A few examples include: $15 million spent by the IRS on public relations to improve its image with taxpayers; $500,000 was spent on travel by NASA employees who are allowed to approve their own charges on government credit cards; $1.6 billion is spent each year to maintain unneeded federal property; the National Science Foundation spent $705,000 to research whether or not stressed-out birds make good parents; the National Institutes of Health spent $115.9 million on conference and travel services; the Senate barber shop received a $300,000 taxpayer bailout; the U.S. Navy was found to be paying $15 a gallon for “green” gasoline; and the federal government spent $1.6 billion last year to provide “free” cellphones and pay the monthly bills of 12.5 million wireless accounts of low-income families.
Our great nation is deeply in debt, yet it’s clear that Washington bureaucrats and politicians are spending like there’s no tomorrow.
Like you, I get angry when I see government waste of our tax dollars and it’s understandable that citizens sometimes direct their anger at your local county government. Many assume that we operate in the same manner as Washington, D.C. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Unlike the federal government, Bradley County cannot print money. We must operate within a balanced budget based on projected revenue.
The total budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year is $133,040,320. Bradley County Schools get 60.6 percent of that amount with an additional 4.6 percent allocated to pay debt service on any school system construction. The system’s budget funds the education of more than 10,000 students and pays to maintain 17 school facilities. This leaves 34.8 percent, or $46,297,920, to operate all other aspects of your county government.
The budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year is scheduled to be adopted by the Bradley County Commission on July 1. Here are a few more figures to help you understand why I believe Bradley County operates in a fiscally conservative and efficient manner.
The Bradley County Road Department inspects and maintains 746.09 miles of county roads, 192 county bridges and box culverts, mows the right of way, trims trees and brush that create line-of-sight issues, makes their own road signs and installs them. The department also picks up roadside litter and provides litter education. All of these services are done with about 60 employees including office staff. The staff’s work load has increased as the community has grown. However, the department has not added any new employees since 2006.
The Bradley County EMS averages 61 emergency calls each day. In 2012, the department responded to 22,249 medical emergencies. The EMS performs this service for the citizens of Bradley County with just 56 full-time EMTs and paramedics. Nine of the department’s 13 ambulances are on the road at any given time caring for the health and safety of the county’s 101,000 residents.
Your tax dollars are also at work at the Bradley County Health Department. Each year the Health Department serves more than 13,000 women, infants and children, and screens more than 3,000 children for dental problems, while also ensuring that our local restaurants and food service businesses are clean and disease free through regular inspections.
In 2012, the Bradley County Veterans Department assisted 2,740 of our approximately 8,000 military veterans or their dependents. The department’s three employees have also been heavily involved in the effort to build a veterans home in Bradley County.
The Bradley County Parks and Recreation Department operates with just nine employees. Yet, in 2012 the department served more than 3,500 children who actively participated in the county’s numerous athletic programs. The department maintains 11 facilities including: three baseball parks, the girls’ softball park, Charleston football and baseball facilities, Mike Burke Park, the department’s office location and mows the grass at the old Waterville school and Elrod Park.
The Bradley County Clerk’s office processes more than 70,000 vehicle tag renewals and more than 41,000 tag registrations each year. This is in addition to handling the paperwork for almost 800 business license applications, more than 800 marriage licenses, 31,000 vehicle titles, and 300 notary licenses. The Clerk’s office also records and processes all the minutes for the County Commission meetings.
With a budget of $13,245,802, the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office is charged with the safety and security of our community. However, their responsibility goes far beyond patrolling the county’s 333 square miles. BCSO oversees the operation and security of the 160,000 square-foot Justice Center, provides court security for the Bradley County Courthouse and operates the County jail with an inmate capacity of 408. Each year the departments’ deputies respond to an average of about 245 emergency calls a day.
Space will not permit me to elaborate on several other departments such as the Senior Center, Emergency Management Agency and Bradley County Fire-Rescue who proved their worth during the deadly storms of April 2011. The Medical Examiner’s Office, Storm Water Division, County Engineering Department, Planning Department, Building Inspections, Trustee’s Office, Circuit Court Clerk’s office, Misdemeanor Probations, Juvenile Justice Center and the County Courts system all work hard to ensure that we continue to enjoy an enriched quality of life in Bradley County.
When you sum it all up and look at the dollars spent and services rendered, I believe we taxpayers get a lot of bang for our buck. That’s another reason I am proud to say “Bradley County is Tennessee at its best.”
Maybe the folks in Washington, D.C., should come and see how we do it.