Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sheriff Robert Arnold Update

Since the initial story broke in April 2015 and Murfreesboro Review's first post detailing Sheriff Robert Arnold's history and the events surrounding the investigation a number of things have happened.

One of the biggest was the joint TBI-FBI raids that happened on May 21. They raided the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Arnold's home, his Chief Administrator Joe Russell's home and a second home of Russell's, and a location in Marietta, Georgia where JailCigs is based.

According to FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeff Peterson, "The search warrants were for documents and digital evidence that was collected by forensic experts by both the TBI and FBI. That information will be analyzed for any evidentiary value".

Soon after the ethics complaint was filed by Joe Liggett, Steve Lane, and Jacob Bogle, Arnold placed three officers on paid leave: Chief Administrator Joe Russell and Detective Bill Sharp were placed on paid leave a week or so after the complaint and Capt. John Frost was placed on paid leave on May 12, 2015.

Also in May, Arnold hired one of the nation's top attorneys, Tom Dundon. Dundon, of Nashville's Neal & Harwell, has a history of representing corporations and government officials including, former Gov. Don Sundquist's associate Al Ganeir who awarded an illegal contract, and aviation manufacturers involved in plane crashes.

A June 22 audit report of the Detention Center discovered several problems including: six non-functional security cameras, inadequate fire drills, problems with toxic waste and weapons logs, among other issues. This report came after Sheriff Arnold presented his budget to the County which has grown 31% since 2011. And at a time with officers on paid leave pending investigation, overtime was $900,000 more than last year.

On July 1, after becoming connected with the ethics complaint, Arnold terminated a controversial arrangement with Telmate which provided inmates with computer tablets. According to an inmate's family member, the inmate is required to pay by the minute for use and the family member or friend is also required to pay $0.25 per text, in addition to the inmate's fees. There are a number of additional fees required of both inmates and those wishing to help them, ranging from a nearly $5 charge every single time a family member wants to deposit money into the inmate's commissary account, to outrageous fees for making phone calls.

After being fired in 2012 by Joe Russell, Joy Nelson won a $307,500 settlement in an age discrimination suit on July 6, 2015. This means that tax payers have now had to pay over a combined $500,000 in settlements thanks to Sheriff Arnold and Joe Russell.

On July 11, the Editor's Board of the Daily News Journal contended that the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office under Arnold has suffered and that the citizens of Rutherford County deserve better. The DNJ cited the above mentioned settlement, an unfavorable audit result, and the ongoing investigations.

It was announced on July 23, that Detective Bill Sharp would receive a 5 day suspension for operating a private business out of the Sheriff's Office and Capt. John Frost received a 10 day suspension for developing a computer code while at work that was then sold to a private company.

On Aug. 25, 2015, it was revealed that the Sheriff's Office was being sued for wrongful termination, again. McKayla Black, who was hired in 2008, has alleged that she was fired based on her support for Arnold's political opponent. She also claims that she was demoted from booking officer to jailer once it became known she was pregnant. There have been several additional allegations by multiple people that they were either demoted or fired by Arnold after taking medical leave.

On Sept. 18, Arnold fired 38-year RCSO veteran, and third-in-command, Deputy Chief Virgil Gammon. Gammon is considering legal action against the Sheriff's Office as no reason was given for his termination and it is widely believed he has information of interest to the TBI/FBI investigation and may have done his sworn duty by giving assistance.

The group Tennesseans Against Corruption, which is behind the "Oust Sheriff Arnold" campaign, is continuing to follow the investigations and pursue an ouster suit against Sheriff Arnold. TAC asks that those who know of illegal activity and corruption at the Sheriff's Office or who have been wrongfully fired, to please publicly tell their story. If you would like to help TAC raise the needed funds for the ouster suit, please visit www.OustSheriffArnold.com

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Questionable Hires of Sheriff Robert Arnold

NOTE: this list will be updated periodically as new information comes to light. This is a very fluid situation and will require continued attention. For additional updates, please visit the Tennesseans Against Corruption Facebook page on the matter.

The Rutherford County Sheriff's Office has 343 full and part-time employees with another 154 or so working at the jail. No one is perfect. No doubt, if you looked at everyone you'd find something negative, a parking ticket perhaps or they were late paying taxes 10 years ago. However, under Sheriff Robert's administration, there seems to be a pattern of hiring and re-hiring people with severely compromised pasts.

Giving someone a second chance is reasonable under normal circumstances, but working in law enforcement is not a normal job. Law enforcement officers (LEOs) are the ones we as a society have granted permission to actually kill another person. They have the power to not only take a life, but to lock up another person and take their rights away, and they have the power to confiscate their property (without necessarily having to return it once the accused is declared innocent). If a mistake is made, they have the capability to completely ruin the lives of other people and their families. To whom we delegate this awesome authority, the bar must be set very high. Nothing short will suffice; after all, there's no second chances when it comes to killing or otherwise destroying the life of another person. The people we give this power to need impeccable moral fiber, integrity, and demonstrable sound judgement.

The following are several currently employed officers who were either fired or forced to resign under previous sheriffs or from other law enforcement departments (such as Murfreesboro Police) for criminal or other serious reasons, and then were later re-hired by Sheriff Arnold. It's important to remind everyone that the information below comes from publicly available sources (such as news reports and personnel files) and are about current government employees. This has nothing to really do with the people below (unless they're directly involved in the current situation), rather, this has everything to do with Sheriff Arnold and his apparent habit of hiring criminals to be the ones tasked with upholding the law and protecting us.

Given his connections to the current ethics complaint against Sheriff Arnold and the fact that he is in the middle of the ongoing inmate pepper spray incident, I will begin with Deputy James Vanderveer, whose parents own JailCigs.

James Vanderveer

On March 7, 2010, Vanderveer (who is Arnold's nephew) was arrested in Cobb County, Georgia for possession of marijuana. He later plead guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to community service. He became a full-time officer on Oct. 13, 2014, though he had been with the RCSO for several years prior. A waiver was filed, in connection with the Georgia arrest, with the Police Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST) so that he could remain in compliance with their regulations. 

On Feb 7, 2012, Vanderveer resigned from the Sheriff's Office and then was arrested for DUI. He was then re-hired by Sheriff Arnold. So now, this officer has a history of both drug possession and DUI. 

Then, in December 2013, Vanderveer placed inmate Demario Harris in a 4-point restraint (basically tying him to a chair so that he could not use his arms or legs), because, according to Vanderveer, Harris had been combative. However, after having Harris fully restrained and no longer a threat, Vanderveer proceeded to pepper spray Harris in the face. Harris is now seeking $300,000 in damages.

Despite all of this, Vanderveer is still employed by Arnold.

Deputy A. J . Ross
Deputy A. J. Ross on July 4, 2013.

Deputy Ross (a "drug recognition expert") is perhaps most known for his role in the July 4th, 2013 DUI checkpoint incident during which he became enraged at local resident Chris Kalbaugh for asserting his legal rights. Deputy Ross then called a drug dog over to search Kalbaugh's car and allegedly found marijuana. However, Ross failed to arrest Kalbaugh and let him drive home. In other words, if we are to believe Ross' story, he let a drug offender drive home with no consequences.

After that affair, he was awarded "Deputy of the Year" by Sheriff Arnold in December 2013. 

Prior to that, Ross was forced to resign from the RCSO in 2004 (under Sheriff Truman Jones) after failing to appear in court to testify when there were dozens of cases on the docket. His personnel file also shows that he lied about having insurance (when he in fact did not have it) after rear-ending another vehicle. Ross was rehired by Sheriff Arnold. Once again, we have someone who was forced to leave law enforcement for illegal activities being rehired by our current sheriff.

