Monday, May 13, 2013

Murfreesboro C.A.P.E to the Murfreesboro Post

In response to the recent Murfreesboro Post article by Jonathan Fagan.

Your recent article concerning the City’s red light camera system was not exactly accurate and more than a little biased.

Here are the facts:

According to the Chief of Police’s report, the total number of crashes (of all types) between 2008 and 2012 has declined 11% per year on average. However, the number of crashes seen at camera enforced intersections has only fallen 1.1% per year on average.  This clearly shows that the camera enforcement system is not working as expected.

Furthermore, side-angle crashes at enforced intersections have decline 32% since 2008, while the decline at all intersections has dropped 42%. The overall trend is a decline in intersection crashes unrelated to the camera system.  In fact, between 2011-12 side angle crashes at camera enforced intersections rose 37.15% compared to a decline of 42.1% at all intersections.

TCA 55-8-198 (and related sections) makes it plain that a violator who does not pay their fine will not have their failure to pay noted on either their driver’s license record or their credit report. Councilman Smotherman’s point was simple – the law, as written, lacks teeth and in reality any driver may simply ignore their citations and the City is without recourse to force them to pay.  Additionally, the system sets up two different punishments for the same crime, a potential violation of the Equal Protection clause.

Consider this:  An individual runs a red light and is caught by the camera system.  They are issued a citation and refuse to pay it (as 70% of those cited do). The violation does not appear on their record and even the collection agency is prohibited from listing a payment failure on their credit report.
Another individual runs a red light and is caught by a physical police officer, they are cited and any failure to pay can result in arrest. The citation itself is also noted on their driving record.

American Traffic Solutions receives 50% of the citation fee which, since 2008, amounts to $1.87 million which has left our community and gone to an out-of-state company. On top of this, the City budget lists that the operation of the red light camera system costs the taxpayers $740,000/yr or $2.2 million since 2010. And while Mayor Bragg has insisted that safety is their main concern, ATS specifically states that their systems are geared toward providing a revenue source for municipalities. 

The videos shown of intersection accidents are a prime example of why the red light camera system fails to offer safety. The offending drivers were not simply running a red light; they were driving incredibly recklessly, were drunk and showed no regard for the safety of others. The threat of being caught on camera is hardly a sufficient deterrence. If there was a police officer watching the intersection, in person, they could have apprehended the driver then and there and prevented any further accidents down the road. As the system stands, the drunk driver could continue on for miles before a police officer catches up to them. 

ATS, a private company, is doing the work of the police and yet is free from any oversight. No one knows how long they keep the day-to-day video they capture, nor do we know if they sell the information they receive or if their systems are protected from computer attacks. Seven states have banned the use of these camera systems and numerous cities have removed them from their streets. On top of that, courts in California and Missouri have ruled against these systems, citing for one thing - a major conflict of interest. We at Murfreesboro C.A.P.E are committed to having these cameras taken down and to return the running of our city, and its agencies, back to the citizens of Murfreesboro. 

-- Jacob Bogle
Murfreesboro C.A.P.E (Citizens Against Photo Enforcement) 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Thoughts on the Public Debt & Expenditures of the City of Murfreesboro

The City of Murfreesboro is located at the geographic center of the State of Tennessee. It has a certified population of 109,031 (July 2012 census). The City’s population growth has exceeded 42% per decade on average.

Despite a population increase of 4.2%/year, revenues have only increased an average of 2.5% per year. [1-pg 11] Additionally, revenues from property taxes (the largest single revenue source) have remained comparatively flat since 2009. [1-pg 12] For fiscal year 2013, the City of Murfreesboro has budgeted $112,050,683 in revenues for the General Fund and plans to expend $117,311,137 for the year; a difference of $5,260,454. [1-pg 14]

Construction of Phase IV of the Stones River Greenway is expected to cost $4,750,000. While most of this will come from federal grants, 20% of it ($950,000) will come directly from borrowed funds. [1-pg 36]
The City plans to spend $15.2 million for Parks & Recreation and Golf courses which is a 67% increase over the 2009-10 year. Recreation in general (parks, greenways, golf course etc) ranks as the 3rd largest single expenditure for the City which nearly ties the amount spent on the Fire Dept; the Debt Service Fund comes in at number one with $26.1 million budgeted. More is spent on “recreation” than city schools, the drug fund, senior citizens, the street department, and transportation combined. [1-pg s 41 & 63]

The City also boasts about having the highest rate of pay increases for any city in the state of Tennessee. The pay increases amount to $1.3 million per year and in terms of pay increase percentages, is 3 times higher than that of Chattanooga (whose revenue for 2013 is $97 million more than Murfreesboro’s). [1-pgs 20-21] [2-pg 6] 

City Budget Departments (Personnel)

Note: Personnel counts include full and part-time employees. The averages are based solely on the number of employees. All budgets are limited to “personnel costs” only which includes salaries, overtime, medical, retirement (401a), insurance, Social Security, pensions and worker’s compensation. 

