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letterstotheeditor


Quigley counters Arms



Dear Editor:



The public should be aware that Mayor [Mike] Ragsdale created [Knox County Chief of Staff Mike] Arms’ position at a salary of $123,999 per year. Can there be any doubt that Arms would support any tax measure to insure his lofty job? In a revenue crunch where county jobs were cut, Arms’ position could be eliminated with no adverse impact on the public. Remember too, Arms has double-dipped for the past two years by earning $22,000 annually for serving on County Commission. Arms is not striving as much to promote the public welfare as he is to attain power and self-enrichment. Arms is not a credible source, one reason being that he and Ragsdale created the budget and the Wheel Tax to support it, putting Arms in a conflict-of-interest situation: retain his $123,999 job or go compete in the marketplace against the citizens he is attempting to burden with increased taxes.


Arms chastises you, “For you to say that both the Wheel Tax and the property tax are wrong equates to saying Knox County should not build a new high school.” Unlike Arms, I construed your statement to mean that a new school should be funded by a sales tax similar to Oak Ridge’s recent funding of a $55 million renovation of their high school, or by removing unjustified and unworthy items from the budget and thus building a new school with existing revenue. It is scary that a $123,999 county official can possess such faulty logic and lack of knowledge. It is also scary that veterans’ nursing homes, senior centers and certain education expenditures should be in the exclusive territory of the federal and state budgets, yet Arms and Ragsdale have sought to bring these matters into the county budget in order to advance their political careers. I support eliminating Arms’ position and using his $123,999 salary to fund a comparative study of county budgets with an end result showing (1) what is a preferred model to follow, and (2) how does the Knox county budget compare to that model, with a special focus on counties not supported by a state income tax.

The Internet posts a recent study by the National Association of Counties stating that, in 2001, property taxes accounted for 23 percent, and sales tax 7.5 percent, of general revenue funds in county budgets across America, down from 30.6 percent and 14 percent, respectively, in 1998. The fact that property taxes in the 2004 Knox county budget comprise 60 percent of revenue suggests an over-reliance on the real estate tax. It also suggests that it is time to lower the tax rate in Knox County. Either by reckless, irresponsible and arbitrary spending or by inexcusable failure to identify and implement revenue sources other than property taxes, the mayor and Knox County Commission are grossly over-taxing property owners in Knox County. In the no-income-tax state of Florida, 36 percent of Alachua county’s 2004 revenues are derived from property taxes; if they can do it, why can’t we? The people will show their rebellion in the 2006 election.

Since no community money tree exists from which a person can endlessly and arbitrarily pluck dollars to throw at this political career or favorite projects, government officials must sell the community on expenditures and an acceptable means of finance. While the public is adamantly opposed to increases in the vehicle and real estate taxes, they are open-minded to the sales tax because it reflects who can best afford to pay: he who has extra money to spend can best absorb the costs of government projects, while he who owns a vehicle or real estate may have no extra money to spend. Why haven’t Arms and the West Knox commissioners arrived at this truth?

Another quote from Arms’ letter to you: “Knox County has had only one property tax increase in the last six years.” So what? Is he inferring that an increase should occur more often while across America counties are reducing property taxes in favor of more acceptable forms of revenue? The greater truth is that Knox County, despite its growth, has not reduced the property tax since it was lowered from $3.32 to $2.96 per $100 of assessed value in 2001. In 2002, in Knox County, property taxes comprised 62 percent of revenue, 22 to 32 percent above the national average.

Informed voters will kill the Wheel Tax on Nov. 2. Then, if an 18-cent property tax increase is instituted, informed voters will, in 2006, elect only those candidates for mayor and commission who have promised to roll back the tax, with refunds, to the Sept. 1 level or lower.



Sincerely,

Harry Quiqley

Knox County



County finance director challenges ‘Editor’s Note’



Dear Editor:



In general, I refrain from commenting on newspaper articles where there may be a difference in opinion. However, I must admit that the farragutpress’ Oct. 21 article on “Press Talk” is factually incorrect; therefore, I am compelled to redress them accordingly.