Andrew Messick

Andrew Messick was an officer with the Murfreesboro Police Department from 2010 to 2013. In July 2013, he and his wife were arrested for drug possession after a TBI investigation. They attempted to trade their TV to get hydrocodone pills (which the DEA has recently re-classified as a Schedule II narcotic, the highest level of prescription drug). He was initially decommissioned, though later, the MPD Chief of Police recommended that his employment be terminated.

According those working at the Sheriff's Office, Messick, a drug offender, now works at the detention center.

Kenneth Zook

Finally, there's Kenneth Zook. In early 2010, under former Sheriff Truman Jones, Deputy Kenneth Zook was forced to resign after pictures came to light about a party he attended and his refusal to comply with the investigation (which included a drug test). Sheriff Robert Arnold rehired him and he still works for the RCSO.

The issue at hand wasn't that Zook was out partying and drinking, but that at the party were drugs of an unknown type, possibly marijuana, and that all of this was being done in a room with a young child (it was revealed that other children were at the party, but the photos only show one girl). This shows that Zook has very poor judgement in that, being a law enforcement officer at the time, he didn't seem to see any problem with a room full of adults drinking and drugging while a young girl was mingling in the mix. The World Health Organization has found strong links between young children being exposed to such situations and later growing up with behavioral and substance abuse problems themselves.

Here are some of the pictures in question. These pictures had been placed on MySpace at the time and were brought to the attention of Sheriff Jones. I have obscured the faces of everyone except that of Kenneth Zook. I have also tried to hide any unique markings on the clothing of the other attendees in an attempt to further shield their identity. (Click the pictures for a larger view.)

It was also reported to me, from a source (I'll call "Q") who wishes to remain anonymous, that in 2013, after having been re-hired by Arnold earlier, the Zook family was using his position in the RCSO to harass Q and intimidate Q into dropping a legal case. All of this (and more) was reported to multiple people in authority at the time, but as of yet, nothing has been done. As stated earlier, Zook is still employed with the department.

I called the RSCO about further questionable deputies, but at the time of publication I have not received a reply. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A History of Sheriff Robert Arnold

NOTE: this list will be updated periodically as new information comes to light. This is a very fluid situation and will require continued attention. For additional updates, please visit the Tennesseans Against Corruption Facebook page on the matter.

2014 Re-election Campaign Logo and photo.

Sheriff Arnold was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. Even before being elected, scandal and controversy has followed the Sheriff, but ever since 2013, the spotlight on Sheriff Arnold's department has been growing in intensity, especially after the county received national attention from the July 4th DUI checkpoint video. Recently, we have come to see just how deep the problems go. 

His 2014 campaign slogan was "Fair, Open, Honest, and Accountable". With that, he won re-election with a slim majority of voters. As we are now learning even more, "honest and accountable" is sounding a lot like Obama's "most transparent administration in history." 

I (Jacob Bogle), along with many other concerned citizens, would like to ask Sheriff Arnold to resign from office and spare the 280,000 citizens of Rutherford County any more embarrassment. I would also urge the County Commission to do their duty by taking the ethics complaint against Sheriff Arnold seriously and take appropriate action. 

What follows are years' worth of evidence that calls strongly into question his capacity to represent us. The sheriff is the highest law enforcement officer in the county. If he doesn't uphold the law and act with utmost integrity, how can we trust him to keep us safe? What example has Sheriff Arnold set? 

In 2009, prior to being elected, Sheriff Arnold (then a School Resource Officer) was disciplined for the way he handled a student's possession of a firearm at LaVergne High School. Arnold failed to investigate the matter, leaving the school and those there at great risk. At the time, Sheriff Truman Jones, demoted Arnold and transferred him to the detention center. As a result, Arnold lost $22,000-$25,000/yr in salary and other compensation. Sheriff Jones said, "it was the least that could have been done to him." In November of 2009, the depositions relating to the case were sealed thanks to murky reasoning, in part, because they could be "embarrassing." 

As sheriff in 2011, Sheriff Arnold wrote a character letter on behalf of family member Chris Rowland. The catch? Rowland was a convicted felon. Rowland was sentenced to two years in prison for five counts of money laundering (a reduced sentence after a plea bargain). According to the Murfreesboro Post, "Rowland was arrested and charged with possession of a machine gun and possession of an unregistered firearm, a Rock River Arms .223-caliber machine gun and failing to register it.

Federal agents raided Rowland’s home and brother-in-law Jeremy Chad Smotherman’s home in September 2007 on Warrior Drive across from Riverdale High School as part of an investigation stemming from a $6 million illegal narcotics operation.

In court documents filed in 2008, Internal Revenue Service Agent William Desantis accused Rowland and Smotherman of money laundering as “sham owners” of real estate and engaging in large money transactions with defendants indicted in a $6 million narcotics operation."

Even though Rowland apologized for his wrong doing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Harold McDonough of Nashville said, "I can’t reconcile why the chief law enforcement official would write a letter on behalf of a convicted felon". It's also curious that Rowland's family donated $1,000 to Arnold's campaign. 

In Feb. 2012, Deputy James Vanderveer resigned from office after being arrested for driving under the influence. Vanderveer, Arnold's nephew, was later re-hired by Sheriff Arnold. A year later, two additional Sheriff's deputies resigned after being arrested for DUIs. Vadnerveer was also arrested and charged with minor possession in Georgia in March 2010. Much more on Vanderveer to come.

On July 4, 2013, local resident Chris Kalbaugh went through a routine DUI checkpoint. These checkpoints are governed by very specific laws and drivers are only required to roll their windows down far enough so that the officer can both see and smell any signs of alcohol. Sheriff's deputy, A. J. Ross, became incredibly angry that Kalbaugh didn't roll his window all the way down (despite not being required to), and Ross later forcibly searched Kalbaughs car without consent. Ross then sent for a police drug dog to come and search the vehicle (something that can only be done with probable cause, for which there was none). According to the officer, the dog gave a sign that it found drugs in Kalbaugh's car and Officer Ross said he indeed found bits of marijuana. Yet, upon this, he let Kalbaugh drive away without any charges or arrest. 

That fact alone tells me Officer Ross was either lying to help cover up his horrible management of the situation, or was actually abandoning his duties by not following the law and arresting someone with illegal drugs. Sheriff Arnold was a stalwart supporter of Deputy Ross. When I questioned Ross' behavior (specifically why Ross didn't apprehend Kalbaugh after allegedly finding drugs) during a public Q & A with Sheriff Arnold, Arnold tried to dogded the question and then, in essence, said it was busy night and since it wasn't a large amount of drugs, Ross did the right thing by letting Kalbaugh go. 

You can find the original six minute YouTube video here. It has been seen over 5 million times.

Deputy Ross also has an incredibly complicated past, from leaving the department in 2004 to lying about having insurance when he crashed into someone. Yet, he is still supported by Sheriff Arnold.

In December 2014, James Vanderveer made his way back into the news. After restraining inmate Demario N. Harris to a chair in what's called a "4-point restraint," Officer Vanderveer proceeded to pepper spray Harris. Harris, who, again, was fully restrained, was not being combative. Yet, Vanderveer pepper sprayed him for an extended period of time and did not offer Harris the chance to wash out his eyes. Harris is now seeking $300,000 in damages. Sheriff Arnold "reprimanded" Vanderveer, but he is still an employee of the RCSO. Once again, Sheriff Arnold seems to be looking out for his family and buddies, despite their continual appalling behavior.

You can find the video of that incident here.

During Arnold's re-election run, two members of the department filed papers to run against him. Both men, Ralph Mayercik and Jim Tramel, were then the subject of "coincidental" investigations and had to resign from their jobs. Jim Tramel filed suit against the Sheriff's Office and eventually won the case, receiving $250,000.

Under Sheriff Arnold's policy of "good ole boy" administrating, Rutherford County tax payers have already had to pay $250,000 and are on the hook for additional thousands. 

