Name Steve Smith
District 12
Current Occupation & Employer Foundation Executive Director, Williamson Medical Center
Political Experience Former City of Franklin Alderman, 12th District Commissioner since 2005
Education BS in Finance and MBA, Mississippi state University
Civic/Religious Organizations You Belong To Franklin Noon Rotary Club, Franklin First United Methodist Church
How Long Have You Lived In Williamson Co.? 31 years
Military Service N/A
Email Address steves@williamson-tn.org
Phone Number 615-794-9515
Thank you for volunteering to serve your community, what motivated you to seek this position? I have lived in the 12th District over 30 years and enjoy being able to use my experience and skills to help improve our community.
On your first day in office, what will be the top item on your agenda? Education
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? I communicate by phone, email and I have a schedule that allows me to visit with anyone at their convenience.
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? Growth is impacting the county and all the municipalities in the county. Each entity has its own responsibilities to manage the issues that growth presents. I think the county and cities can work together as shown by the current sales tax referendum and the associated agreements with the cities. In Williamson County the different political subdivisions have shown the ability to work together.
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? The business sector already pays 40% of assessed value on commercial property as compared to residential property, which is taxed at 25%. Our property tax rate is currently very attractive compared to many surrounding counties and states. We have several programs for property tax relief for elderly and low income residents. The recently passed educational impact fee on new residential construction along with the proposed increase in the local option sales tax would certainly help avoid some of the need for property tax increases. Property tax increases will obviously need to be a piece of the puzzle going forward.
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? There are financing models with municipal bonds other than 20 year maturities and we have explored those and will likely employ some of those. Our debt outstanding will begin decreasing rapidly in three years which will allow the county some flexibility in future borrowing needs.
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? The county budget is available in detail as a public record and I encourage anyone who is interested to look at it. I don't have a problem with whatever form it is provided in.
What cost containment measures can you suggest to save tax dollars? As someone who served during the 2008-2010 time when county departments were required to cut their budgets significantly, I feel the administration continues to oversee and present conservative budgets. As the county grows, demand for the services it provides grow as well, from law enforcement to parks and schools. Williamson County residents have high expectations for the services their county government provides and expects quality. In every budget the size of our county's, there are certainly dollars that could be cut or reduced. In terms of large scale waste, I have not seen it in my years of service.
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? No