid plan is in place (so the city is not potentially sued for millions) and a financial income source is in place to save employees which once again equates to services.

There is a first amendment right which allows citizens the right to petition their government peacefully as I was when I was attacked for sharing these comments. Folks, we are riding a big dark train speeding down the tracks to destruction (to what extent, who knows) and I for one want to see the switchman turn the tracks before the derailment happens. As for me, enough said. My days of “political” involvement has turned my stomach and sickened me enough for a lifetime. (No political future for me). May God bless Lebanon and may it prosper and grow despite us all involved politically.

Editor’s Note: Larry Hubbard resides in Lebanon.

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