Telling it like it is

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2008

Citizens of Franklin are in an economic dilemma, and the outcome of this election will determine if we finally address the solution: Reduce spending.

Our population demographics consist of fewer and fewer retirees who pay the majority of tax dollars in support of services for an increasing number of individuals at or below the poverty level. How has this out-of-balance situation been sustained since 1996?

1. Franklin became a high-tax area with water, sewer and utility rates and property taxes increasing significantly.

2. City spending of Electrical Department profits doubled in 1996 and was then sustained at the current $2 million per year.

3. Through increased borrowing which has limited our ability to build a needed high school.

Where will the cash flow come from to resolve this demographic imbalance?

Will taxes on those who currently pay more than their fair share be increased beyond current levels? How much more can we borrow? Electrical Department profits cannot be squeezed beyond the annual $2 million as its negative cash balances will attest. We will get a tax windfall from Lowe’s and Farm Fresh, but a revenue-sharing arrangement with the county prevents us from gaining our full share of these tax dollars. Why would new small businesses continue to open within our unfriendly business climate?

Our economic dilemma dictates that citizens on May 6 elect council members with an economic perspective to deal with these weighty questions - and candidates who are trained to identify those areas within our city where SPENDING CAN BE REDUCED. A CPA is professionally trained to analyze such financial conditions. Financially oriented candidates must also have the courage of their convictions to present identified, reduced spending areas to citizens for our prioritization.

If we fail to address our immediate economic dilemma on May 6, we will sooner rather than later be forced to merge with the surrounding county. A merger would combine overlapping services and spread the reduced costs over a larger tax base. The city of Bedford is in the midst of a similar situation. Throughout the campaign and the political forums, one candidate has consistently tried to focus citizens on both our financial dilemma and the city’s need to reduce spending. That candidate is Barry Cheatham, CPA. My respect for Barry has grown throughout this campaign. I know him to be a straight shooter who answers questions honestly and with substance. In those rare situations where we differed, he displayed polite flexibility. His understanding of finance goes without saying.

I saw in Barry a proud, caring father who loves his family and vice versa. They pull together. He understands the issues and truly believes that his financial background can help the city. Prior to his announcing his candidacy, Barry spoke at length with outgoing Councilman Joe Scislowicz to understand the responsibilities and time requirements of the position.

Barry Cheatham has answered the bell as a responsible citizen and as a caring husband and father of two girls. I have no doubt that he will continue to answer the bell as an effective councilman. He just needs the opportunity. He has my vote.

Chuck Lilley