Additionally during the election, Arnold's campaign manager and Sheriff's Office Chief Administrator, Joe Russell, proceeded to buy various Internet domain names to prevent Arnold's competitors (namely Maj. Bill Kennedy and Capt. Mike Fitzhugh) from being able to use them. Russell also happens to be the husband of Nicole Lester, who was the Rutherford County Administrator of Elections at the time.

Republican candidate Fitzhugh said of the matter, "My take on it was the type of people they are, it was typical. It didn't surprise me."

In March 2015, Sheriff Arnold decided to ignore procedure and bypass the County Commission by going straight to the state in an attempt to take full control over the county workhouse. Sen Bill Ketron was asked to carry the bill and refused saying, "I have the utmost respect for the county commission, having served there for eight years, and I think it was a cheap shot that we introduced it without talking to them first. We blindsided them." The County Commission's Steering Committee later voted 7-0 against merging the workhouse with the jail. Commissioner Petus Read said, "this is somewhat of a power play, when you try to step beyond the mayor without going to the County Commission, I can't see where it's anything but a power play."

All of this brings us to the latest in a long line of bad choices made by Sheriff Arnold.

Arnold's wife and the RCSO chief administrator has connections to a company called "JailCigs" which provides electronic cigarettes to jails. His wife, Megan, holds stock in the company and Arnold has listed it as a source of income. The Georgia-based company is owned by family, uncle and aunt John and Judy Vanderveer. RCSO Chief Administrator, Joe Russell, is also listed as a founding owner of JailCigs LLC, as well as Jail Snacks LLC (another Georgia-based company).

Lisa Nolan, County Finance Director, has said that she hasn't seen any invoices relating to JailCigs; meaning that any income the jail gets from selling them isn't being properly reported. Arnold has said he sees no conflict of interest in the matter.

On April 16, 2015, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced it was looking into the issue after receiving a request from District Attorney Jennings Jones. On April 17, the County Commission Ethics Committee received an official ethics complaint against Sheriff Arnold as well. The Ethics Committee has scheduled a meeting to discuss the matter for April 23 at 4 pm. The meeting will be at the Rutherford County Courthouse.

Additionally, it was revealed on April 21, that Arnold received campaign contributions from many of the same companies the RCSO has contracted with. Some of these groups are, the Keefe Group, City Tele Coin Company, and a political action committee which happens to be controlled by none other than Joe Russell, Arnold's long time acolyte. The Keefe Group donated $500 in 2012 and Keefe Commissary donated $500 in 2013. Two months after receiving the donation from the Keefe Group, Arnold amended a contract with Keefe Commissary, which, according to the Daily News Journal, "The contract amendment gives Keefe permission to maintain and supply the Sheriff's Office with computer equipment and software to expand the Detention Center's video-visitation system. The amendment is worth "a prorated amount" of $215,106 and is good through Jan. 1, 2018.

According to the contract, the Sheriff's Office is paid a service fee associated with sales of noncommissioned and commissary items. It also establishes an agreement with Keefe to create a website through which families and friends of inmates can order commissary items.

The contract also states the Sheriff's Office's cut of sales are deposited in a technology fund for the video-visitation expansion that allows visitors to interact with inmates from a closed-circuit television."

Rutherford County Mayor, Ernest Burgess, said he was unaware of the amendment or technology fund.

In 2012, Arnold signed a contract with City Tele to provide jail pay-phone services. The owner of City Tele donated $1,500 to Arnold's re-election campaign in 2013.

Joe Russell, RCSO Cheif Administrator and Arnold's former campaign manager, was hired by Arnold in 2010. Russell is also the head of the Rutherford County Tea Party PAC, which received $500 in donations from Arnold's campaign in July 2012. In 2013, the PAC donated $400 to Arnold. Russell further donated $3,000 personally to Arnold's campaign.

The Sherrif's Office is also the center of several other issues. There's a JailCig-like computer tablet contract that was not approved by the County Commission. He also allowed a private company to run their own training business out of the Sheriff's Office. There are questions surrounding ammunition purchases by deputies. And, remaining questions over Arnold admitting he watched a man burn to death because, according to Arnold, the uniform might have been flammable (which seems dubious at best), or the silly confiscation of kids' wrestling equipment in 2010.

Again, I implore Sheriff Arnold to do the right thing and resign. He has protected family members after they broke the law and tortured inmates. He sees no conflict of interest over the JailCigs situation. His campaign engaged in unethical tactics and used his office to bully opponents. If he will not uphold the law, he does not deserve to be sheriff.

For continual updates, please take the time to visit: https://www.facebook.com/OustSheriffArnold

Originally published on April 21, 2015 by Jacob Bogle.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Call to Action - Stop Red Light Camera Renewal

At Thursday's City Council meeting (Nov. 13, 2014), the Council will vote whether or not to renew the contract with Arizona based company American Traffic Solutions to operate the six red light photo-enforcement cameras in Murfreesboro for another year. 

As the Daily News Journal noted, during last week's Council meeting, multiple citizens were able to speak against the cameras including, Axl David, Keith Rae, Marnie Harris, Steve Lane, myself and others. However, more work needs to be done, and quickly

Please email, call, or personally meet with members of the City Council and tell them that you oppose these cameras and do not want the City to renew their contract with ATS. 

Council member contact information:

Shane McFarland, Mayor - 615-642-9244 or smcfarland@murfreesborotn.gov 
Doug Young, Vice Mayor - 615-893-7721 or dyoung@murfreesborotn.gov 
Ron Washington - 615-890-0097 or rwashington@murfreesborotn.gov 
Eddie Smotherman - 615-653-6103 or esmotherman@murfreesborotn.gov
Madelyn Scales Harris - 615-804-8955 or mscalesharris@murfreesborotn.gov
Rick LaLance - 615-631-6368 or rlalance@murfreesborotn.gov

For more information on the matter, please read this. Feel free to use it as a resource as well. This is based on a letter I gave to each council member.

On April, 30, 2013, Chief of Police Chris Chrisman provided the Council with a report on the City's red light camera system. It shows in black and white that these cameras are not as effective as claimed. It showed that since 2010, the number of total crashes at camera enforced intersections decreased 1.1% per year, whereas the number of crashes at all intersections decreased 11% per year. Furthermore, when it came to side-angle crashes (which are more dangerous than rear-end collisions), it showed that they decreased 32% since 2008 at the six photo-enforced intersections, yet, the overall decrease at all intersections was nearly 42%.

(Click for larger view.)

That literally means you are more likely to get into an accident at camera enforced intersections than at non-camera enforced intersections. 

In the same report, the new system that was installed in 2011 was referred to as an “improvement” and “reduced collisions overall”. However, in that handout, the data shows that collisions at photo enforced intersections had actually increased in the year following the new equipment installation. The City’s budget also shows that, contrary to the claim that these systems are working, the Police Dept. anticipates continued growth in the number of tickets – a growth that actually outpaces population growth. Again, evidence that these cameras aren't working. 

If the overall trend is for people to drive safer across all 140+ signalized intersections, then the differences between crash figures for photo-enforced intersections and non-enforced intersections support the conclusion that these cameras aren't doing their job.

(Click for larger view.)

On top of that, each year ATS receives the full $50 citation fee for the first 1,200 tickets, and then they get $25 for each ticket afterwards. That means over $2 million dollars has left our community to go to an out of state company to run this camera system.  Let’s also not forget, that because of how the law governing these cameras is written, the City has voluntarily accepted (no one's requiring they use them) a camera system that gives two very different punishments for the same crime when it comes to being ticketed by a camera vs. by being pulled over by a police officer; which may be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

According to the law, if you get a ticket via the cameras, the citation doesn't go on your driving record, you are not legally compelled to pay the fine, and if you don't pay the fine it can't affect your credit rating. Yet, if a police officer pulls you over and hands you a ticket for running a red light, it does go against your driving record, you are required to pay the fine, and if you don't it can go on your credit report.