The farragutpress’ first implication is that the Wheel Tax issue is dead. This is at best premature on the part of the paper since tabulations of the voting results have not yet begun; moreover, I am not aware of any polls indicating the Wheel Tax’s demise.

The second assertion is that city residents do not pay county property taxes. That is unequivocally incorrect. All property owners within the county, with a few exceptions, are subject to property taxes, regardless of address.

The farragutpress’ third point regards the delivery of services. A quick glance at the City of Knoxville budget reveals line items for police, fire and solid waste. But where are funds for the expenditure on local education? There isn’t any because there are no city schools. Only as mandated within Tennessee Code Annotated and through the County of Knox (as an extension of the State) are dollars collected from sales taxes within the City apply directly to local, county schools.

Here are the facts. The City of Knoxville applies 70 percent of [its] sales taxes to county schools. The County of Knox mirrors this effort. In addition, the county applies as of today 46 percent of [its] property taxes to local education for a combined county contribution of $182 million. In addition, the county budget provides for all residents within the county a public library system, a public health department, incarceration of prisoners, and school operation and construction. These represent the big-ticket items in county and state governments nationwide, and the City of Knoxville does not provide any of these services for their residents.

If anything, The farragutpress’ article should have raised the notion regarding the scope of services county residents receive for their property tax dollar as compared to city dwellers for what may be relatively comparable tax rates.



Sincerely,



John J. Werner II

Director of Finance

Knox County



Voter critiques Town Hall voting



Dear Editor:



My wife and I live and vote in West Knoxville. We have lived in West Knoxville north of the Interstate for some 16 years but have to vote in the town of Farragut.

If we don’t vote early, we cast our ballot at Farragut Middle School. We’re in voting precinct 65N, that’s north of the Interstate. They have a special voting room for those of us that live north of the Interstate. When we vote early, we voted at the empty retail space beside the Pilot Station on Campbell Station Road. Due to the fact that the Pilot and the adjoining space has been demolished making way for new construction, we were allowed the exclusive opportunity of voting at the Farragut Town Hall.

Yep, they let us vote there!

We decided to vote Saturday afternoon just before the kickoff of the UT vs. Alabama game. As we were driving up to the building, we saw all four of the “Vote Here” signs strategically placed at the entrance of the spacious parking area. One pointed to the front of the building and the other three pointed to the rear of the building. We chose the front. After all that is the north side of the building. We are in the north precinct, remember?

As we entered the building there must have been at least 10 or 15 handwritten messages deliberately scotched taped to the front door. You know the things they say at a polling places, “No political hats or pins or buttons allowed beyond this point,” “No hand shaking or baby kissing closer than a 100 feet to this polling place.” I saw the little sign out next to the road that indicated the 100 feet mark where a candidate could shake my hand or kiss a baby of whatever else they kiss before elections.

The mayor of the town of Farragut and his “little helpers” allowed the loyal people of Farragut and yes, even those of us north of the Interstate to cast our ballot in their lovely little place of business.

In what I have heard is, “undoubtedly the most important election in our life time,” we searched for and finally found the 12-foot wide by 20-foot long little spare room just off the main assembly area in which we were to cast our vote. There was a total of 17 of us in the tiny room with just three voting machines, fulfilling our patriotic duty! What a thrill it was for my wife and I. I’ll never forget the excitement emanating from that little room.

The volunteers were doing the very best they could under the extremely tight circumstances. They were simply great, they had a very long fuse and a cute sense of humor. They let out a loud resounding cheer for a young lady who was voting for her first time. What an experience that must have been for her! One volunteer told me: “We usually have suckers for the first timers.”

It was hot, crowded and downright pathetic that the citizens of this great county are made to endure the unequaled kindness of the elected officials of the town Of Farragut. I certainly hope that Knox County will do better for its West Knoxville citizens for the next election. If not, some people will simply choose not to vote.

What a waste!



