Name Todd Kaestner
District 9
Current Occupation & Employer Exec VP Corporate Development - Brookdale Senior Living Inc.
Political Experience 5 year incumbent
Education VU BA 1977 and MBA Univ Louisville
Civic/Religious Organizations You Belong To
How Long Have You Lived In Williamson Co.? owned farm 11 yrs, moved onto it 7 yrs
Military Service none
Email Address tkaestner@brookdale.com
Phone Number 615-594-1862
Thank you for volunteering to serve your community, what motivated you to seek this position? Concern regarding protecting land use and managing growth and finances of county.
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? 5 year incumbent. I regularly meet with constituents over coffee and in evenings. I hold education sessions with groups of constituents and respond via phone and email.
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? This is a very complex question and has been the focus of my tenure. 85% of all housing permits are issued by the 6 municipalities. As a county we desperately need to determine what we want to grow into and by when. No one that I have met wants Williamson County to become like Cobb County in North Atlanta. Further, virtually all of my constituents feel that newcomers should shoulder more of the financial burden that they create.
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? Well, the residential impact fee was my initiative, so, yes, I support identifying innovative legal ways to share costs and not simply place all burdens upon existing - often elderly - constituents. Further, I have supported the sales tax resolution because that allows the residents to vote upon how they would like to be taxed. There are many other alternatives, some of which will have to be specifically enabled by our state legislature. The county and the municipalities are children of the state and, as such, can only implement new tax structures or tools if specifically allowed by state code.
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? See above. The impact fee is one example. Happily, the capital recovery factor on our 20 year bonds is only running .0678, meaning that $1 of cash flow amortizes $14.75 of bonds, at current interest rates. We do not borrow at floating rates. We should press the state of TN to stop shorting us $70.6 million per year in the BEP formula (versus the state average BEP payment. Note that our total schools budget is $337 million, so 70.6 million is a very large shortfall as compared to our total budget. We should consider moving to merit pay for teachers and differential recruiting salaries for teachers, both to save money. We should evaluate design changes for our school buildings, such as 3 and 4 story buildings which are significantly less costly than 2 story designs. We do have in excess of $600 million in debt. WC has the 2nd highest debt per capita of the 95 counties, 2nd only to Davidson County. We should focus on land use planning and limit density of new residential development. Again, we really to determine what smart growth means to WC residents. We owe a dear obligation to our constituents. Conversely, we owe no duty whatsoever to someone in Michigan or California who wants to move here.
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 like it. We do get clean audits, but transparency could certainly be improved. 75% of our total spend goes to education.
What cost containment measures can you suggest to save tax dollars? See answers above (#7).
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