In 2012, the State Legislature amended T.C.A 55-8-198 (Citations based on surveillance cameras) with TN Senate Bill 2872 by Sen. Southerland, which specifically states:

No person having charge, custody of or control over any records or information regarding a violation of this section, including payments made pursuant to receipt of a notice of violation or a citation, whether timely or delinquent, shall disclose these records or information to a consumer reporting agency. In addition, no information regarding a violation shall be disclosed or identified in any credit report.

However, the citations issued threaten that any failure of payment will be reported to consumer and credit bureaus, and that it may damage the person’s credit rating. This is completely wrong.

(Click for larger view.)

The group Murfreesboro Citizens Against Photo Enforcement, which I co-founded along with Axl David and Tim Meredith, has garnered significant media coverage about this issue including, WGNS Radio, News Channel 4, as well as national media outlets like BenSwann.com. Murfreesboro C.A.P.E. has also received the support of the Rutherford County Campaign for Liberty and the Rutherford County Young Republicans. The Rutherford County Young Republicans is the largest partisan organization in the county in terms of dues paying members. 

Murfreesboro C.A.P.E. also set up a petition through which hundreds of other local residents have all expressed support for ending the red light camera photo-enforcement program. Some of the people who signed the petition include: James Gann, Bruce Cavender, and Gabriel Fancher. The petition, which is now closed, can be found at https://www.change.org/p/murfreesboro-city-council-eliminate-red-light-photo-enforcement-in-murfreesboro

We have all asked the City Council unequivocally, to end the use of these cameras. These cameras have already been banned in 7 states (AR, ME, MS, MT, NV, NH, and WV), they have been removed in multiple communities across the country (including Mt. Juliet), and courts have ruled against this type of camera enforcement in 2 additional states (CA and MO).

I ask you, if the real reason to have these cameras is safety – and the City’s own data proves that they are not effective – then why have them? Why renew the contract for equipment which doesn't work, and may actually be decreasing the safety of drivers?

For more information, check out:

Red Light Camera Studies

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Look at the 2014 Ballot Measures

Don't forget - Early voting Oct. 15-30, Election Day Nov. 4.

I'd like to give you a quick run down on the different proposed amendments to the State Constitution which will be on the ballot for the Nov. 4, 2014 election. 

Before that, here are the different races that will also be on the ballot:

Governor, US Senate, US House Rep. for the 4th District, TN State Senate for the 13th District, TN State House for districts 34, 37, 48, and 49, Eagleville town Mayor and 3 Council seats, LaVergne town Mayor and 2 Alderman seats, Smyrna town Mayor and 3 Council seats, and in Murfreesboro there is a special election for 1 City Council seat. There is also a Murfreesboro-only measure to allow or prevent wine from being sold in grocery stores. 

For a full sample ballot please check out the Rutherford County Election Commission.

There are four different proposed amendments to Tennessee's Constitution which we will be able to vote for or against.

Amdt. 1 – This would allow the legislature to enact, amend, or repeal regulations relating to abortion. There has been a good deal of controversy over this amendment, however, it is important to note that this amendment would only allow the State to pass reasonable regulations. It cannot outright ban abortion nor can those regulations violate Roe v. Wade. 

The text on the ballot is as follows:

Shall Article I, of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by adding the following language as a new, appropriately designated section:

Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.

In short:
Voting YES simply gives the State an easier ability to pass reasonable regulations pertaining to abortion.

Voting NO would mean nothing changes, and the State would have to follow the current strict guidelines.

Check out the Yes On 1 campaign website.
Check out the No On 1 campaign website.

Here are some abortion stats from 2010:
  • 16,373 abortions were performed in Tennessee in 2010. This is a six percent decrease from a decade ago.
  • In 2010, 24.5 percent, or roughly one-in-four, abortions were sought by women from other states. This is a 30 percent increase from a decade ago.
  • The age group most likely to seek an abortion are 10-14. However, this does not mean that this age group has the most abortions, just that the group has the most abortions relative to live births.
  • The age group with the most abortions, though not the most relative to live births, is 20-24.

Amdt. 2 – This would empower the governor to appoint judges to the state supreme court or any other state appellate courts subject to confirmation by the General Assembly. The appointed judge would serve an eight-year term. Thereafter, the judge could serve another term via a retention election by voters.

The current Constitution says that voters have the right to elect state supreme court judges. Approving this amendment would take that right away. According to the State Constitution,“The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.

The text on the ballot is as follows: 

Shall Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by deleting the first and second sentences and by substituting instead the following:

Judges of the Supreme Court or any intermediate appellate court shall be appointed for a full term or to fill a vacancy by and at the discretion of the governor; shall be confirmed by the Legislature; and thereafter, shall be elected in a retention election by the qualified voters of the state. Confirmation by default occurs if the Legislature fails to reject an appointee within sixty calendar days of either the date of appointment, if made during the annual legislative session, or the convening date of the next annual legislative session, if made out of session. The Legislature is authorized to prescribe such provisions as may be necessary to carry out Sections two and three of this article.

In short:
Voting YES means these judges would be appointed by the governor (subject to legislative approval). Then, citizens would be allowed to vote to retain or replace the judges every 8 years.

Voting NO means the people will retain their current right to elect judges. 

Amdt. 3 – This would permanently prevent the legislature from passing a state income or payroll tax.

The text on the ballot is as follows:

Shall Article II, Section 28 of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by adding the following sentence at the end of the final substantive paragraph within the section:

Notwithstanding the authority to tax privileges or any other authority set forth in this Constitution, the Legislature shall not levy, authorize or otherwise permit any state or local tax upon payroll or earned personal income or any state or local tax measured by payroll or earned personal income; however, nothing contained herein shall be construed as prohibiting any tax in effect on January 1, 2011, or adjustment of the rate of such tax.

In short:
Voting YES will add a State constitutional amendment banning a state income tax.

Voting NO would keep things the way they are now. It would allow for the income tax issue to come up at a latter date.  

Amdt. 4 – This would allow the legislature to approve of annual lotteries (such as raffles, Bingo, etc.) for 501(c)(3) [non-profits] and 501(c)(19) [veterans] groups so that they can raise needed funds. Currently, only 501(c)(3) groups are allowed to have lotteries, but when the original lottery law was passed, 501(c)(9) groups were overlooked and thus left out. This amendment would not give a blanket legalization of gambling in the state.  

The text on the ballot is as follows: 

Shall Article XI, Section 5 of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by deleting the following language:

All other forms of lottery not authorized herein are expressly prohibited unless authorized by a two-thirds vote of all members elected to each house of the general assembly for an annual event operated for the benefit of a 501(c)(3) organization located in this state, as defined by the 2000 United States Tax Code or as may be amended from time to time.
and by substituting instead the following language:

All other forms of lottery not authorized herein are expressly prohibited unless authorized by a two-thirds vote of all members elected to each house of the general assembly for an annual event operated for the benefit of a 501(c)(3) or a 501(c)(19) organization, as defined by the 2000 United States Tax Code, located in this state.

In short:
Voting YES gives veterans groups the right to raise money via annual raffles etc. They would still need the legislature to approve of each "lottery".

Voting NO means that only 501(c)(3) groups could have these events (as they are currently allowed).