Sincerely,

Walter Bowser

Knoxville



NHC Farragut garners praise



Dear Editor:



Recently my mother passed away after spending almost four years at NHC Farragut Healthcare.

There, she was cared for with kindness, compassion, expertise, gentleness and extreme skill.

This is a public “thank you” to the CNAs that worked so very hard to make my mother comfortable, the LPNs and registered nurses that administer care on many levels, the housekeeping and janitorial staff that are so kind and do their jobs thoroughly, the administration and staff that facilitate the business of nursing home care so well.

This facility is not only staffed with the best, but the surroundings and décor at NHC are unsurpassed. What a wonderful, beautiful place it is.

Thank you to them for all they did for my mom.



Sincerely,

Terrie Ware Rincon

West Knox



Reader comments on ‘leftist dribble’



Dear Editor:



I feel compelled to respond to the leftist dribble that graced the Oct. 21 Opinion pages. Particularly worrisome was the diatribe about [U.S. Sen.] John Kerry taking care of our families. How in the world does one get to be a fully functioning human being in a free-market society and still expect the president to take care of their families? The only ways I want a president to take care of my family is one, lead the charge to stop taking my money for unconstitutional purposes; and two, make sure some nut does not put a dirty bomb in the old Samsonite and litter the streets with hundreds of thousands of my fellow Americans.

The first is pretty much a dead issue with both candidates. Just kiss your money goodbye right now, because whoever wins, more will be spent. The budget deficit will rise and fall with the performance of the economy. And despite their lofty claims, they really have little control over the economy.

The security issue is another matter. What the left does not want to admit is that America was (as it has been in the past) grabbed by the throat and pulled into a world war. The problem America faces is not just UBL, it is the convergence of a generation or more of anti-American, quasi-religious indoctrination in the Middle East with the reality that even rudimentary technology can now be used to kill us in ways no one ever imagined. UBL is an important figurehead, mastermind and financier, but the problem is systematic, and it ain’t our system … but it’s damn sure our problem.

[President] George Bush and company seem to understand that winning may be painful, but losing would really suck! Not just for us, but for the world long after we are all dead and gone. Because like it or not, the potential freedom of all the middle and lower class people of this world and for generations to come has one defender … the United States of America. They cannot count on the corrupt [United Nations], the French, Russians, Germans or Chinese. If not us, then who? You want your family taken care of … move to Cuba. Fidel [Castro] will be happy to accommodate. You want to use class envy to make state policies that divide Americans, please read your history books and know the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia ended in financial disaster with starving lower and middle class citizens. John Kerry’s core beliefs are just repackaged socialist dogma. Nothing more, nothing new and fancy. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is a perfect description John Kerry’s views both stated and recorded vote.

I was not a huge fan of Mr. Bush when he was elected. But when Sept. 11, 2001, happened, his soul was bare for all to witness. We truly know what George Bush is and is not. If a similar instance would happen to a (God help us) President Kerry, we would know his soul as well. He might just rise to the occasion … he might not. All we have to judge him on is his past as an adult. The truth of the matter is John Kerry is not a man that understands this war. Fate has led him to believe in multi-lateralism in a world that knows a unilateral protector of freedom. He may be a decent man in the way President [Bill] Clinton was not, but he is the wrong man for this time.



Sincerely,

Paul Mees

Farragut





Vice Mayor praises FHS Band coverage



Dear Editor:



I would like to thank you for the excellent front page coverage and photo spread on the recent success of the Farragut High School Admirals Marching Band.

While the article was very informative about this particular competition, I think it is important to note that this [is] only the latest in a long history of success by the band under the direction of Mr. Ron Rogers.

My wife and I both served as co-presidents of the [FHS] Band Boosters many years ago and have had two sons play in the Admirals Marching Band.

As every band parent knows, those students work extremely hard but receive great rewards in discipline, teamwork and learning how to perform under pressure.

I am certain that the list of successful competitions will continue for many years to come!



Very truly yours,

J. Michael Haynes

Vice Mayor and Alderman

Town of Farragut

 

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