This blog originally founded by Blogger who holds a theological degree and a doctorate in Counseling Psychology. Taught Psychology for 32 years and is now Professor Emeritus. Is a board-certified psychologist and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in his profession. Ministered as a chaplain, and pastored Baptist and Episcopal churches. Publications cover the integration of psychology and theology. Served in the Army, the Merchant Marines and the Peace Corps.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Commissioner Vince Gable's Letter To The Editor

A letter to the editor, from our County Commissioner, Vince Gable  
March 20, 2011
The question of a tax increase dominated my campaign for County Commissioner.  My steadfast answer was, I will not vote for any tax increase unless as a last resort. I also stated any such increase would go to reducing our debt and should expire in 3 years or less.  I'm still committed to this principle.
At the County Commissioner's Pre-Budget Retreat on February 25 - 26, we heard from many county agencies, which were all requesting funding. The most significant funding request came from the Watauga County School Board for a $1 million increase above their current budget. All the agencies, including education, presented compelling arguments.
During this same time, Governor Perdue published her proposed budget for the state. It contained provisions for numerous unfunded mandates to the counties. The state has historically provided funding for teacher's worker's compensation insurance, school bus purchases, road maintenance, and many other programs. The Governor's proposed budget would shift these burdens to the counties. Such action would devastate Watauga County's ability to maintain basic services. Because the state budget
will not be signed until July, the county had very little time to prepare a prudent budgetary response to impending cost increases.
The question has been raised why money from the County's Emergency Fund has not been applied to this year's budget in dealing with the current revenue shortfall. The state requires every county to maintain an emergency balance of 8% of the budget, though strongly suggests counties maintain a 25% - 30% balance. Watauga County is fortunate to have a healthy Emergency Fund balance. With that said, approximately 20% of our general budget, $8.5 million, goes to service our debt - principal and interest. In four years, providing no new county debt is added, this choking debt service will drop to just over $6 million per year, as some of our debt obligations will have been paid. The County's Fund Balance must provide a safety net to cover our obligations until such debt reduction is realized. It would be reckless and irresponsible to raid the Emergency Fund, with complete disregard for the future, to balance this year's budget.
With the County's staggering obligations and the Governor's cost-shifting budget in mind, we choose to take a proactive stand. Our options were substantial cuts to the budget, a property tax increase, a sales tax increase, raiding the Emergency Fund, or some combination of these. Planning for the worst, though hoping for the best, we pursued the most fair and prudent course of action by proposing budget cuts and exploring the sales tax option.
Time constraints caused us to act when we did. The Commission passed a resolution to consider a sales tax referendum and held a public hearing on the issue. Our resolution stated any tax increase, if necessary, would be used to retire the debt, and must be reviewed by the Commission in 3 years. We are very much aware that once enacted, monies derived from a sales tax increase could be used for any purpose the Commission deemed appropriate. To protect citizens from wayward spending, we added specific language to the resolution, declaring revenue generated from the sales tax would be used exclusively to reduce County debt.
Prior to the public hearing on the referendum, I spoke with state legislators who assured me counties would not be forced to shoulder the burden of balancing the state budget -Governor Perdue's attempted budget manipulation would not prevail.  With this understanding, I entered the public hearing convinced a tax referendum would no longer be necessary. Many of those attending the public hearing were concerned about county funding for education. In light of changing events in Raleigh, I feel the Commission will be able to both balance the budget and protect education without a sales tax increase.  
My fellow conservative Commissioners and I will balance this year's budget and provide for the essential county services. We will make necessary cuts and responsibly manage the Emergency Fund. Our duty extends to all citizens and county employees; to them we are solemn and firm in our commitment.  
Vince Gable
Watauga County Commissioner

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Remember, Deal and company raised property taxes in 2005.

Anonymous said...

Why not tell everyone at the public hearing his stance before everyone spoke and he got upset by it? I guess he forgot to grab his balls when he left the Republican convention the Saturday before.

Anonymous said...

Thank you commissioner Gable for remembering what the people elected you for!

If we didn't have to pay to service such a large debt, we would have money for other things. Let's get the debt paid off early! If we sell the high school, I hope it will all be applied to the principal on our loans.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, right. If what Gable presents in this letter is true, then why didn't they state this at the public hearing. They complained it was because the tax increase was to go to debt, not to education. If they had found out there was no need for an increase, then why didn't they say so at the hearing. Not buying it for one minute.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous above

Maybe if you had attended both BOC meetings and followed this issue since the beginning, you would have a better understanding and maybe even be able to comment with some background knowledge.

Unfortunately when you get herded on board midway into the argument and all you know is what the sheepherder told you, you just end up repeating what you have been told and it makes you looks, well....like you look here.

Anonymous said...

Who did Gable talk to? And when?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Gable talked to the people still in attendance at the commissioner's meeting. Why didn't you attend the meeting, or if you did, why did you leave early?