The predominant local view on these amendments is "Yes, No, Yes, Yes." It is also important to note that because these amendments were "legislatively referred," the constitutional amendments must earn a majority of those voting on the amendment and "a majority of all the citizens of the state voting for governor.” This means that if you do not vote for governor (simply leave it blank), then your vote on the amendments will actually weigh more, making it more likely that they'll pass. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Guest Article - The 2nd Amendment in Parks and on Greenways

On August 21, 2014 the Murfreesboro City council debated a motion to instruct the City Attorney to create a resolution to allow Handgun Carry Permit Holders to legally carry on the Greenways System.  The Council voted 5-2 to deny the resolution from being written.  Toby Gilley and Eddie Smotherman were the only two Council members who voted to allow this resolution to be written. Keep in mind this vote was just to have a resolution written that could then be debated and brought to a vote on the merit of the resolution.

Mayor Shane McFarland, Vice Mayor Doug Young, and Council Member Rick LaLance all expressed concern that the input from the Greenway Projects Committee and the Parks and Recreation Commission was not solicited.  They used this as rational for voting against creating a resolution.  Neither Vice Mayor Young nor Councilman LaLance made any effort to offer a motion to instruct these groups to discuss this issue.  This was quite troubling because Councilman LaLance claimed to be a strong Second Amendment supporter during the last election.  The Mayor is not allowed to make a motion.  Council Member Madelyn Scales-Harris brought up concerns about safety to justify her no vote while Council Member Ron Washington used the excuse that he was not a “gun person” to vote no.

If Mayor McFarland, Vice Mayor Young and Councilman LaLance want to send this “through committee” before voting on the merit, let’s push them to instruct this commission and committee to formulate an opinion and deliver it to the City Council within 30 days. We should not let them hid behind a process to avoid voting on the merit of our Second Amendment Rights in our parks and greenways.  The council holds “open mic” for public comments at 6:30 PM in council chambers at the first meeting of each month. The next one is on September 4, 2014. (note: this meeting has been canceled)  If you are passionate about your Second Amendment rights, join me to demand the City Council proceed with restoring this right to the citizens.   We need to demand our rights not only on the Greenway System, but in our parks as well.  Yes, OUR parks.  If you do not want to speak, just show up to demonstrate your support of the Second Amendment.  Before then, please email and call all the Council members and let them know how you feel.  Let them know how important our rights are in this case.  The contact information is available at the city’s website, Murfreesborotn.gov

This is a unique opportunity to influence the restoration of our Second Amendment rights.  We need to stress to the Council that the Second Amendment has two parts.  We have the right to keep AND the right to bear arms.  It also states that these rights “shall not be infringed.”  We need to demand our local elected officers adhere to our Constitution.  To solidify this right, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision stating the Second Amendment is an individual right (DC v. Heller, 2008).  Many anti-gun cities and states ignored this ruling.  This lead the Supreme Court to clarify with McDonald v. Chicago (2010) that state and local government cannot infringe upon the rights in the Second Amendment.  Apparently, that word hasn't made its way to the Murfreesboro City Council Chambers.  Let us make sure they hear it loud and clear.

While it is well established that we should have the right to bear arms in a public place, the quickest way for us to stop the City of Murfreesboro from trampling on our rights is to speak out at a council meeting with many attendees.  We all know the safety issues are just fear mongering.  Let’s demand the City Council vote on whether they believe in the Second Amendment.  We also need to vote accordingly in the next election.

When we next vote for city council, the Second Amendment issue gives you a look into whether that Council Member believes in freedom.  Please use this as part of your voting decision.  When we vote in November to replace Councilman Gilley, I cannot stress how import due diligence is before voting.  Contact the candidate and get a statement about the Second Amendment.  If they try to ride the fence, vote for someone else.

Again please join me to speak to the City Council about our Second Amendment rights on September 4, 2014 at 6:30 PM in council chambers. (note: this meeting has been canceled If the meeting is postponed for any reason, the “open mic” will take place at the next meeting.  Council meetings are every Thursday.  Don’t forget to email and call all the members of the council.

Jeff Rainwater

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Review of the 2014-15 Murfreesboro City Budget

For previous reviews see here: FY 2012-2013, and FY 2013-2014

This year's budget is 318 pages. I have tried to distill the budget into a short and meaningful review to enable the general public to see the primary figures. Any perceived bias for or against any department is just that, perceived. Due to the fact that personnel costs are by far the largest single expenditure, I feel it’s important to focus more attention on those figures. The only sector of City government I personally take issue with is the “recreational” sector which spends tens of millions on public leisure while we continue to go deeper into debt and lack the ability to even build a school without substantial federal grants.

Opening thoughts

Page 2 of the budget describes the cover photo and gives the general philosophical aim of the City and budget (which I think is a bit odd). However, what concerns me is the apparent mindset that our City leaders have, that of thinking the relatively prosperous times we have enjoyed thus far will continue indefinitely. On the page it declares that Murfreesboro is a city with a progressive mindset and that we have "adopted [the] ideology" espoused by American City Planner Danial Burnham who said, "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work."

While it's true we need to plan for the future and that we need to work very hard to accomplish our goals (or dreams), to me it underlines the disturbing trend I mentioned above. Cities hit hard times, and thankfully we have been lucky. What City planners seem to forget however, is that to achieve their big plans and high aims, it must be paid for. And to pay for it, they must tax us and/or borrow money which we will still be paying off up to a decade from now - including the 10 year old child alive today who had no say in whether or not we spent millions on new tennis courts and yet will be paying for them the moment he or she gets a job or buys property.

My continual refrain is priorities, and until we re-evaluate them I will continue to talk about the issue.

Specific projects
  •  Implementing the transition from First Responder to Basic Life Support medical service provided by  the Fire & Rescue Department
  •  Continuing to move forward the relocation of the Police Department to a new headquarters on Highland Avenue
  •  Opening Overall Creek, a new elementary school east of Veteran’s Parkway
  •  Beginning construction of the Stones River Greenway extension to Barfield Crescent Park
  •  Begin the transition to new Police and Fire & Rescue radio communications system
  •  Building a public safety training facility on the Coleman Farm
  •  Maintaining the existing level of effective property tax rate, which is the 16th consecutive year without a property tax increase. The tax rate after reappraisal will be $1.2015, down from $1.2703
  •  Contributing to Middle Tennessee State University’s Science Building
  •  Moving to a new health insurance provider that will save almost $800K without a change in benefits to employees, their families or the City’s retirees
  •  Building an indoor tennis complex in conjunction with Middle Tennessee State University
  •  Constructing Joe B. Jackson Parkway, Veterans Parkway & Middle Tennessee Boulevard
  •  Replacing the legacy system currently used for financials & human resources information systems
  •  Renovating Sports*Com and McKnight Park
  •  Fund step increases and longevity pay for full‐time personnel
  •  Begin project to construct new headquarters for Rover
  •  Repaving $2 million in City streets from State gasoline taxes

Quick facts

This year's budget contains $122,543,147 in spending, which is an increase of 4.5% over FY 2014. Expenditures are $127,397,620, an increase of 4.3%. This gives us yet another year of planned deficit spending. Thankfully, the true amount of revenues and spending each year has prevented us from actually adding $5 million in deficit related debt each year (revenues tend to come in higher and spending doesn't rise to the budgeted amount). However, with the official budgets, the City is saying as a matter of policy, that it plans on spending more than it brings in year after year.

Once again the City also approved a 3.5% pay increase for City employees which equals $1.1 million.[pg. 12] The City has given pay increases that total a 14% pay raise since 2011 and a cost of $5.1 million.  For comparison, per capita income for residents only grows 2.1% annually. The City also brags about giving higher raises than other cities, including Chattanooga and Memphis - both cities have larger populations and far larger budgets. Every municipality says their employees are "the best", but I have no doubt that Murfreesboro City employees really are doing a great job. The problem is the only way they get a pay increase is if the City takes money from you and I. I'm not aware of many private sector jobs that give an annual 3.5% raise and fund 97% of retirement packages as well.

