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Call to Action!

Occasionally we put out a "Call to Action", which highlights an issue that we feel the community needs to be aware of, and to garner attendance at either the next Commissioner Meeting, or at our next UCHC meeting for additional discussion and planning. 

Resolution 2024/07/??
County Budget for Fiscal Year 2024-2025

This Call to Action is a continuation of our previous one - to urge the Budget Committee and Board of Commissioners to eliminate or reduce the proposed tax increase (from the originally projected 34.67c increase). 

We would like to take a moment to respond to some Commissioners' request for clarification on some of Dr. Cliff Payne's forensic analysis of the proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024-2025. 

The following text was shared to our Facebook group in response to specific questions pertaining to the original Forensic Analysis on the proposed FY 2024/2025 budget. Then we have included a new document, which answers those questions more fully, with exact figures and amounts. 

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Please excuse us for a lengthy response, but due to the numerous inquiries made, we believe it is necessary to elaborate fully. 

We believe that the information requested is best addressed in a formal conversation, on the record, with the public involved- much like the setting we were in yesterday! Dr. Cliff Payne does not have a Facebook, and since he is the individual that you are addressing these questions to, he would be glad to discuss any of these questions that you have- openly in the public for all to hear - maybe at the next Commissioner Meeting. After all, a Facebook comments section is the last place one would attempt to conduct a thorough back and forth on a complex subject -- productively, at least! 

Also, it has come to our attention recently that not a single individual in the entire Commission, the Budget Committee, or the Mayor's Office, has any credentials that would validate their expertise in finance - not even the *Director of Accounts and Budgets*. Of course, our organization isn’t trying to claim that an individual must have a degree/credentials to be capable of performing in these positions (though that would probably be appropriate), but, we are claiming that it would be wise to check one’s ego when receiving constructive criticism from someone who does!

 

Dr. Payne is a C-suite executive officer with extensive experience managing multiple billion-dollar P&Ls. He is widely recognized as a leading expert in corporate solvency, evaluating financial performances across private, non-profit, and publicly traded sectors, often leading to divestitures, exits, and M&As (two multi-billion dollar due diligence phases). His background as a serial entrepreneur, coupled with a PhD in organizational psychology, an MBA, and several undergraduate degrees, may not make him "qualified" to understand the “unique” government financial practices and budgets, as the Commission has claimed - but all we ask is: what is it that makes you so certainly qualified? Please elaborate! 

With that in mind, we would like to request answers to the following questions that were proposed during the public Budget Committee meeting yesterday - questions which were promptly dismissed and ignored by all Commissioners  and the Mayor: 

 

1. What specifically is the 12% of the general fund categorized as “other” miscellaneous spending allocated towards? These amounts reach a combined total of $2,050,470 and we have yet to receive any itemization, justification, return on investment, or needs analysis for this expenditure. This request was formally made yesterday by Dr. Cliff D. Payne, and about 5 others. Without specific line items and justification for these amounts, it is not only irresponsible to approve these sections - it is intentionally deceiving and unacceptable. 

 2. Where is the itemized justification for the $178,900 being spent on “travel expenses” - noting that this is a 317% increase from the previous year? 

(Important note: This revised number is now excluding fuel, which is allocated in the Highway/Public Works Fund - reducing it from the initial claim of $300k)


Without this, the Commission and Mayor's Office lack the credibility to argue for its necessity. Not one citizen present from Hawkins County stated that they believe this amount is appropriate - so why do you? 

 3. Where is the validation for the $237,650 used for “office supplies” in a concise and specific itemized format? You were certainly very clear in your request for us to be specific with our budgetary questions - especially Dr. Payne in his suggestions to fix this mess of a budget- we expect the exact same thing! Be specific - list it. This is simply a preposterous amount - and this is why it will never be itemized - because it simply can not be justified. 
     

 4. Where is the needs analysis presented anywhere for the justification of the newly created Mayor’s Office positions? Does the Commission believe that the Mayor saying “because we need it” is sufficient explanation to justify funding those positions? Did you not hear every single citizen, which you are supposed to accurately represent, state loudly and clearly that they do not believe this is appropriate? 

5. What is your justification for the numerous raises for county positions that are in the range of $10,000-$20,000 ? Every single citizen that was present and spoke at both the Budget Committee and Commission Meeting stated they do not believe these raises are appropriate - ZERO of your constituents. Why did you choose to ignore this and not represent them accurately? 

It is essential that we receive clear and detailed responses to these inquiries to ensure transparency and accountability in the allocation of public funds. Admitting nothing on the record, denying the factual presence of these numbers within the budget, and making counter-accusations is an age-old political strategy that we recognize to be inappropriate and unproductive. So, addressing our concerns head-on when they are asked, on the record, where it counts, is crucial for maintaining the integrity of this process. If you insist that we categorically respond to your questions in this thread, we expect a comprehensive reply to all the questions that have already been presented to you, at your earliest convenience. If you can not provide these- we will see you in the Courthouse 👍🏼

Thank you for your attention to these matters.

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Resolution 2024/06/11
County Budget for Fiscal Year 2024-2025

The Budget Proposal:






 

Forensic Accounting Assessment of Hawkins County, Tennessee 2024-2025 Budget Proposal:




 

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These two flyers should be shared far and wide, to raise awareness and maximize attendance at the Monday Budget Committee Meeting and Commissioner Meeting!