NewGuy said...

If you had followed this from the beginning you would see that Gable has been consistant in his position since the issue was raised.

While there can certainly be disagreement with his position on the matter, it's either disingenuous or ignorant to suggest that he has been ambiguous.

I quoted him here on March 13, well before the B.O.C. meeting that has some of you upset.

http://wataugarepubs.blogspot.com/2011/03/new-guy-posts-on-watauga-county-budget.html

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yeah, right. If what Gable presents in this letter is true, then why didn't they state this at the public hearing. They complained it was because the tax increase was to go to debt, not to education. If they had found out there was no need for an increase, then why didn't they say so at the hearing. Not buying it for one minute."

Anonymous. If you are going to get your information second hand, then you should be careful from whom you are getting it. The sheepherders who suckered the teachers into this argument are giving you their political spin - and you are buying it.

Anonymous said...

There's just one question I would like to hear the answer to. If Gable got info that there was no need for a sales tax hike, then why didn't he say so at the hearing?

Anonymous said...

Funny that Gable backtracks once hundreds of people assemble against him. He supports what the puppet masters tell him to support, not what the people want him too.

Anonymous said...

"If you are going to get your information second hand, then you should be careful from whom you are getting it."

Actually, I'm getting my information from Gable himself. And the truth of the matter is he would be better off just to shut up instead of continuing to make a fool of himself.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"Funny that Gable backtracks once hundreds of people assemble against him. He supports what the puppet masters tell him to support, not what the people want him too."

What's funny is how you just keep digging yourself in deeper and showing your ignorance.

He didn't "BACKTRACK". he said the same thing at the first March BOC meeting as he said in Newguys March 13 article and as he said in the March 15 meeting which was already pointed out to you in the 11:06 anonymous post.

Make a note to yourself. First rule of holes. When you find yourself in one, STOP DIGGING!

Anonymous said...

Good advice about digging holes there, Anonymous. Now. Answer the question: if Gable knew there was no need for a sales tax referendum afterall, why didn't he say so at the hearing?

Anonymous said...

Just keep digging anon. But, when you take a break and maybe have time to actually READ the posts here and do your own research on this, you will find your answer.

If you had attended the Mar 1 meeting and the Mar 15 meeting AND STAYED TIL THE END you wouldn't be relying on what other people are reporting to you.

Here's your shovel

Anonymous said...

I have kept up with this issue from the very beginning, reading positions and statements on both left and right, and I cannot find the answer. Perhaps you could direct me to it?

Anonymous said...

First, instead of reading other peoples opinions on these matters, you should attend public hearings and listen to what is said.

As far as directing you....I am not here to do your research for you. But, if you want to start, some of the answers are contained RIGHT HERE ON THIS PAGE.

Try reading the posts on this thread and then check out the other threads on this topic.

(hint: try reading the posts which answered you at 10:30, 11:06 and 11:22. If that doesn't help, then maybe you just don't belong in this conversation?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I have read all the postings and all the comments and I still do not see an answer to this question. But it's okay. You don't have answer either. If you did, you'd produce it.

Anonymous said...

The 10:30 post doesn't even remotedly address why Gable didn't tell everyone at the hearing that he had determined a sales tax wasn't needed.

The 11:06 post you refer me to doesn't answer the question because Gable said he had already found out that no sales tax was needed PRIOR to the hearing.

The 11:22 post simply asserts that Gable has not been ambiguous. I disagree, but that's beside the point. It still doesn't answer the question as to why he didn't tell everyone at the hearing he had found out a sales tax wasn't needed.

Anonymous said...

*groan*

Is there anyone near you that has English as a first language and could explain this to you?

I give up.

Anonymous said...

Why am I starting to suspect that at least ONE of the nonny's posting here is POV?

High Country, NC said...

I stayed until the end and what I say from Gable was an angry man. In fact, during several of the teachers presentations he was angrily shaking his head and often turned his head in what looked like digust. I am not a teacher and was actually there to oppose the ref. but regardless, he was either constipated or angry. If he really was against the ref from the beginning then he didn't have to call out the teachers at the end. He could have simply said, "thanks to all who came tonight, but we had discussed BEFORE the hearing that rescinding this ref would be fine since there are funds else where"

inquiringmind said...

Who wrote Commissioner Gable's letter? (You are digging the hole deeper!)

The ghost writer says it would be reckless and irresponsible to raid the "Emergency Fund" (technically the "unreserved fund balance"). This fund has been historically used by commissioners to get debt approval (bury us in debt) and/or buy land (from cronies); they called it OPPORTUNITIES. So, if it was responsible to raid it for OPPORTUNITIES, why is it irresponsible to raid it for NEEDS?

We have been told about the $16.8 million in the general fund "unreserved fund balance" which is almost 36% of the operating expenses. There is also $3.6 million in the capital reserve "unreserved fund balance". These funds have to be used for capital expenditures; however, capital expenditures are part of the annual budget also. So, we have a total of $20.4 million which is almost 47% of the operating expenses.