The IT Dept. has created a 5-year computer replacement program, anticipating replacing 20% of City computers each year.[pg. 67]

The cost per capita of Parks & Recreation is 11% higher than the state-wide average.[pg. 269]


As mentioned, budgeted revenues are $122,543,147, an increase of 4.5% over the budgeted revenues for FY 2014.[pg. 45] The largest revenue sources are from property taxes (29.6%) and sales taxes (29.3%). State and federal grants make up around 4.4% of revenues which equals ~$5,392,000.[pg. 54]

(click for larger image)

Revenues from FY 2009 to FY 2014 have increased 28.6% while expenditures have increased 33.1%. For a more specific breakdown of revenues, see pages 42-44 of the budget.


(Click for larger image)

Department changes since FY 2014 budget. 
General & Administration   +6.5%                                       Parking Garage   -36.3%
Legal   +1.9%                                                                   Parks & Rec   +8.4%
Human Resources   +6.6%                                                Public Golf Courses   -4.2%
Planning & Engineering   +6.7%                                         Solid Waste   -1%
Engineering   +39%                                                          Senior Citizens Dept.   +2.8%
Street Aid   +/- no change                                                 Community Development   +45.7%
Transportation   -20%                                                        Drug Fund   +25%
Information Technology   +17.7%                                       City Schools   +/- no change
Communications   +0.6%                                                  Other Gov. Agencies   +3.3%
Building   +3%                                                                 Chamber of Commerce   +8.8% 
Judicial   +3.6%                                                               Other Tourism +/- no change
Police   +4.1%                                                                 Debt Service Fund   -2.4%
Fire   +5.3%                                                                  
Urban Environment   -0.1%                                           
Civic Plaza   +11.4%

Personnel costs equal 47% of expenditures ($59,876,881), while operating costs equal 23% ($29,301,452).[pg. 57] Murfreesboro has the lowest personnel costs per full-time employee than the other 8 benchmark cities used in various studies to determine compensation, benefits, etc.[pg. 256] 

Departmental Reviews

Some minor funds will not be described below, however, any departments and funds with employees will be described.
The average total personnel cost (salary plus benefits) per employee figure is derived by taking the total amount of employee payments and dividing it by the total number of employees (including part-time employees). For some departments, I'll try to divide the two groups. The figure is only meant to give a general idea of the amount each employee is getting, obviously some will make more and others much less than this average figure.

Benefits include, Social Security, medical & dental insurance, pension plan, retirement, life insurance, and workers’ compensation.

The list of "various expenses" is not an all inclusive list of department expenditures.

     General Administration [pgs. 59-66] - budget is $4,621,589, with $2,068,835 in personnel costs, $2,530,404 in operating costs, and $22,350 for capital expenses. For the department, $889,067 goes to medical & dental expenses and $425,000 goes to retirement administration. The department has 34 employees which gives an average of $60,848/employee (salaries & benefits). Personnel costs equal 44.7% of the budget. 

Various expenses: $93,710 for office supplies and postage, $190,000 for utilities and phone, $26,700 for mileage and meals, $80,000 for association dues, and $42,000 for Christmas gift cards (for all eligible employees, not just the 34 GA employees). 

     Information Technology [pgs. 67-72] - budget is $1,789,835, with $935,995 in personnel costs, $668,300 in operating costs, and $185,540 for capital expenses. The department has 13 employees which gives an average of $71,999/employee. Personnel costs equal 52.2% of the budget.

Various expenses: $135,640 for computer replacements, $75,400 for G.I.S, $30,000 for utilities, $16,000 for office supplies, and $293,400 for IT consulting.

     Communications Department [pgs. 73-78] - budget is $733,502, with $552,669 in personnel costs, $145,633 in operating costs, and $35,200 for capital expenses. The department has 8 employees which gives an average of $69,083/employee. Personnel costs equal 73.3% of the budget. 

Various expenses: $28,350 for supplies, $3,600 for utilities, $1,700 for travel & meals, and $19,000 for video streaming and archiving.  

Accomplishments: there were over 1 million visits to the City's website, and 68,000 views of live streamed or archived videos (council meetings etc.).

     Legal [pgs. 79-82] - budget is $825,663, with $755,083 in personnel costs, $69,550 in operating costs, and $1,000 in capital expenses. The department has 7 employees which gives an average of $107,869/employee. Personnel costs equal 91.4% of the budget.

     Human Resources [pgs. 83-87] - budget is $973,282, with $696,906 in personnel costs, $259,050 in operating costs, and $17,326 in capital expenses. The department has 9 employees which gives an average of $77,434/employee. Personnel costs equal 71.5% of the budget. 

Various expenses: $25,000 for office equipment & software, $23,750 for supplies, $2,550 for utilities, $7,500 for background checks, $50,000 for drug screenings, and $80,000 for various studies.

This department also oversees the administration of the City's employee wellness program, "Boro-Fit". In 2014, 741 employees and dependents participated and the program identified 12 "critical care" cases.

     Judicial [pgs. 88-91] - budget is $474,774, with $393,024 in personnel costs, $68,250 in operating costs, and $13,500 in capital expenses. The department has 6 employees which gives an average of $65,504/employee. Personnel costs equal 82.8% of the budget.

     Police [pgs. 92-99] - budget is $26,145,249, with $21,107,755 in personnel costs, $4,832,194 in operating costs, and $205,300 in capital expenses. The department has 322 employees (285 full-time, 37 part-time) which gives an average of $65,552/employee. Personnel costs equal 80.2% of the budget. The department has 232 sworn officers, an increase of 3 officers over last year. There are also 53 civilian employees (including 25 dispatchers).

Various expenses: $8,000 for radios, $6,000 for guns, $65,000 for ammunition, $199,000 for office equipment, $15,000 for K-9, $140,000 for mobile data terminals (dash computers), $689,364 for fuel, $261,603 for uniform cleaning, $382,437 for insurance costs, $545,800 in utilities, and $900,000 for the red light camera program (a 34% increase over FY 2012).

2013 Accomplishments: Part I crimes fell by 2%. Homicides, rapes, robberies, assaults, and motor vehicle crimes are also down; larcenies and arsons increased. They responded to 101,940 calls (280/day), completes 29,084 official police reports, initiated 11,965 criminal charges, and issued 37,749 citations (15,442 violations and 22,307 warnings. The Office of Professional Responsibility completed 26 internal affairs investigations, processed 98 off duty jobs, and provided 1,110 copies of in-car video to officers, defense attorneys, and citizens.

     Fire & Rescue [pgs. 100-107] - budget is $16,527,475, with $14,941,163 in personnel costs, $1,475,112 in operating costs, and $111,200 in capital expenses. The department has 190 employees which gives an average of $78,637/employee. The department has 188 full-time positions, 171 of them regularly fight fires, the rest being administration etc. Personnel costs equal 89.6% of the budget.

Various expenses: $266,110 for the fleet, $198,200 for uniforms & clothing, $136,620 for fuel, $274,900 for utilities, $83,652 for training, $51,500 for Hazmat testing, and $5,522 for medical equipment.

2013 Accomplishments: The Fire & Rescue Department has a Class 2 rating placing the department in the top 1% of fire protection agencies in the United States. In 2013, the department responded to 10,313 calls. Through "Project SAFE" the department installed 164 smoke alarms. Throughout 2013, the estimated property value saved by the department was $7.5 million.

     Building & Codes [pgs. 108-112] - budget is $1,863,256, with $1,720,095 in personnel costs, $129,961 in operating costs, and $13,200 in capital expenses. The department has 23 employees giving an average of $74,787/employee. Personnel costs equal 92.2% of the budget.

Accomplishments & notes: In FY 2014, the department reviewed 650 commercial plans and revisions for permit issue. There has been a 46% increase in residential single-family permits and a 40% increase in commercial construction permits between FY 2012-14. This rise is expected to continue and the department expects an increase in revenues of $465,108 for this year (giving a total revenue of $2,365,508).

