Candidate for Alderman: Melisa Brown

Question 1:  What do you believe a municipal government should provide to its citizens?

The municipal government should provide safe neighborhoods with ample fire and police protection, well-maintained roads, sewer services, and clean water. This should all be done in the most economically considerate way possible.

Question 2: Last year, the city faced financial crisis, so property taxes were increased by 50¢. If you approve of the increase, please describe why. If you are against the increase, describe your solutions that would allow that city to continue to operate (please be very specific on your details).

Our residents are against the increases. If I am elected, I will represent them. Overspending using debt is what caused our financial crisis, and my focus is on reducing our spending. Saying the property taxes were increased by 50¢ is a bit misleading, so to clarify, that is 50 cents per hundred assessed value. Our rates DOUBLED from 50¢ to $1.00 per hundred assessed value. According to HUD, the average property value in La Vergne is [MLB1]$133,556. In Rutherford County, the assessed value of a residence is 25%. [$133,556 (average home price) x 25% (assessed value) = $33,389 x $1.00 (tax rate on accessed value) x .01 (per hundred) = $333.89.] This tax increase has increased the average family’s taxes by $13.91 per month, or $166.92 per year. This does not include the $25-50 per month increase in our water/sewer bills. Today, we are paying the city around $500 more per year to live here than we did a couple of years ago. Have we noticed a substantial improvement in our neighborhood? More than 30% of our children are on free or reduced lunches at school[MLB2], which proves we are not a wealthy community. According to a, July 23, 12 article, nearly two-fifths of household financial decision-makers surveyed said they live pay-check to pay-check.

Meanwhile, according to[MLB3], the average sale price of our homes plummeted $30,000 since 2007. Additionally, reveals that 164 homes in La Vergne are in the foreclosure process now. LaVergne, is this the best time for a tax increase? Can our residents afford it?

Question 3:  What ideas do you have that would increase home values throughout the city?

Most factors that increase home values are related to things that the homeowner directly controls[MLB4]. Almost every home improvement item costs money. If instead of paying higher taxes and water rates, those residents concerned with home values could use that $50 a month to spend on projects that will increase their own home values. Families that are living on the brink of financial disaster could use that money to help stay current on their mortgages. When foreclosure rates drop, home values increase. The city cannot tax its citizens into higher property values.

In addition to lowering property taxes so that people can afford the maintenance and upkeep on their homes, LaVergne should enforce it’s current codes. If the city codes are enforced, and our neighbors have their lawns mowed, non-running and non-registered vehicles removed, and trash and debris cleaned up, our property values will go up because the neighborhood looks nicer. We do not need larger city government to accomplish these goals. We need two things: codes enforcement and more of our own money in our own pockets.

Question 4: What are your ideas to bring more retail business to La Vergne?

The city should focus in every way on encouraging the completion of the Waldron Road project. While this is a state-funded project, the city officials can do everything in its power to keep the progress moving forward by making sure our responsibilities are handled in a timely fashion. Our local businesses are suffering because our residents find alternate routes around the construction.

One thing we can easily do is support the growth of our current retail business. One local business owner suggested that we allow them to advertise on Channel 3, encouraging La Vergne residents “Shopping Locally”. Several of the businesses owners I talked to mentioned how the current sign ordinance has hurt their business. We all want LaVergne to be a beautiful city, and there may be more creative ways we can accomplish this.

Many of our local businesses have been operating on a loss for the last several years. I talked to several that are just trying to keep their businesses afloat. We need our local businesses! We depend on them to provide services and supplies. When our current
businesses are doing well, then other businesses will want to join them here. The city benefits from increased tax revenue without raising current rates.

We do not need a bigger city government to accomplish this goal. Neighbors, if you are going out to eat, find a locally owned restaurant. Get your oil changed at one of the reputable garages in town. Spend a day exploring some of the local businesses you keep meaning to check out. We do not have to have the city do this for us, LaVergne. We encourage our small businesses by spending our dollars locally!

Question 5: The following list is a sampling of the items and concerns residents discuss wanting or needing in La Vergne. Please order them – in your opinion – from 1 to 6 (one most important, 6 least important):
Lakeside recreation (fishing pier, bathroom facility, trails, dog park, etc.)
Playground in Lake Forest subdivision
More police and fire personnel, with proper equipment
Animal control officer and facility
Independent Merchants Association

Interestingly, as I talk to our local residents, I find that most people want lower taxes and water/sewer rates. Unfortunately, those items are not on this list. LaVergne residents are telling me that, while the recession has the majority of our families struggling financially, they would prefer the city to provide essential services in the most efficient way possible. I am hearing that they want the city to focus on completing the current capital projects before beginning any new projects. Together, we can accomplish our goals if we focus on a few at a time, seeing them to completion. We do not have to do everything overnight, we can accomplish a few goals per year and plan for future projects to complete as funds allow.

Our residents are proud of our police and fire departments having very low response times. We have already acquired 40 new police cars, a “new to us” fire truck, and hired 19 officers and 17 firefighters, we are confidant that their services are going to get even better. Is this survey requesting even more personnel and equipment? I have not found any residents that cited needing more improvement in this department at this time. Our police and fire departments are staffed with trained professionals that do a great job!

Before we spend one more new tax dollar, our residents want us to repair our infrastructure in an economical and goal-driven way. Once our priorities are met, we can focus on the beautification and amenities of the city, including lakeside recreation, a park in Lake Forest, and the greenways. The Independent Merchant’s Association is a great idea. Membership fees fund this organization. We urge the local business owners to contact the nearest location, and ask about establishing this group in our community!

I have not heard any complaints about needing an animal control officer and shelter, but many communities have started non-profit organizations that focus on animal control. We do not need bigger city government in La Vergne, we need more empowered residents.

I acknowledge this question asked me to number the list in order of importance, but in representing our voters, I haven’t found this list to be congruent with the needs expressed by our community. If I am elected, my job is to represent all of the people, not the agenda of a small percentage of our community.

Question 6: What is your favorite city event of the following and why? Old Timers Festival, Trail of Treats, Movies in the Park, Music in the Park, Easter Egg Hunt, Miss La Vergne Pageants, Howl at the Moon 5K Run, Christmas Parade of Lights & Tree Lighting Ceremony, or Forth of July Picnic in the Park.

My son and I have attended many of these events, and we especially enjoy the Trail of Treats. It is a great way to get to know our neighbors better, and the kids love it.

I am Melisa Brown, and I am for our town!

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[MLB1]Data obtained from
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[MLB2]All of LaVergne’s schools are “Title I” schools, meaning they get Federal grants due to a high percentage of children on free/reduced lunch. In order to qualify for this funding, 30%-40% of the students must to be low-income. I used the more conservative figure of 30%, but it may actually be higher.
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[MLB3]Data obtained from – on the left of the chart, select 10 years for an expanded timeline.
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[MLB4]For more information on improving your home’s value:

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