***UPDATE*** There has been a ruling concerning Home Place. As soon as all documentation is public record there will be a follow-up article.
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS PLANNING CONFERENCE: It is once again time for the Annual Board of Commissioners Planning Conference. This meeting is being held this weekend February 27th thru March 2nd. The meeting will be at 50 E. 1st Street, Ocean Isle Beach, NC 28469. The Planning Conference is a public meeting and should be held within the town to support local businesses, not four hours away which makes it inconvenient and expensive for residents to attend. All expenses will be paid by the residents of Matthews for the Mayor, Commissioners and Town Officials. To have Open and Honest Government meetings need to be easily accessible and convenient. Conference or Retreat, you decide.
Board of Commissioners Meeting – December 9, 2013 – Public Comment – A resident stated – “He also urged the incoming Board to cancel the upcoming travel to the beach for the annual Planning Conference as it is an inappropriate use of town funds and his funds as a citizen.
THE JOHN LOCKE FOUNDATION – TRANSPARENCY “What is Transparency? When something is transparent, according to m-w.com, it is “free from pretense or deceit…easily detected or seen through…readily understood [or] characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.”
“Applied to government, this means citizens should be able to see how their tax money is used by elected representatives and bureaucrats are doing with are doing with the tax money they take from citizens. In the past few years there has been a change in what citizens find acceptable in the way of government transparency. In the age of the Internet and digital technology, citizens are demanding their state, local and national governments provide access to the basic information they must have in order to make decisions as responsible citizens.”
“Some states and localities nationwide have embraced the transparency movement and have taken advantage of communication technologies unavailable 10 or 20 years age. Others, though, including many in North Carolina, have been slow to adopt to these new citizen demands.” Information provided by: The John Locke Foundation – www.johnlocke.org
The John Locke Foundation has graded the Town of Matthews a D in Transparency.
Town Budget: Every year in May/June the Mayor and Commissioners are presented with a yearly Town Budget from Town Manager Hazen Blodgett.
May 13, 2013 -Town Manager Hazen Blodgett: “The proposed tax rate will increase to $0.3225 per $100 of property evaluation. We are also proposing a $15 increase to the annual car tag fee. Bringing the total annual fee to $30. The owner of a $200.00 house will see a tax increase of $55 per year, or $4.60 per month. (This includes the property tax increase and the tag fee). This year’s (2013/2014) General Fund budget totals $19,335,165 and represents a 0.002% increase ($40,000 increase) over the FY 2012/2013 budget. The budget includes a 2.5% salary increase pool based on performance for employees.”
2013/2014 Proposed Budget Overview: The 2 cent increase will generate a total of $668,000 and the 2013/2014 Town’s Revenue Sources are: Property Tax 55% – Sales Taxes 11% – State Shared Taxes 9% and Other, Powell Bill, Privilege, Auto Fee 25%. The tax rate for 2012/2013 .3025, proposed tax rate 2013/2014 .3225.
Board of Commissioners Meeting June 17, 2013 -“The Board then discussed the fiscal year 2013-14 proposed budget. Mr. Blodgett noted if the Board chose to not increase the tag fee this year then staff will propose it again next year. A straw vote was taken regarding the tax rate increase and an increase to the tag fee. The consensus was for a 1.5 cent tax increase, no increase to the tag fee and movement on the modified plan for South Trade Street, to include the Courtney connector.”
Board of Commissioners Meeting June 24, 2013 – “The fiscal impact on the average house worth $200,000 will be an increase of $30 per year. Ms. Moore questioned the vehicle tag fee and Mr. Blodgett confirmed it would remain at the current rate of $15.”
June 24, 2013 the FY 2013/2014 Town Budget was approved. The 2013/2014 tax rate for Matthews is 0.3175.
