What They Said Then
The debate continued at last Wednesday's commission meeting as to whether or not commission should take a big chunk of the schools building fund money and move it over into the county's general operating fund. Moving the eight pennies into the county general operating fund would amount to about an extra 1.36 million dollars for commissioners to spend each year. It's unclear just how many commissioners are in favor of raiding the building fund.
So far, commissioners Bob Franke, Don Miller and Mayor Estelle Heron who are all members of the budget committee have voted to take the money away from the schools. Commissioners Austin Shaver and Sharon Yarbrough, who are also on the budget committee, voted not to move the money.
At Wednesday's meeting, several commissioners commented on the issue during the debate but only Commissioner Harold Duff spoke openly in opposition to taking the money from the schools.
So by their own comments or votes, there are two commissioners on record to take the money away from the school building fund and three who by their votes or statements are opposed to moving the money. That leaves unknown what the other five commissioners will vote to do at the June 28 meeting.
Fortunately, we have a the minutes of the meeting from back on June 30th, 2011 with what some commissioners said at the time the twenty cent tax increase was passed. One would hope commissioners would still stand by their statements of just a year ago. See Below.
From Meeting Minutes of June 30, 2011
Commissioner Frankestated that Commissioner Miller had put together a chart that showed there would be a Fund surplus in future years and this surplus funding could be kept in this Fund and put toward Phase 2.
Commissioner Franke stated that the extra money in this Fund last year was used for employee pay raises and he wanted to fence this money into this Fund so that no one could touch it except for these school projects.
Commissioner Franke explained his “yes” vote saying that the County has been working for 9 years on this issue and that it was time to move forward – if not now, when? – and he was happy to vote “yea”.
Commissioner Miller said that he had a very divided constituency in his district and that his position of casting the deciding vote tonight was very similar to one he found himself in many years ago. He said this was a very defining vote and an important decision that had gone on for 6 years and that it was time to do something for the kids of the County.
Commissioner Miller believes it depends on what the future brings up and the County may be forced to build a new jail or other projects. He questions what if this happens 1 or 2 years from now and the Commission is unable to use funds as needed?_________________________________________________________
Commissioner Harrelson stated he wants to divide the money up 16 cents for Phase 1 and 4 cents for Phase 2 but, if the vote tonight is for the 20 cents, he won’t even consider moving money designated for this program to another purpose in the future.
Commissioner Harrelson stated that the Public says the Commission needs to plan and he was trying to represent his people all of whom know he’s a big advocate for schools. He has to be a supporter of completing Phase 2 because it includes a school in the north end of the County which he represents.________________________________________________________
Commissioner Yarbrough stated that she also believes in total school planning but she wants a different kind of practice. She said that they need to plan ahead for projects and when one is needed the funding for that project should be kept appropriately designated for that project and not be moved around from fund to fund. She believes that when the Commission tells the citizens they’re designating funding for a specific project they should stick to that commitment – honor their commitment – and not move money into other purposes.
Commissioner Shaver stated that he thought long and hard before casting his “no” vote tonight. He believes the County needs to go back to the drawing board. He fears how this money will be spent and he thanked the School Board for the budget constraint shown this year.
Commissioner Duff had prepared comments regarding the value of education and the desire to give the County’s children the best possible start in life. He stated that he was frustrated by the woefully sub-standard schools in some of the areas and feels that this is a very necessary purpose for the tax dollars.