Tag Archives: County Commission

Path Forward for Education

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

As most everyone knows, the Roane County Commission in mid- February voted against funding the current school improvement plan. The vote for was two (2) for, eleven (11) against, with two passing. Now the question is, are we back to the drawing board? The Roane County School Board and the Commission met in a work session the end of February to discuss the issues of why there is limited support. My observation from the meeting focused on a few broad issues of why there is limited support:

1) Optimal Location
2) 
Importance of Community Schools
3) Increase Taxes
4) New Commissioners who have limited knowledge of the proposal plan

So where are we going? My office informed the school board of what we would propose as a path forward for the 2020 budget. First, a three (3) cent property tax is required for the Oliver Springs/ Midway project which has already been approved. I will propose to the Budget Committee an additional seven (7) cents in order to accumulate funds for debt service in order to help cash flow interest and principal payments. Since the school board is anticipating a successful financial year, I would recommend the school board transfer funds to their capital project fund to pay for some initial expenditures.

If approved, the County Commission shows a good faith effort to improve education. The school board shows support by putting their own investment into the capital project. We recognize that the ten (10) cent total is not enough and we would give options to the commissioners to increase their investment if they feel they have the support. Remember, the 2019 Budget gave the commissioners the opportunity to adjust the taxes if they supported the education improvement plan and no none made a motion to increase the funding.  This year a step in the right direction is being proposed by the Roane County’s Executive Office.

The math problem is simple. Currently, the 74 million dollar project has an estimated annual payment of 4.5 million dollars which requires approximately thirty-six (36) cents of property tax. The county has no current funds available to apply to the annual payment. A ten cent tax starts the accumulation of 1.3 million dollars of funds. In two years, approximately 2 million dollars of old debt will be paid off, and the current tax rate could be applied to the annual payment. The ten (10) cents plus the debt that pays off (sixteen (16) cents) is not enough for the present project, but the combined funds is a step in the right direction. Also, going forward we anticipate the successful rebuild of Oliver Springs High School. The small steps of success should help meet the educational needs of our students. We will wait and see what is approved for the 2020 budget.

Is Our Retirement Health Insurance Changing? – Feb 2019

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

If you are an employee, elected official, retiree or County Commissioner, you may want to make sure you have read “Impacts of Accounting Regulations” in the January 2019 newsletter. Could our retirement health insurance be changing? That will be a decision that the County Commissioners must make prior to March 31, 2019. The State Department of Finance and Administration in a Jan 18, 2019 letter establishes the deadline along with three basic options:

  • Opt-In: The county continues to offer pre-65 retiree health insurance.
  • Opt-Out: The county no longer offers pre-65 health insurance coverage.
  • Limited Opt-Out: Continues coverage for current retirees but will no longer cover future retirees.

The decisions made will impact employee benefits along with the county’s financial liabilities as noted in the previous article. The County Benefits Committee will meet in the near future to further discuss the county’s options. An executive summary will be posted on the county website.

Reviewing Priorities and Adjusting – Feb 2019

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

In our last newsletter, we discussed the planning steps of putting together the 2020 Budget. During this past month, we checked off the first step by reviewing with our departments their 2019 capital plans and budgets and worked with the budget committee on a few adjustments. This important process allows the departments to review priorities and make needed adjustments which then sets a clean tablet for the 2020 capital budget and the following 19 years. Our department heads and commission understands the importance of reviewing your goals and objectives and making the needed changes.

One of the most significant changes was the realization that the county recreation master plan probably needs updating. As we reviewed the recreation capital plan, we asked the question, “When was the last masterplan?” The plan exceeded 15 years. Thus it had been 15 years since the general public had an opportunity to make formal comments on the county recreation plan. The recreation plan includes current and potential recreation services for Roane County Residents and the county tourism industry. Since the last plan the county has taken over a TVA campground (Riley Creek), leased and built the Swan Pond Sports Complex, and the State Department of Transportation has built a multi-use crossing that connects the Roane State Community College Expo Center and Walking Trails to a potential walking trail, horse trail, or campsites at the Old Caney Creek campground area of 60 acres. Keep up with the formal recreation planning process in our future newsletters as the county recreation advisory board, and park and recreation committee begins their work.

November Was Another Busy Month for County Government – Dec 2018

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

The first week of the month had many County Commissioners at the Roane Alliance Gala. The Roane Alliance is the county’s economic development organization. This year’s Gala was once again well attended and supported by our local business and city governments. The Alliance was established in 2001 and has been led by four CEOs over the years. The Alliance is once again in search of a new leader as Wade Creswell has taken a position at Oak Ridge National Lab. Best wishes to Wade and thank you for your public service. The second week the commissioners honored a group of eight new Roane County Treasures. Roane County Treasures is a program started in 2007 that honors men and women who lived and contributed to the betterment of Roane County. A list of Treasures can be found on a plaque on the first floor of the Courthouse.