ANNUAL SALARY MAYOR: MATTHEWS: Salary $15,750.02 Yearly Stipend $3,900.00 TOTAL SALARY $19,650.02 Population 2012: 28,699
APEX: Salary $10,058.00 Yearly Stipend $1,800.00 TOTAL SALARY $11,858.00 Population 2011: 38,702
STATESVILLE: Salary $17,833 Yearly Stipend $0.00 TOTAL SALARY $17,833 Population 25,044
STALLINGS: Salary $7,800.00 Yearly Stipend $0.00 TOTAL SALARY $7,800.00 Population: 14,472
MONROE: Salary $10,042.92 Yearly Stipend $0.00 TOTAL SALARY $10,042.92 Population 2013: 33,201
MINT HILL: Salary $10,000.00 Yearly Stipend $0.00 TOTAL SALARY $10,000.00 Population 2012: 23,956
MATTHEWS TOWN COUNCIL: Salary $3,600.00 year
TOWN MANAGER Salary $117,875.00 – Car Allowance $350.00 monthly – Cell Phone Allowance $85.00 monthly
ASST. TOWN MANAGER Salary $98,752.00 – Cell Phone Allowance $85.00 monthly
TECHNOLOGY ALLOWANCE FUND: The Technology Allowance Fund (TAF) allows the Mayor and Commissioners to purchase computers, smart phones, I-Pads, printer, internet service, phone service, office supplies and any other technology related items. The Mayor and Commissioners are allowed $3,500.00 each per term. This is a total of $24,500.00 every two years that is paid 100% by the residents of Matthews. What happens to the computers, smart phones and other items purchased two years before? The Mayor and Commissioners are allowed to keep and do as they wish with them. This past election there were three Commissioners who did not seek reelection and one not reelected, all left with items purchased during each term served. The computers used by the Mayor and Commissioners are mainly used to send and receive emails, viewing current and future projects to corresponding with town employees. It is very important for our leadership to be well equipped with the proper items needed to serve, but is it really necessary to replace them every two years? There are many other options available and all need to be discussed and reviewed.
Technology Allowance – Matthews: Mayor & Commissioners $3,500.00 per term Apex: Mayor & Commissioners $0.00 – Statesville: Mayor & Commissioners $0.00 – Stallings: Mayor & Commissioners $0.00 – Monroe: Mayor & Commissioners $540.00 annually – Mint Hill: Mayor & Commissioners $100.00 month
In the month of January 2014 the citizens have reimbursed a total of $2,040.51. Commissioner Higdon $888.33, Commissioner Melton $772.18 and Commissioner Query $380.00. On August 5, 2011 Mayor Taylor purchased an Apple iPad total $714.83 almost two years to the day August 4, 2013 he then purchased a Macbook Pro amount $1,299.00 w/o tax. In trying to learn more about the TAF Mayor Taylor was presented with eight questions. I feel they are all valid questions of concern and every resident of Matthews has the right to know where and how their tax dollars are being spent. There was no response to the questions.
1. When you purchase a new computer or iPad do you donate the ones no longer needed to any local schools, Matthews’s Library, children of need or any other non-profit? Are they put back into the Town for employee use? If not, where are they, where do they go?
2. Over the years many computers have been purchased by the leadership of Matthews. Their main function is for receiving and responding to emails, viewings current and future projects to corresponding with Town employees. Was it really necessary for you to purchase a $1,300.00 Macbook Pro to be paid for by the citizens of Matthews?
3. Instead of raising the citizens’ taxes and increasing the Town Budget would it not be in the best interest for the Town and Residents to lease? This would be a write-off which would save the residents of Matthews money.
4. With computers much cheaper and more advanced should the TAF not be reevaluated? According to Apple the life expectancy of a Macbook Pro is 4 to 5 years or longer.
5. On receipts you and past Commissioners have submitted for reimbursement the name and other information has been blacked out. If these purchases were made according to the TAF why should the information be withheld from public record?
6. According to receipts submitted by you and the Commissioners the total amount allowed by the TAF has always been used in full. Has it ever been considered to save money and not purchase new computer, smart phone, etc. every two years?
7. When a Mayor or Commissioner decides not to run for re-election they keep computers, smart phones and any other items that have been purchased by the TAF during their service. These items have now become personal property that was paid in full by the citizens of Matthews. Do you believe it is fair to charge the residents of Matthews for these items?
8. According to your request of TAF reimbursements during the 2010/2011 term allowance was $3,600.00, in 2011/2013 allowance was $3,500.00. According to Town Manager Mr. Blodgett the allowance is now $3,900.00. Why, was the amount raised $400.00? And is this new allowance yearly or term? CORRECTION: My question is incorrect. The information I received was a little confusing, I was assuming the $3,900.00 was Mayor Taylor’s Technology Allowance Fund amount. Actually the $3,900.00 is a perk that is received yearly along with his salary. His TAF amount is $3,500.00 per term. This is why we ask questions, to learn the facts.
***There are some within the leadership who would prefer for you to contact them by phone. Phone calls are great for casual conversation, but it is highly recommended for citizens to ask questions by email or ask them during a Board of Commissioners Meeting. This way there is documentation and accountability.***