This is our chance as a community, to have our voices heard, and make sure our elected officials know that we Do Not Want Tax Increases! Whenever our taxes go up, they Do Not Go Back Down!

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The Hawkins County budget will be finalized and sent for a vote by the Commission this upcoming Monday, and the most recent proposal includes a 34.67¢ tax increase, the highest in the entire state of Tennessee. United Citizens of Hawkins County recognizes that this large of tax increase is absurd, and absolutely unnecessary. Following a deep investigation into the budget via a forensic analysis done by a finance professional, individual inspections done by members of the community, and thorough communication with several of our elected officials, this conclusion was easily drawn.

It is our strong belief that we can drastically reduce, or eliminate entirely, this tax raise by following these three simple steps:

1. Pay for the Goshen Valley Bridge out of the General Fund savings. This fund is designed to act as emergency money for the county, and the bridge project would only use 10% of the total savings we have developed - this is very reasonable and supported widely by many community members, and several Commissioners. Using roughly 10% of an emergency fund for an emergency project within the county, to avoid raising taxes for the citizens, is simply common sense. This alone would result in a 29.4% reduction of the proposed tax raise.

2. Call for a rational compromise on the funds being allocated to the Sheriff’s Department for salary purposes, by lowering the original asking amount of $1,800,000 ($1.8M) to $1.1M, at most. Many citizens and Commissioners alike agree a reasonable and fair wage increase for the Sheriff’s Department (in order for them to have adequate funding and a competitive regional wage), would be accomplished with $1.1M. This would allow them to give all 122 employees a $5 (on the hour) raise, resulting in a nearly $10K yearly salary increase. Though we fully support our Law Enforcement Officers and are grateful for the services they provide, there is an obligation to consider the welfare of tax-paying residents of our county. It is a fact and not subjective: if they receive this amount of funding, their wages will not only be regionally competitive, but more so than some surrounding counties. This fulfills every aspect of the request to raise salaries in order to retain personnel and experience at the department, while simultaneously easing the tax burden on our citizenry. If achieved, this will result in a 20% reduction to the proposed tax raise.

3. Remove unnecessary "miscellaneous" expenditures throughout the entire budget, like:

- large pay increases for county employees (especially ones in the $10-15K range)

- eliminate unnecessary new positions being created (like assistants for Mayor's office personnel - the same personnel who are supposed to also be receiving a $10-15K raise, along with receiving a new assistant)

- demanding explanations for the consistent raises in categories labeled as “other” within the budget

- eliminating unnecessary frivolous spending that isn’t justified

- reduce the excessive amount spent on travel expenses (somehow totaling $300K)

- implement a 10% REDUCTION to top level Administrative salaries

- drastically reduce the $250K spent yearly on “office expenses” by establishing bulk purchasing agreements

Hawkins County is a desirable place to live because of its beauty, its cultural emphasis on preserving rural American ideals, and its history of being "high-freedom" and "low-tax". Preserving these attributes, along with the affordability of living here, is essential to keeping Hawkins County great! So we sincerely ask that our community combines its efforts, and rallies together to oppose this atrocious tax raise proposal!

As a Constitutional and Conservative organization, United Citizens of Hawkins County believes that defending liberties and promoting fiscal responsibility is a priority. We also believe that every American citizen has an inherent obligation to actively participate in preserving our free and prosperous society, and we know that our Founders of this great nation are with us in spirit through this pursuit. Please help maintain this beautiful Constitutional and Second Amendment sanctuary that we all call home, and make your voice heard at this important community event!

The expected turnout for the Budget Committee meeting at 3:00pm on June 24th caused the meeting to be moved from the regular location in the Mayor's Office, to an upstairs courtroom inside the courthouse. 

The expected turnout for the Commissioner Meeting at 6:00pm had that same upstairs courtroom used as an overflow room, with a live feed from the Commissioner meeting downstairs, on a large TV. 

Everyone appreciated these accommodations for a larger crowd!

After much discussion and back-and-forth, Resolution 2024/06/11 was POSTPONED until next month's Commissioner meeting, so that the Budget Committee could spend more time on the budget. 

Resolution 2023/09/03
Never Adopt "County Powers Act" or Similar

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The expected turnout for this Commissioner Meeting was so large, the meeting was shifted from its regular location at the county courthouse, to the Rogersville Middle school gymnasium, at 958 E McKinney Avenue, Rogersville TN. The turnout was indeed immense, and our vocal support for Commissioner Gilliam's Resolution 2023/09/03 paid off - the Resolution was amended to add TCA 5-1-118, and both the amendment and the original Resolution passed!

Our second Call to Action was alerting the community about Resolution 2023/09/03, introduced by District 4 Commissioner Josh Gilliam, to prevent the Board of Commissioners from ever adopting TCA 6-2-201 ("the County Powers Act"), or other similar powers.

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Resolution 2023/08/01 
"County Powers Act"

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Our first Call to Action was alerting the community about Resolution 2023/08/01, which was written broadly and would have infringed on our personal property rights. We asked the community for a large turnout at the Commissioner Meeting to speak to our Commissioners with the goal of stopping this Resolution from passing. 

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The turnout at the courthouse was immense, and the Board of Commissioners heard our community loud and clear! The Resolution was "pulled" by the Commissioner that introduced it:  District 2 Commissioner Tom Kern. 

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