The General & Administrative Dept of the city (Mayor, administration, etc) consists of 32 employees with a personnel budget of $1,827,291 or $57,102 per person. [1-pgs 71-72]

Information Technology Dept: 11 employees and a personnel budget of $752,026 -- $68,366/person.  [1-pgs 77-78]

The Communications Dept has 8 employees and personnel costs of $496,000 which averages $62,000 per person. [1-pg 84]

Legal: 7 employees, $715,732 budget -- $102,247/person. [1-pgs 88-89]

Human Resources: 9 employees, $648,608 budget -- $72,067/person. [1-pgs 93-94]

Judicial: 6 employees, $362,743 budget -- $60,457/person. [1-pgs 97-98]

Police: 316 employees (including officers and support persons), $20,114,644 budget -- $63,653/person. Without insurance, retirement etc, the total net salary is $43,711/person. [1-pgs 106-107]

     --The operation of the City’s red light cameras are costing $740,000/yr. [1-pg 108]

Fire & Rescue: 189 employees, $13,793,603 budget -- $72,982/person. [1-pgs 114-115]

     -- For 2012 Fire & Rescue responded to 11,566 calls. For their 2012 budget this equals to $1,077 per call. [1-pg 113]

Building and Codes: 22 employees, $1,574,278 budget -- $71,558/person. [1-pgs 120-212]

Planning and Engineering: 18 employees, $1,476,815 budget -- $82,045/person. [1-pgs 129-31]

Transportation: 25 employees, $1,203,928 budget -- $48,157/person. It is important to note here that 9 employees are part-time. [1-pgs 136-38]

     -- The city will spend $185,000 on traffic signals. [1-pg 138]

Street: 29 employees, $1,677,543 budget -- $57,846/person. [1-pg 144-45]

     -- The Street Dept estimates it will resurface 56 miles of roadways for 2013. When averaged against the department’s operating budget (minus personnel & capital expenses) this equals $43,216/per mile. [1-pg 143]

-- The State Street Aid Fund is managed by the Street Dept. It has no employees of its own but does contain a budget with $2,830,000 in funding and $2,830,750 in expenditures. This fund comes from the State Fuel Tax Allocation to the City and is used to help maintain sidewalks, drainage, and streets within the City limits. [1-pgs 209-212]

Urban Environment: 15 employees, $798,672 budget -- $53,244/person. The personnel budget amounts to 77% of the entire budget for this department which is $1,030,820. [1-pgs 151-52]

     -- The operations & maintenance, supplies and materials budget for 2013 is only 14.6% of the total allocated. [1-pg 152]

Civic Plaza: 1 employee, $47,485 personnel budget. The total budget for this department (which only includes the plaza) is $109, 909 with only $17,000 going to operations and maintenance. [1-pgs 154-55]

Parks and Recreation: 324 employees (254 are part-time), $5,729,787 budget -- $17,684/person. However, full-time wages are $4,073,077 (full personnel budget minus part-time wages) or $58,186/person. [1-pgs 165-66]

     -- Additionally, $11,565 has been budgeted for trophies and $2,500 for “educational animals.” [1-pg 166] As well as, $6,000 for 10 trashcans (yet only $1,090 for 10 picnic tables), 7 computers, a 32” TV, an iPad, 2 video cameras, and a TV with DVD player. [1-pg 167-69]

Senior Citizens: 19 employees (10 part-time), $617,505 budget -- $32,500/person. [1-pg 174]

Public Golf Course: 52 employees (38 part-time), $1,267,943 budget -- $24,383/person. [1-pgs 181-83]

     -- The total combined budget for the Old Fort Golf Course and the VA course is $2,023,404 which makes personnel costs 62.6% of the budget. [1-pg 184]

     -- Based on the budgets given, revenues from the golf courses only constitute $1,920,974 which means the courses run at a deficit to taxpayers. The deficits are: 2010 -$45,653, 2011 -$302,605, 2012 -$271,067, 2013 -$102,430. This is a combined loss of $721,755. [1-pgs 41 & 184]

Solid Waste: 45 employees, $2,517,342 budget -- $55,940/person. [1-pgs 188-89]

Airport Fund: 7 employees (6 part-time), $194,953 budget -- $27,850/person. [1-pgs 217-18]

Community Development Fund: 3 employees, $131,229 budget -- $43,743/person. [1-pgs 226-27]

Risk Management Fund: 3 employees, $275,787 budget -- $91,929/person. [1-pgs 243-44]

Fleet Services: 13 employees, $910,652 budget -- $70,050/person. [1-pgs 247-48]

Interestingly, the Parking Garage department has an $116,975 budget with no employees. 89% of the budget is for the electric bill. [1-pgs 157-58]

In all, the City lists 787 employees. [1-pg 288] If we divide the number of employees by the amount allocated for personnel ($57,134,566), the average City employee makes $72,598. Of course most employees make a good deal less than this (as little as $21,000) and others, such as the City Manager, can earn as much as $163,856. For a full list of pay grades please see pages 283-287 of the City’s budget.


The City’s credit rating is AA- (Stands & Poor) and Aa2 (Moody’s). [1-pg 202]

The City has incurred deficits for 3 out of the past 5 years. Although the budget authors assure us that the City is on track to pay off its debts in 10 years, between 2012 and 2013 the City issued $44 million in new loans. [1-pg 236] The budget also does not include the estimated $104 million in unfinanced expansions to the City’s greenway system. [3] As of 2013, the City has $227,015,053 in long-term debt with a debt limit of $421,978,966. [1-pg 207] The 2013 amount budgeted for debt interest payments is $6.7 million [1-pg 42] which, if it were its own department, would be the 4th largest in the entire budget (3rd largest if we take out the Debt Service Fund)  and is the largest single line-item expense. [1-pg 63] The Debt Service Fund accounts for over ¼ of the entire City budget and is the largest item in the budget, eclipsing the Police Department by over $1 million. [1-pg 63] The debt service costs every citizen $61.45/yr in taxes which doesn't sound like much, however the interest payment amount has risen 246% since 2009-2010. [1-pg 42]

The debt per person in Murfreesboro is $2,082. The debt-per-person of the city, state and finally the nation looks like this:

Murfreesboro - $2,082
Tennessee - $937 (the State is $6 billion in debt) [4]
National - $53,300 (using $16.8 trillion) [5]

All of this means that each and every man, woman, and child in this city is burdened with $56,319 worth of public debt.

 -- Jacob Bogle


5. US Debt Clock –