Name Christopher Richards
District 7
Current Occupation & Employer Stay @ Home Parent
Political Experience Candidate for WCSB 2016
Education BABS Degree, Politcally training @ Leadership Intitute
Civic/Religious Organizations You Belong To Republican Chairman's Circle, Board Member Nashville Football Club, PTO Co-Chair
How Long Have You Lived In Williamson Co.? 15 Years
Military Service none
Email Address
Phone Number 615-370-1087
Thank you for volunteering to serve your community, what motivated you to seek this position? I was most motivated by the lack of planning I currently see from our District 7 County Commissioners. Neither of them are willing to acknowledge that being $600 Million in debt is a big red flag that our county has a spending problem. I have lived debt-free and understand the freedom and flexibility that it gives you. If my city, my church and my household can live debt-free, then I want to help my county to realize all the benefits of living within its means.
On your first day in office, what will be the top item on your agenda? Something Else
Have you attended County Commission meetings or work sessions, researched the duties and responsibilities of a County Commissioner, and talked to other elected officials about what your role and time commitments would be as a Commissioner? Incumbents: How do you communicate with your constituents and when are you available to meet? Yes, I have attended some County Commission meetings and the Brentwood City Commission meetings. I have spoken with County and City Commissioners at length before committing to my candidacy because I wanted to make sure I had the time and temperament to hold elected office. I have great mentors in Ken Travis and Mark Gorman who I turn to for advice. Being a full-time father to 3 teenagers, my work day is flexible so I know I can make time to meet with constituents during the day, or in the evening. I prefer face-to-face meetings or phone calls, and will also be available via electronic means (email, social media, etc.) to keep the lines of communication open. Listening and understanding residents' concerns is of great importance in being a successful public servant.
The County Commission is responsible for approving the budget and funding our schools, roads, and infrastructure with property taxes collected. On the other hand, cities fuel growth by approving zoning requests and building permits for commercial and residential construction. What would you do to encourage a shared fiscal responsibility with local municipalities? Additionally, in your mind, who should pay for growth and how? For the city of Brentwood, and my constituents, we are in a unique position in that Brentwood is dedicated to strategic planning and cooperation. I don't want to abuse the City Commissioners' generosity by continually asking them to fund the county budget shortfalls. I believe that city and county leaders need to work together to manage growth and determine how best to pay for growth. Ideally, growth pays for growth.
Our current property taxes if left unchecked are estimated to double - perhaps triple - in just a few years. The tax burden is on current residents many of whom are looking forward to retirement, living on fixed incomes, or raising families. Would you support legislation to foster sharing the cost of growth with the business sector as many high growth States have done? Would you support researching alternative funding sources such as making commercial or business rental leases subject to sales tax? What other cost containment measures would you recommend? I support looking at all ideas for sharing the cost of growth. I want to make sure that residents who have lived and worked here, believing in Williamson County before we were so popular, can afford to stay here. I think we first and foremost need to recognize that we have a spending problem, and stop working on ways to spend more money (for example an indoor sports complex), until we get our debt under control and have a plan for getting out of debt. The ability to prove we can pay down this debt will give us more flexibility in what we can do with our revenue.
In 2016-2017, $44,000,000.00 or 21% of our property tax dollars were allocated to pay the interest on our debt. While interest rates are currently low, if we continue to fund growth by borrowing, we take on significant fiscal risk as bonds interest rates rise. What funding ideas to you have other than purchasing 20 year bonds? This is exactly what scares me so much about our current District 7 Commissioners. This example illustrates why I am so concerned about our current debt load. Any candidate who ignores this is doing a disservice to our residents. What household could afford to allocate 21% of their household income to interest payments?
In an effort to promote accountability and transparency local municipalities in other states have put their checkbook register on line for citizens to see how their tax dollars are spent. What recommendations would you make to increase transparency and accountability to the electorate? I think the entire budget and checkbook register should be fully transparent. Taxpayers should have the right to understand exactly where each dollar is spent.
What cost containment measures can you suggest to save tax dollars? Each department head should review their annual budget and make recommendations for cutting costs. That may mean that services will need to be prioritized and some may be reduced in the short term, or supplemented by private enterprises. The teams spending the tax dollars are in the best position to help figure out solutions to saving money. Once these recommendations are received by the Commissioners, they should be open for debate and discussion. The feasibility study by the Sports Authority for an indoor recreation center is a perfect example of a nice to have vs. a need to have. One thing is clear, we can't afford to keep doing what we are doing. Something has to change.
Schools funding including interest payments on money borrowed to build new schools is close to 80% of the total County budget. Commissioners vote either to accept or reject the budget as presented, they have no control over how the money is spent. If the budget is rejected, they must negotiate with the Director of Public schools until they reach a resolution. Would you support a resolution to change current law to allow line item veto power to the County Commission when approving the School Budget? Yes