*There will be no postings for July, August and September.
Its that time again, time for our Town Manager Hazen Blodgett to present the town budget to the Mayor and Commissioners. According to Mr. Blodgett the proposed 2016-2017 budget will not change the town’s current tax rate but there is discussion of a vehicle and storm water fee increase. Also included in the town budget is $222,000.00 to replace eight police vehicles, which is way past due, $450,000.00 for capital needs throughout the town and a 3% performance -based salary pool for town employees. The town budget is on the agenda for the June 13th Board of Commissioners meeting and this is the time to address any concerns you may have.
I think we all can agree we do not mind paying a little more if funds are being properly and responsibly disbursed. But, when tax dollars are being spent for personal computers, beach trips, car allowances and well-connected individuals these are not the actions of a responsible leadership. Instead of expecting the citizens to reach deeper into their pockets, I think this council needs to take a step back and look at ways of cutting ‘in-house’ spending. Below are just a few different ways our tax dollars are being spent within the town.
In June 2014 the vehicle fee was increased from $15.00 to $25.00. We were told this would grow revenue to $575,000, annually which theoretically would go toward road maintenance. Now two years later we are being told once again this fee needs to be increased another $5.00 thus bringing total to $30.00 per car which will increase revenue $114,000, annually and once again the funds would go to town road maintenance.
On July 15, 2014 the Town of Matthews received a massive amount of rain. Within an hour the town received 4.5 thru 5 inches of rain and this storm was labeled the 100 year storm. During the storm one resident who also serves as chair of the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) of Matthews received some damage on his private property. According to Mecklenburg County Storm Water and Matthews storm water fees cannot be used on private property and yet with one phone call Matthews Public Works spent two days cleaning and hauling off storm debris from this property and documentation shows this was not the first time. There were many citizens of Matthews who also received storm damage and reached out to the town only to receive a different response. Is it not funny how it works that way? Maybe if storm water fees were used correctly there wouldn’t be a shortage.
TOWN HALL DAY – Town Hall Day is an annual meeting held by the North Carolina League of Municipalities. The activities are “geared to facilitating individual conversation’s between League officials and their hometown legislators.” This day includes meetings with House and Senate legislative leaders, state agency leaders, district legislators and ending with an evening reception. March 18, 2015 Mayor Taylor along with Commissioners Chris Melton, Jeff Miller, John Higdon, John Ross, Town Manager Hazen Blodgett, Communications Director Jen Thompson, former Asst. Town Manager Jamie Justice and former Commissioner Joe Pata attended Town Hall Day costing the residents $1,152.09 for a one day event. The evening included a private banquet room at City Club Raleigh and their menu items included; Signature She Crab, Filet Mignon & Crab Cake, Eggplant Frito Napoleon while desserts included Creme Brulee, Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart, Strawberry Frangipane all averaging $71.15 per plate. There were also various beers, wines and soft drinks available. This year Town Hall Day will be held on June 8, 2016 so we will have to wait and see if the Mayor, Commissioners and town staff will decide to be responsible or live it up once again on the tax payers dime. There is also a membership fee for the NC League of Municipalities and according to the invoice provided by Matthews amount for fiscal year 2015/2016 is $22,705.00.
Town Hall Day receipts 2015 *please note on page 26 you will see receipt for total amount spent. This amount was split with six municipalities which bring total to $$702.09 per town. Include registration fee of $50.00 per person $50.00 x 9 =$450.00 bringing total spent $1,152.09
THE NORTH CAROLINA METROPOLITAN MAYORS COALITION – The Metro Mayors Coalition was founded in 2001 and is a group of thirty-two mayors from various cities and towns. The coalition is non-partisan and a mayor-driven organization. Two meetings are held a year and the coalition offers email updates concerning the General Assembly, conference calls, general updates on issues and such. On November 24, 2014 the council approved the Budget Amendment to appropriate funding for NC Metropolitan Mayors Coalition Membership in the amount of $4,164.00. This was a pro-rated fee, the actual amount for the fiscal year of 2014-2015 would have been $7,139.00. That’s a lot of moo-la for a special little club.