     Planning [pgs. 113-118] - budget is $964,388, with $618,088 in personnel costs, $332,200 in operating costs, and $14,100 in capital expenses. The department has 7 regular employees giving an average of $88,298/employee. Personnel costs equal 64% of the budget.

Various expenses: $45,900 for supplies, $10,400 for travel & meals, and $250,000 for surveys and studies.

FY 2014 accomplishments: reviewed 154 site plans, 165 preliminary & final subdivision plats, and 48 rezoning applications. The department also completed 13 annexation studies, attended 12 neighborhood meetings, and published 43 agendas for the appropriate boards & commissions.

     Transportation [pgs. 119-126] - budget is $2,338,997, with $1,357,881 in personnel costs, $865,305 in operating costs, and $115,791 in capital expenses. The department has 28 employees (18 full-time and 10 part-time) which gives an average of $48,496/employee. Personnel costs equal $58% of the budget.

Various expenses: $155,185 for Rover bus fuel, $4,000 for advertising, $14,225 in utilities, $176,425 in contract expenses (Relax & Ride, MCHRA), $200,000 for traffic signals, and $45,000 for street lights.

Stats & Accomplishments: The City operates 138 signalized intersections and adds roughly 4 more each year. Of the 138, eighty are interconnected and accessible from the City's Traffic Operations Center. And, 32 are coupled with CCTV cameras. This department also oversees the City's Rover Bus system which consists of 7 fixed routes.

For FY 2014, the department continued expanding the Relax & Ride program from 16 to 31 daily trips, and began to retrofit traffic lights, replacing incandescent bulbs with LED's.

Public transportation operations funding is generally split on a 50% federal 25% state, and 25% local cost basis. Capital funding on the other hand is split 8-% federal, 10% state, and 10% local.

     Engineering Department (divided into Engineering Division & Street Division).[pgs. 127-137]
The total budget is $7,633,371, with $2,959,817 in personnel costs, $4,640,354 in operating costs, and $33,200 in capital expenses. The department has 51 employees (44 full-time, 7 part-time) which gives an average of $58,035/employee. The department added 12 positions for FY 2015, 6 full-time and 6 part-time. Personnel costs equal 38.8% of the budget.

  •   Engineering Division [pgs. 127-130] -  The total budget for the year is $3,200,646 and is detailed under the Street Division's budget. The grant funded portion of road projects is included in the Engineering Department’s budget below.

This division's budget break down is: $1,096,996 in personnel costs and $2,103,650 in operating expenses. The division has 13 employees which gives an average of $84,384/employee, with personnel costs equaling 52.1% of the budget.[pgs. 134-136]

Goals: make improvements to Middle Tennessee Blvd between Main St. and Greenland Ave. For FY 2015, the City budgeted $1.2 million in grant funded expenditures for the project. The City anticipates receiving 80% of the cost from federal dollars.

Extend Cherry Lane which will become a 5-lane connector between State Route 840 and Memorial Blvd. Total cost of the project over 5 years will be $29,915,000, of which $25,263,000 (83.4%) will come from borrowing or current funds. For FY 2015, $600,000 in federally funded expenditures is budgeted.

Widen 2.1 miles of Bradyville Pike to a three-lane section with sidewalks, bike lanes, and transit shelters. Total cost is expected to be $7,378,400, of which the City's contribution is $366,880. For FY 2015, $71,200 is included in the budget.

Various expenses: $27,300 for fuel, $17,400 for utilities, $40,800 for travel & meals, $40,000 for landfill gas management, and $1,871,200 for road projects.

Accomplishments: reviewed 160 site plans, 120 preliminary & final plats, and 8 annexation requests. The department also processed 320 fence applications and 100 pool & fence applications. They also reviewed permits for approx. 520 additions and reviewed 700 lots for new home construction.

  •    Street Division [pgs. 131-137] - budget is $4,432,725, with $1,862,821 in personnel costs and $2,569,904 in operating & capital costs. The department has 38 employees which gives an average of $49,022/employee. Personnel costs equal 41.9% of the budget.

Various expenses: $222,976 for the fleet, $142,237 for fuel, $25,600 for office supplies, $45,800 for utilities, and $1,845,800 for street lighting costs.

FY 2014 accomplishments: maintained 593 linear miles of City streets and State Routes; collected 877 tons of leaves & yard waste; completed 48 stormwater projects; and cleared 108 linear miles of roadway during each of five winter events.

     State Street Aid [pgs. 138-140] -budget is $2,800,350, all of which is under operating costs.

Various expenses: $85,000 for traffic signals, $185,000 for street markings, $2,050,000 for street paving & construction, and $75,000 for traffic lights.

The State Street Aid Department includes funding from the State's Fuel Tax Allocation to the City, which is based on population. The Engineering Department oversees maintenance projects funded by this department and covers expenditures to maintain state streets located within the City limits.

     Urban Environmental [pgs. 144-148] - budget is $1,111,133, with $882,405 in personnel costs, $201,453 in operating costs, and $27,275 in capital expenses. The department has 15 employees which gives an average of $58,827/employee. Personnel costs equal 79.3% of the budget.

Various expenses: $61,100 for agricultural services, $$12,785 for fleet maintenance, $26,367 for fuel, $47,000 for utilities, and $2,000 for a computer tablet.

This department is responsible for the overall beauty of the City which includes landscaping and other primarily arboricultural projects. It manages 50 City owned properties and 2.2 million square feet of turf and landscaped areas.

     Civic Plaza [pgs. 149-151] - budget is $76,781, with $41,512 in personnel costs, $33,769 in operating costs, and $1,500 in capital expenses. The department has one groundskeeper with personnel costs equaling 54% of the budget.

Since Rutherford County owns a portion of the plaza, the maintenance costs are shared: 58.5% City and 41.5% County. The Plaza is maintained by the Urban Environmental Dept.

     Parking Garage [pgs. 152-154] - budget is $117,490 with no employees.

Various expenses: $5,400 for sweeping and $106,000 for electricity.

The parking garage (under Civic Plaza, City Hall and the library) is also jointly funded, with 68.5% coming from the City and 31.5% County.

     Parks & Recreation [pgs. 155-166] - budget is $12,697,529, with $6,227,150 in personnel costs, $2,572,975 in operating costs, and $3,897,404 in capital expenses. The department has 341 employees (74 full-time and 267 part-time) The salaries (excluding benefits) for full-time employees average $40,138, and the wages for part-time employees average $6,643. The total salary & benefit average when divided by all employees comes to $18,264/employee. Personnel costs equal 48.6% of the budget.

Various revenues: $1,556,471 from recreation activity income and $1,638,474 from greenway grants.

Various expenses: $288,305 for lawn maintenance, $39,240 for advertising, $73,443 for fuel, $1,072,990 for utilities (nearly 65% is electricity costs), $7,300 for park movies, $36,720 for Sports*Com,  $39,145 for Patterson Community Center, $650 for an iPad, $400 for a TV, $200 for an Xbox 360 console, and $146,800 for various tennis facility expenses.

Stats & Accomplishments: Parks & Rec maintains approx. 1,115 acres worth of parks and greenways and $150 million in assets, which includes 28 sites and 74 buildings. According to the budget, the tournaments held in Murfreesboro which use public facilities have an estimated economic impact of $28 million/year. In FY 2013 there were an estimated 55,345 paid rounds of golf played.[pg. 285]

     Senior Citizens Dept. [pgs. 167-171] - budget is $955,660, with $631,246 in personnel costs, $309,414 in operating costs, and $15,000 in capital expenses. The department has 19 employees (9 full-time, and 10 part-time) which gives an average of $33,223/employee. Personnel costs equal 66% of the budget.