In the third week, County Commissioner Charlotte Bowers and Executive Ron Woody joined Oak Ridge Representatives at an intergovernmental meeting. They met with the Department of Energy (Oak Ridge Office and Washington DC Office), Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and State Legislators to discuss the environmental clean up of the Oak Ridge Reservation and the challenges of cleaning the legacy DOE site.

The commission met the fourth week of November to approve a significant resolution that starts capital improvements for our county schools. For the first time in eight years, the county approved issuing debt. The debt may only be issued for large projects, and school building project qualifies as a large project wherein 7.1 Million in bonds were approved. We anticipate construction will start on the Oliver Springs Middle School conversion to a Middle and High School will begin in late Spring early Summer. This project is estimated over 5 million and another one million was approved for a new sewer plant to service the Midway elementary, middle and high schools. Part of the bond’s proceeds will be shared with the Oak Ridge School system for their county projects.

The County Commission further discussed possible legislation regarding the TVA ash spill at the County Commission meeting. More to come on these issues as a special meeting will be held on December 4th. The commissioner’s plates are full with the TVA Kingston ash spill issues, potential jail construction, and further capital education improvements. Stay tuned.

Roane County Legislative Body is Changing – Sept 2018

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

Roane County Legislative Body is Changing: Seven new commissioners will join eight incumbent commissioners to lead our county for the next four years and beyond. We are also welcoming a new Trustee, and County Clerk. A profile of the incoming commissioners and new officials will be in the October Roane County Newsletter. Upon initial review, the freshmen commissioners lower the average age of the Commission. We anticipate a fresh perspective and vision for our community. Our new Commissioners have recently attended County Officials Orientation Program through the University of Tennessee to help their understanding of government functions and operations. A county orientation will be presented to our new and existing Commissioners. The public is invited to the orientation on September 6th at 6pm. The presentation will be available on RoaneCountyTN.gov under the County Executive’s Summaries under the Executive Summary 61. The orientation will address the function of government, responsibilities, and the authority of the legislative body, challenges, and opportunities for the future.

Roane County Planning Commission Looks at a New High School site location: County Executive Ron Woody formally requested the Roane County Planning Commission to use all available planning tools such as census data, traffic patterns, growth patterns, utility availability, and any other pertinent tools for planning in order to ensure the most optimal location for a potential Roane County investment. (County Executive Letter to the Planning Commission 7.31.18)

Roane County P&R Citizens Advisory Board – Feb 2019

Our Parks and Recreation (P&R) services are not mandated statutorily but by tradition. Since 1961, the TVA RLR-35188 and other resolutions have directed the path for Roane County P&R. As we approach sixty years of P&R services, the County Commission created the Roane County Parks and Recreation Citizens Advisory Board (RCPRCAB) to bring a citizen’s perspective on the development of various Roane County P&R policies, priorities, and objectives.

This RCPRCAB is designed to ensure a diverse development of health and recreation offerings for our citizens. Its formation brings the experience and knowledge of six P&R Directors, three private citizens, six student representatives, and two county commissioners to the drawing board. The RCPRCAB convened for the first time on January 24th, fulfilling a Tennessee Local Parks and Recreation Grant (LPRF) requirement for public input and communication. The newly formed board recommends the development of a new master plan.

Mike Beard, the Roane County P&R Director, is enthusiastic about the recent appointment of the RCPRCAB, “Roane County’s potential is as abundant as its beauty. It is vital to seek wise counsel, to effectively wield its charm.” He believes, “Each P&R director’s unique perspective and knowledge will lead us to a more cohesive and complementary master plan.” Furthermore, “The high school students are given the opportunity to partner with community leaders and older generations to learn how to be a positive and effective force in the community. In return, their elders and community leaders are given a chance to be invigorated by the unbridled creativity and enthusiasm of youth.” To learn more see Executive Summary 17h.

No Tax Increase – Aug 2018

We are operating under the fiscal 2019 Budget. Thank you to the Roane County Budget Committee members: Darryl Meadows, Carolyn Granger, James Brummett, and Mike Hooks for their hard work on the fiscal 2019 budget. Many improvements have been made over the years in budget planning and preparation with the county establishing a solid financial foundation to help make long-term decisions. The Budget Committee held a public hearing, followed by a budget committee meeting and finally a County Commission work session. The County Commission unanimously approved the Appropriation Resolution and Tax Resolution.

Some highlights of the budget include:

  • A 2% raise for general government employees
  • Approval of the Seventh Capital Improvement Plan for the general government
  • A continuation of the multi-year debt budgets
  • Allocation of funds to purchase the final property for the jail improvement project
  • Plans for a Rockwood ambulance station

Topics of Continued Deliberation Include:

  • We anticipate the school improvement plan discussion will continue in the coming months
  • The Wheel Tax will be considered on the November ballot

The county continues to purchase assets from current revenue instead of debt financing. This allows for the necessary replacements of ambulances and patrol cars as they approach obsolescence. Stay tuned to further Roane County Newsletters, as we will be announcing further improvements budgeted for the Office of Emergency Services and animal control.

