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A Refreshing Knapp – Budget solution offered (July 22, 2015 issue)

On the front page of the July 1st edition of the Erwin Record there were 2 different sub-headlines that caught my attention. The first one read: “Unicoi County $365,000 shortfall – Commissioners discuss cuts, tax increase.” The other read: “Law Enforcement – Unicoi County Sheriff Department finds $1.2 M in marijuana.” Unfortunately, on page 9, it showed those 1,200 plants going up in flames.
Every time a budget is proposed for the upcoming year, Unicoi Countians never read: “Good news, there is a surplus in the county coffers – no tax increase this year.” It is always the same old refrain, “Huge Budget Shortfall, tax increase looms.” During these austere times, it is high time the County Commission becomes more creative to ease the tax burden on their constituents.
There are several states where the sale of marijuana is legal. If the county had sold those 1200 plants to one of those states at street value, the county would have a surplus of $835,000. Even at wholesale, I’m sure the amount would easily have brought enough to pay the county’s $365,000 shortfall.
Okay, some of that was “tongue-in-cheek.” However, most of it wasn’t, especially the part about Unicoi Countians being fed-up with ever increasing property taxes. Once elected, officials seem to become part of the system – and the system is a political organization that can find ways to spend money faster than what is brought in from all revenue sources.
Now that I’ve made all the commissioners mad, I’ll take on the state and its political “shell game” called the lottery. It was sold to the states on the premise that proceeds would go to education. Since the lottery has been introduced the amount spent on education has actually decreased in some states. Kudos to Tennessee, it has gone up 2 percent to pay for the HOPE scholarship. We all cheered when the Governor announced 2 years of college would be free for high school graduates; assuming the money to pay for this would come from lottery proceeds.
The money to pay for this program IS coming from lottery proceeds. They are taking money from the HOPE scholarship fund to pay for this new program. See what I’m talking about when I call it a “Shell Game?”
The lottery director is paid over half a million dollars per year from the Tennessee Lottery, and several top executives have salaries ranging well over 200 thousand, but after all those expenses, a ton of money is still left from the 3.3 billion raised by the lottery. Out of these billions, less than 350 million actually goes to education. What’s being done with the remainder? Perhaps we should have an independent task force look into that political slush fund.
I was secretary of Flag Pond’s Neighborhood Watch a few years back, and we were having a Spaghetti Supper, and a “Cake Walk” to raise funds for neighborhood watch signs. This was shortly after Tennessee had voted in the lottery and changed all kinds of rules that could possibly be construed as gambling. I was in charge of starting and stopping the music for the cake walk. At a cake walk, contestants walk around a circle, starting and stopping with the music. If a contestant stops on a designated spot when the music stops, they “win” a cake. The sheriff, at that time, had just finished a speech and was standing beside me. “Are you charging the contestants to participate?” We were not, but did have a lady going through the crowd asking if anyone would care to donate.
I wonder if the entire neighborhood watch would have been arrested if we had been charging. Also, that same year, the Senior Center was raffling off a handmade quilt some of the ladies had made to raise funds. Unfortunately, the word got out – the raffle was stopped.
A church or non-profit organization can’t hold cake walks, bingo, or raffles…heaven forbid, that’s gambling! But the state – the state can have the lottery and do what they want with the proceeds; that’s not gambling that’s politics.
I’m generally an easy going guy; just don’t get me started on politics – I get all wound up.