Notes & Accomplishments: The Senior Citizens Department operates the St. Clair Street Senior Center. In FY 2013, around 3,260 individual seniors visited the Center and in FY 2014, 223 volunteers put in 12,293 hours of service.

     Public Golf Course Dept. [pgs. 178-189] - the combined budget of all three golf courses (Old Fort, VA, and Bloomfield) is $1,974,268, with $1,288,649 in personnel costs, $664,919 in operating costs, and $20,700 in capital expenses. There are 55 employees (14 full-time, and 41 part-time). Full-time salaries are $683,981 (an avg. of $48,856/employee) and part-time wages are $267,646 (an avg. of $6,529/employee). Total salary & benefits for all employees averages out to $23,430/employee, with personnel costs equaling 65.2% of the budget.

The total budget breakdown for each golf course is: $1,606,594 for Old Fort, $309,831 for the VA course, and $57,843 for Bloomfield.

Various expenses: $62,535 for operations & maintenance, $91,000 for agricultural supplies, $10,000 for advertising, $73,600 for utilities, and $232,500 for purchases for resale.

     Solid Waste Dept. [pgs. 190-195] - budget is $4,532,159, with $2,392,130 in personnel costs, $2,128,029 in operating costs, and $12,000 in capital expenses. The department has 42 employees (41 full-time, 1 part-time) which gives an average of $56,955/employee. Personnel costs equal 52.6% of the budget.

Various expenses: $1,091,123 for fleet operation & maintenance, $511,471 for fuel, $133,360 for vehicle insurance, $66,000 for utilities, and $175,000 for disposal carts.

FY 2014 Accomplishments: The Department services 42,500 households and 6,000 businesses, with more than 50,000 trash cans being serviced weekly. The department logged 381,945 miles, and picked up 66,376 tons of garbage and yard waste, of that, 16,780 pounds (7.6 tons) was hazardous waste.

      Health, Education, and Welfare [pgs. 196-198] - budget is $2,227,919 with no listed employees. The key expenditure breakdown is: $1,356,287 for "other government", $239,750 for economic development, $518,992 for tourism, and $112,890 for outside agencies.

Various expenditures: 
  • Other government - $11,000 to the Health Dept, $51,000 to the TN Rehab. Center, $783,174 to Linebaugh Library, $106,780 to Myrtle Glanton Library, $68,500 to Animal Control, $2,500 for soil conservation, and $333,333 to MTSU. 
  • Tourism - $358,992 to the Chamber of Commerce, $25,000 for TSSAA, $20,000 to Discovery House, $37,500 to Main Street, $7,500 for the Murfreesboro Youth Orchestra, $10,000 for the Murfreesboro Symphony, $15,000 to the Oaklands Association, and $2,000 to the Area-16 Special Olympics.
  • Outside Agencies - $5,000 to Crime Stoppers, $10,000 to the Hope Clinic, $10,000 to Meals on Wheels, $2,500 to the Boys & Girls Club, $19,890 to the Child Advocacy Center, $10,000 to Special Kids, and $2,000 for Second Harvest.
Funding for the public library system is divided on a 44% City and 56% County basis.

     Fund Transfers [pgs.199-201] - These transfers are movements of funds between City departments. The total for this year is $31,307,698, with $26,397,595 going to Debt Service, $4,810,103 to City Schools, and $100,000 to the Drug Fund.

     Debt Service Fund [pgs. 206-214] - budget is $30,151,444 with $5,375,816 going to interest payments (up 6.4% over last year).

The City has a credit rating of AA from Standard & Poor's and Aa2 from Moody's, both of which are very good ratings.

In FY 2014, the City issued $29.35 million in fixed rate bonds at a rate of 2.67% interest. The bonds will mature in 15 years. For FY 2015, the City plans to issue $35 million in new debt, primarily to support the remodel of the new Police headquarters on Highland Ave.

The City currently has $264,480,057 in long-term debt, a net increase of $17,634,632 over last year. Of that, $207,604,585 is projected to be subject to the City's debt limit. The City's projected debt limit for this year is $453,646,832 (which is based on a fixed percentage of assets by law), which means the debt would be 54.24% of the debt limit.

Every time the issue of new debt arises, the discussion usually ends up like this, "we should go ahead and borrow more because 91% of our debt will paid off in 10 years." This has caused a fair amount of confusion among the average citizens of Murfreesboro. What the City means by that is, 91% of the debt we currently hold will be paid off in 10 years. Any new debt will be paid off 10-15 years from the day it is borrowed. Simply put, our City leaders plan on us always having debt and on always borrowing.

     Airport Fund [pgs. 215-221] - budget is $4,210,291, with $204,296 in personnel costs, $1,324,175 in operating costs, and $2,681,820 in capital expenses. The department has 7 employees (6 part-time, 1 full-time) which gives an average of $29,185/employee. Personnel costs equal 4.8% of the budget.

Various revenues: $376,243 from hangar rentals, $2,662,230 from state grants, and $1,086,258 from fuel sales & fees. The airport receives all of its funding from its own operations and grants, it does not come from other City funds.

Various expenses: $14,951 for supplies, $45,350 for utilities, $4,600 for travel & meals, $898,372 for purchases that will be resold, $2,362,840 for runway extension, and $318,980 for other improvements.

     Drug Fund [pgs. 222-224] - budget is $316,600, with $110,000 in personnel costs, $152,700 in operating costs, and $53,900 in capital expenses. There are no stand-alone employees as this fund is directed by the Police Dept.

Various revenues: $100,000 from court fines, $100,000 fund transfers, and $100,000 from seizures.

Various expenses: $20,000 for the fleet, $9,000 for a drug dog, $2,000 for office supplies, $19,800 for utilities, $70,000 for undercover operations, $10,000 for employee training, and $35,000 for a new truck.

The Drug Fund accounts for revenue from drug fines and confiscated property seized by the
Murfreesboro Police Department. The fund is used to support additional drug enforcement activities by the Police Department and to provide anti‐drug education programs in local schools.

     Risk Management Fund [pgs. 234-237] - budget is $3,607,863, with $295,609 in personnel costs, $3,310,754 in operating costs, and $1,500 in capital expenses. The department has 3 full-time employees which gives an average of $98,536/employee. Personnel costs equal 8.2% of the budget.

Various expenses: $9,100 for supplies, $2,109,802 for claims, $1,400 for utilities, $568,633 for fund transfers, $45,000 for legal services, and $80,000 for computer software.

Risk Management is responsible for maintaining the City’s self‐insured programs in property, liability and workers’ compensation insurance and for procuring special and excess risk insurance in key areas.

     Fleet Services [pgs. 238-342] - budget is $2,373,865, with $948,092 in personnel costs, $1,403,523 in operating costs, and $22,250 in capital expenses. The department has 13 full-time employees which gives an average of $72,930/employee. Personnel costs equal 39.9% of the budget.

Various expenses: $34,124 for supplies, $78,000 for utilities, $730,000 for parts, $60,000 for lubricants, $305,000 for vendor services, $150,000 for tires, and $12,000 for computer software.

The Department manages over 730 pieces of rolling stock.

Job Classification & Compensation Plan
From budget pages 311-316.

The City has 806 full-time employees, an increase of 15 from last year. Total personnel costs equal $59,876,881 which is an increase of 1.8% over last year. Simply using the number of employees and total personnel costs, the average pay per employee would be $74,289 (benefits included).
The City’s compensation plan is divided into nine steps, with Step 1 being the lowest. The top pay grade is the City Manager at $169,591/yr (at maximum level), and the lowest is $21,000/yr for the night watchman in the Solid Waste Dept. (entry level).

Additional reading:
To view the budget you can visit the City's webpage for it. The budget listed in the proposed budget, however it was passed with very few changes.