While a local or municipal government should provide many things, first and foremost it has the responsibility of providing safety and security for its residents. The obvious way of providing safety and security is through a strong, well trained, well equipped, and fully staffed emergency services. Appropriate and fitting legislation such as subdivision ordinances, animal control regulation among many others also provide security and order to a community.
Additionally, a municipal government should be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars and funds. They should constantly be evaluating ways to function and provide services to its residents in the most effective and cost efficient manner and in means that is least intrusive to their residents and community. This includes having the ability to appropriately plan well into the future on items such as infrastructure, debt service, and population growth.
As their “seats” belong to the public and they work for the citizens, lawmakers and public officials should maintain a high level of dialogue and responsiveness with the residents. As each individual vote affects the entire community, elected officials have the responsibility of gaining as much knowledge and facts on all issues and how they will impact the community. Their votes should always be based upon what is best for their individual municipality rather than personal agendas or what will keep them in office. Above everything, city officials should have the ability to listen to their constituents and always maintain honesty and integrity as to build trust and represent the community at the highest level. City directors and employees should implement policy at the same high standard and fairly to all.
Question 2: . Last year, the city faced financial crisis, so property taxes were increased by 50 cents. If you approve of the increase, please describe why. If you are against the increase, describe your solutions that would allow the city to continue to operate (please be very specific on your details).
The vote to raise property taxes was one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make. I spent countless hours researching the budget and looking for possible alternatives to this increase. I took into account all the many serious problems the City of La Vergne was facing now as well looking to the future. Deficiencies such as an understaffed police department and failing equipment, an incomplete and crumbling infrastructure, and over $29 million dollars in debt our former leaders had shackled the city and its residents with. In addition, Alderman Waldron, and the previous administration had obligated the city of La Vergne for an additional $25 million plus fire contract in their last meeting together (October 2010).
The city’s first year obligation alone on this enormous contact was 2.1 million dollars and each year of this ten year contract the financial obligation escalates and by 2019 the annual obligation is 6.4 million dollars. The problem was as of December 14, 2010 the city’s general fund cash balance was only $48,421 dollars and with no new source of revenue in sight. How where we going to meet these current obligations placed upon me and this new board before I spent my first day in office, let alone, solve any of the city’s vast problems?
As each penny of the 50 cent increase equated to approximately $68,000 dollars of new revenue for the city, the 2.1 million obligation required 30.88 cents of it. ($2,100,000 divided $68,000 = 30.88 cents) Some feel we could have stopped right there but we would have had no ability to repair and replace our infrastructure which we have done and are doing. There would have no way to bring in much needed police personnel and lower crime throughout the city which we have done over each of the last two years. Had we stopped at the fire contract alone our debt could have not been paid down but I’m proud to say we paid off over $4,000,000 of the city’s debt in my first two years.
There have many other accomplishments and many other positive ways our collective tax dollars have been used to improve the city and we have been accountable for every penny spent. I understand the great hardship this tax increase placed upon many families as my own family had to alter our budget and do without items we may have had previously. My vote, however, was to act upon and correct our problems and set us on a track where our property values can increase, employers can bring new jobs back into our city, enhance quality of life to our residents and give us a fighting chance to lure retail business into La Vergne all of which are currently happening and will take some of the burden off of the taxpayer.
Question 3: What ideas do you have that would increase home values throughout the city?
I believe our current five, ten, and twenty year plan, which the current board has set in place, will increase property values. This plan was collectively worked on by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and all the city’s departments. It encompasses items such as repaving roads, completing our water and sewer system, providing an adequately staffed and well trained emergency services team, a strong Codes department, and an upgraded Parks and green way system among so much more. Given the opportunity to be completed this plan will improve all areas of La Vergne and have a tremendous impact on home values.
Question 4: What are your ideas to bring more retail to La Vergne?
In our efforts to bring retail to the city I feel the city should definitely continue its partnership with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and keep active communication with the many major retailers we have met and are considering La Vergne currently. However, as bringing retail to La Vergne is so important I would like to see the city hire its own economic development director whose only focus would be to make this need a reality. This is something other cities such as Mt. Juliet have done and it has proven very successful.
I do believe retail business is on the way and we certainly have the demographics to support it but the major hurdle is our incomplete infrastructure. If we are going to entice these businesses these projects (including road projects and a completed water / sewer system) have to be finished now.
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 and six least important)
1. More police and fire personnel, with proper equipment – Our number responsibility to our residents
2. Independent Merchants Association – Could go a long way in helping to attract new business while retaining our current businesses.
3. Greenways – widely known the addition of greenways not only improve quality of life but raise surrounding property values and these can be accomplished with state or federal matching grants.
4. Lakeside recreation – if can be accomplished would raise property values in areas surrounding the lake including Lake Forest and also may have potential through grant money to do this at minimal cost.
5. Playground in Lake Forest – much needed and long overdue. Promised years ago by the developer but never finished. Again matching grant money may be available.
6. Animal Control officer and facility – Not that we do not need better service but the city cannot afford its own facility and would be duplicating a service our county tax dollars provide as well as taking on added liability.
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.
I really like and attend each and every one of these events. The Parks and Recreation department as well as the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee has really worked hard at expanding upon older events as well as offering new events that all can enjoy. While I don’t have a favorite I will say it is great to be able celebrate holidays and participate in these events in my own city which was not always the case.