A Path Forward Make Roane County Better – July 2018

We are finishing the 2019 Budget with hopefully an adoption by Commission on July 9th. A new Commission will be elected on August 2, 2018, which will consist of at least five (5) new commissioners. We welcome two (2) new commissioners who are running unopposed: Shannon Hester will be replacing Carolyn Granger, and Ben Gann will be replacing Todd Fink. Not seeking re-election are Peggy Collier, Renee Kelley, and Chris Johnson. With a number of new commissioners, a new fiscal year and a number of initiatives the staff has been working on are some of the items we are going to be addressing. We hope to have an orientation and planning session in mid-September for the newly seated Commission.

Briefly here is a list of items we are working on:

  • Jail Phase II
  • School Improvement Plan
  • Old Caney Creek Campground
  • Riley Creek Campground
  • Ambulance Stations

Operational Issues/Concerns/Consideration of Policy:

  • Property and Liability Insurance-Market or Pools
  • Health Insurance State Plan or Market Plan
  • Workers Compensation – Self Insurance Performance
  • Opioid Crisis
  • Back Tax Property Management
  • Ambulance Department
  • Consolidation on Partnering of Municipal Services
  • Potential Impacts of School Consolidation
  • Management of Swan Pond Sports Complex
  • Asset Management (Back Tax Properties)
  • Solid Waste Collections and Disposals

We are pleased to have put into place a financial infrastructure that helps us have a long term planning process. The planning of making County government begins with a “Vision,” and twice a year internally we aspire to create or refine our previous visions. We encourage you to help us in the process. Give us a call or send us an email of what you think can make our communities better.

Financial Planning is Paying Off – April 2018

Life’s successes are often due to many factors. Some would say luck is important for success. Others say success is due to hard work, timing, experience and/or education. All these factors and more can contribute to success, but one attribute we can not and must not overlook is planning. Planning is projecting out into the future, looking at “what if” and “what could be” and formulating a path to achieve a particular goal.

A little over seven years ago, we formulated a financial plan for Roane County. I have written and talked about it many times as we implemented financial policies of debt management, capital, and fund balances. Thank you County Commission for seeing and supporting the vision. Here is the success and how it is paying off. First, we have not borrowed for General Capital purposes in the last seven (7) years. Up until FY11, we borrowed basically every year. In FY12 we established Capital Funds to take care of the small cost capital items with the goal of using our borrowing capacity for big-ticket items. One of those big-ticket items is Jail Expansion. As early as 2010, our administration recognized the need for the jail expansion and started planning for this capital investment. I am pleased and proud to say that Roane County Government appears to be able to build Phase II of a Jail expansion program at an estimated cost of $5-6 million without a tax increase.

Yes, we saw the vision. We executed a financial plan. We managed capital and debt. We developed 30-year debt budgets. We refinanced debt when appropriate. We paid the debt off early when possible. We did not do further borrowing. Finally, we positioned ourselves for the right timing to have the least financial impact on our citizens. Yes, we will have to borrow to build Phase II, but our General Debt Fund has sufficient revenue and fund balance to satisfy our new proposed debt requirements without a tax increase. Our tentative schedule for Phase II of Jail Expansion is hiring Architects in March 2018. We plan to borrow in the Spring of 2019 and begin construction after financing is finalized. More to come on the plan as we work with the Architects. The Budget Committee met March 20, 2018 and after reviewing the multi-year debt budgets, recommended the General, Rural Education, and Education Debt Service budgets for 2019. Planning Our Future Is Important.

In Memory of Steve Kelley – March 2018

This time of the year we generally start writing about the up and coming County Budget, but we shall pause and write about an outstanding Budget Committee member who passed on February 21, 2018, at the age of 63, Steve Kelley. Steve joined the Roane County Budget Committee in September 2011 and served faithfully representing all of Roane County as a member.
Steve was elected from the Oliver Springs, Orchard View and Oak Hills voter
precincts and was a resident of the city of Oak Ridge, TN. He represented his district and Roane County with the utmost integrity and was always inquisitive and fair in his approach to governance. Steve was a quiet leader who earned respect from his fellow Commissioners. He had a passion for education but was concerned about all County Government services and the employees of the County. He loved his wife Renee and three (3) boys. Steve was raised on Dearmond Road in the South of the River community and graduated from Roane County High School. He served our Country in the U.S. Navy and worked at Third Dimension Technologies as he was a self-taught programmer with a Bachelor of Science degree in business from Tusculum College. Steve served with various volunteer organizations including as an executive member of the Roane County Democratic Party. Steve will be missed by his family, his friends, and his fellow workers and Commission colleagues. Steve we will miss your friendship and government leadership.