TECHNOLOGY ALLOWANCE – The Technology Allowance was adopted on November 28, 2005 and as I have stated many times this is just one area of waste that needs to be completely revamped. The amount of $24,500.00 is included in the 2016-2017 budget and allows $3,500.00 for the mayor and each commissioner. This amount is given per term and whether they are re-elected or not all purchases become their personal property. The Technology Allowance allows purchases for computers, computer hardware, software, communications equipment and other related items to help fulfill their duties. So far receipts for reimbursement have been submitted by Commissioner Larry Whitley who is serving his first term and on January 11, 2016 the council approved a technology reimbursement of $675.60 which included $500.00 for a ASUS laptop computer. On March 28, 2016 the council approved technology reimbursement of $281.44 and on April 25, 2016 the amount of $1,959.46 which included $1,499.00 for a MacBook Pro for Commissioner Chris Melton. He is now serving his second term and has also purchased an Apple Ipad in 2014 for $629.99 and in 2015 MacBook Air in the amount of $916.97. These are three different computers totaling $2,983.98 all paid in full by the tax payers. How many computers does one person need? Can you say, shopping spree.
PLANNING CONFERENCE – Every year at the end of February beginning of March the Annual Planning Conference is held. Depending on current issues in need of discussion this is a three or four day event. This year three days were held at Ocean Isle Beach and many residents feel this was a waste of town funds. The amount spent for the 2016 Planing Conference was $6,693.18, in 2015 total spent was $7,716.73 and in 2014 $7,037.64. Three annual meetings totaling $21,447.55 for dining and weekend accommodations. During the planning conference Commissioner Chris Melton stated “he applauds the board and committee member who are here today but it seems clear to him that the ppl who complain about going out of town/not making it convenient for citizens to attend aren’t even here. He will continue to say that argument is invalid but he thanks those folks who are actively here” Don’t you just love it when an elected official criticizes the citizenry and then uses tax payer dollars for an all expense paid weekend retreat? After seeing Commissioner Melton’s technology spending habits wouldn’t you think three computers averaging $3,000.00 and paid for by the citizens would be enough?
TOWN BOARD DINNERS – Every second and fourth Monday of the month our Board of Commissioners Meetings are held at the Town Hall. At times there are meetings held at 5:30pm to discuss quarterly reports, conduct interviews, pre-development conferences, staff meetings and town budget just to name a few. During these meetings dinner may be served. From January 2014 through April 2016 a total of thirty-five dinners were served totaling $4,466.73. I think its fair to say, they love to eat.
HOME PLACE – What is it with Home Place? Why is our leadership so obsessed with it? Once again Matthews is involved in an issue were it does not belong and continues to deny the court rulings that Home Place is a private road. For almost thirty years the residents have paid for lighting along Home Place and now that they have been removed our leadership is in a tizzy. Do you feel the residents of Matthews are responsible for paying for security lights once again for well-connected individuals? Mayor Taylor and Commissioners John Higdon, John Ross, John Urban, Chris Melton, Larry Whitley and Town Manager Hazen Blodgett think so. The only commissioner who gets it and feels it is the responsibility of the property owner is Commissioner Jeff Miller. With all the public streets in Matthews that are in current need of lighting, why is the Mayor, Commissioners and Town Manager so determined to provide street lights on a private road using tax payer dollars? If a property owner feels he/she is in need of a security light the normal protocol would be to call Duke Energy and request a light which is then added to their energy bill. Excluding the Wrights property, Matthews continues to claim that Home Place is a public road. According to the courts Home Place is a private road. Who would you believe? What is it going to take for Mayor Taylor and Commissioners John Higdon, John Ross, John Urban, Chris Melton, Larry Whitley and Town Manager Hazen Blodgett to face the facts and admit Home Place is a private road and put this to rest? Like my grandmother always said, the proof is in the pudding.
April 21, 2015 NCCOA opinion *This is a published opinion and will now set a new precedent for future cases in North Carolina. This was a win for all citizens of North Carolina.
Parker Poe Allen & Bernstien payments *please note this does not include amount paid to our town attorney’s law firm.
Something to think about – Currently our Police and Fire Departments are in desperate need of proper equipment and for years they have been told funds were not available. Just think of all the equipment and supplies that could have been provided for, instead there was careless and irresponsible spending.
PLEASE REMEMBER TO SUPPORT MATTHEWS WATCH BY TELLING YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS. THANK YOU.