Name Jennifer Luteran
District 7
Current Occupation & Employer Stay at home mom
Political Experience I ran for a seat on the Williamson County School Board in 2016.
Education Business and Accounting-Undergrad; Law Degree
Civic/Religious Organizations You Belong To Member of Brentwood United Methodist Church; longstanding and active member of the Williamson County Republican Party and the Republican Women of Williamson County; volunteer at "Shower Up"; member of Edmondson Elementary PTO and an active volunteer at Brentwood Middle
How Long Have You Lived In Williamson Co.? Since 2001
Military Service No
Email Address VoteLuteran@gmail.com
Phone Number 615-308-5400
Thank you for volunteering to serve your community, what motivated you to seek this position? I ran for a position on the School Board 2 years ago and lost to the incumbent by a very small margin. During that campaign, I knocked on 2500 doors and was able to meet and have discussions with many of the residents of District 7. I learned through that process that people's areas of concern do not necessarily have to do with the day to day activities of the schools, but rather how are we going to pay for these schools, along with our infrastructure, jails, EMS, etc. It was after the election for school board was over that I started planning my campaign to run for County Commission because I felt like I had a good grasp on what a huge segment of my district was concerned about. I feel like I am the perfect candidate to take those concerns to the County level and be the resident's advocate. I have a law degree and was in the legal field for many years before deciding to stay home and raise a family. I have many years of mediation experience so I feel that I am well qualified to help make sure that the County Commissioners work well together to come to solutions that everyone likes. I also majored in Accounting and Business in College so I am able to review budgets and make informed decisions as to their content. Lastly, being a stay at home mom gives me the ability to have the time to meet with my constituents and promptly respond to their concerns.
On your first day in office, what will be the top item on your agenda? Taxes
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 been attending County Commission meetings for years. When I am not there in person, I am watching the live feed. I believe that each of the County Commissioners know me by name and I have made it a point to get to know most of them. I have had many discussions with both present and past Commissioners in order to gain an understanding as to the role of a County Commissioner, and the time it takes to be a successful Commissioner.
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? I would encourage monthly summits where representatives from the schools, elected City officials and elected County officials get together to talk about development requests. As it stands right now, there is no accountability from anyone and we can all see where that has got us. There has to be a better system put into place whereby the Cities, the Schools and the County work together to approve and fund our growth. I believe the biggest challenge facing Williamson County at this time is that growth is outpacing our revenue. I believe that growth has got to start paying for itself and that everyone has to pay their fair share. However, the cost of this growth should not be put entirely on the back of the taxpayers. Our business community can do a lot more to help pay for some of the costs associated with our schools. The business community brings a lot of families to Williamson County while using the quality of our school system to aid in their recruiting. It is time that these same businesses do more to offset some of the costs associated with building and operating the schools. With additional families comes additional revenue. We also have the potential of collecting a large sum of money if we prevail in collecting the Builder Impact Fees. This will certainly help with the shortfall but we are going to need more to help offset the cost of growth. I promise to look at all other means of revenue before voting for any type of tax increase. This includes, but is not limited to, raising the yearly price of the rec centers; bidding out our County services on a routine basis and performing a feasibility study on some of our County assets. Our county does not routinely bid out the cost of certain services such as healthcare. Last time this was done was 7 years ago, and the County saved 10 million dollars. Certain services should be bid out on a routine bases. Those are just some of the ways that I want to increase the revenue and help offset our growing expenditures without placing the cost solely on the backs of the taxpayers.
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? Yes, Yes and Yes to all of the above. As I stated above, I believe it is well past time that the business community do more to support our schools and help absorb some of the costs associated with building and operating our schools. I would also continue to look at other revenue sources as those mentioned above.
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? I think that 20 year bonds are fine as long as we keep the amount of debt that we have at a manageable level. Our County is in debt over 650 million dollars with another 500 million coming. I don't think the 20 year bonds are the issue. It is the amount of those 20 year bonds that is the issue.
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 have always supported putting the County's checkbook on line. I don't think that a taxpayer should ever have to look very hard to see what their tax dollars are being spent on. I would also like to see a more detailed itemization of the school budget. Lastly, I would like to see a schedule of how often the County's services are being bid out.
What cost containment measures can you suggest to save tax dollars? I believe that if we actively bid out the County services on a routine bases, we would save a lot of money. I would like to see the County stop funding non-profits. I believe that it is up to each person to decide what (if any) non-profit that thy want to support and the County should not be doing that for them. I also think that an increase in the rec fees is appropriate. These facilities compete with local gyms but cost about 10% of the cost of those facilities. The County has to make up the difference.
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