It sames like the same old advisers up to the same old tricks; squander the "unreserved fund balance" for more future debt and/or LAND OPPORTUNITIES.

Why has the ghost writer not mentioned the sell of the old high school? It seems that the best solution is not mentioned; auction the property off and use the proceeds to pay down the debt.

For the record,GHOST WRITER, below is a memorandum from the division that monitors the county's financial statement.

"Memorandum #2010-25
TO: County Officials and Certified Public Accountants
FROM: Sharon Edmundson, Director, Fiscal Management Section
SUBJECT: Management of Cash and Taxes and Fund Balance Available –
Counties for the Fiscal Year ended June 30, 2009
DATE: April 30, 2010

Each year the staff of the Local Government Commission analyzes the financial statements of cities and counties to determine the amount of fund balance available for appropriation in the General Fund, and the amount of fund balance available for appropriation as a percentage of prior year expenditures. These numbers are significant because the property tax is a major source of revenue in the General Fund. The majority of property tax revenues are received in the latter months of the calendar year. Therefore, there should be reserves on hand in the form of fund
balance available for appropriation at June 30th to prevent the unit from experiencing cash flow difficulties during the first two quarters of the next fiscal year. The minimum level of fund balance available for appropriation that should be on hand to enable the unit to meet current
obligations and to prevent the unit from experiencing cash flow difficulties is 8% of the prior
year's expenditures. In addition to the 8% needed to prevent cash flow difficulties, units also maintain fund balance available for appropriation in the General Fund in case unforeseen needs or opportunities should arise. Fund balance available for appropriation at June 30th is a source that may be budgeted in the following year to address these situations. There is not an established minimum amount that
should be in reserve for these purposes. The officials of the individual units should make that
determination. The amount of fund balance available for appropriation maintained by a particular unit would be influenced by such factors as the size of the unit, economic conditions
within the unit, future capital outlay needs, stability of revenue sources and susceptibility of the
unit to natural disasters."

inquiringmind said...

That's right Anonymous; Commissioner Deal raised taxes by 4.5 cent. That came to $3,732,437 for the year ended 6/30/2010. It was originally set to bring in $2,500,000. It is projected to bring in $3,801,952 for the year ended 6/30/2011.

Anonymous said...

High Country, were you at the first meeting when the resolution was created? The three Republicans said at that meeting the resolution could be abandoned if they decided it wasn't needed to pay down the debt. It got hijacked for something other than the debt, so it was abandoned, like it should have been.

Thank you, Mr. Gable, for letting people know why the proposition was killed.

Anonymous said...

While High Country is reading body language (and perhaps minds) the rest of us are having to go by what Gable says and how he votes.

He said the same things in his campaign, in the first meeting on this topic, in the March 15th meeting and in his letter to the editor. His votes have been consistant with what he has said.

Now, of course if we are going to judge him because, as HighCountry says he looked "angry or constipated"...well I guess we just can't argue with that kind of logic.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. Still no answer to the question as to why Commissioner Gable didn't tell the public at the public hearing that there was no longer a need for a sales tax increase. (And this coming BTW from someone who opposed it all along.) I agree with Inquiring Mind. Gable's letter to the editor digs his hole deeper. It makes him out a liar.

Anonymous said...

Gable did so at both meetings, Anonymous POV. If you had went to the meetings and got the liberal crap out of your ears, you would have heard it.

Anonymous said...

Actually I went to the meetings and stayed until the end, and Gable never said anything about being told that the sales tax was not needed afterall.

Anonymous said...

If you don't listen you can't hear. I was at both meetings. There were only a few that stayed for the end of the last one. If you had really been there you would have heard the comments about the referendum not being needed had you chosen to listen to the commissioners instead being busy wringing your hands and gnashing your teeth.

Anonymous said...

I've requested a copy of the recording of the hearing from Rocky Nelson. When I receive it (within a few days), we can determine once and for all if Gable made the comment that the sales ref was no longer needed.

Anonymous said...

To JW, editor of Watauga Watch:

YOU are the one who is engaging in "damage control".

You and your fellow progressives will never admit that the previous boards spent this county into tremendous debt, despite warnings not to do this, and now we are facing financial reality.

But, you, JW and your pals, want to continue to tax and spend more to keep your support base on the payrolls.

The majority on the BOC heard from the public, and not special interests, that the ordinary taxpayers in this county would NOT tolerate any more tax increases or spending increases. Many sent handwritten notes, emails, and made phone calls to these commissioners admonishing them for even considering a tax increase. It is past due time that the county, state, and federal bureaucracies cut their budgets significantly and stop their spending plans.

I've got news for you, Mr. Editor, whether you print this or not. The people, the nation, the state, the county, cannot afford this tax and spend policy anymore. But apparently, you will never accept this reality.