How Jackson’s city finances fell into disarray: Six key takeaways from our investigation

Adam Friedman wrote an article in the Jackson Sun outlining what he thought were the reasons for the indebtedness of the city of Jackson. In doing so Mr. Friedman stated “the The Sun examined hundreds of city documents for this investigation, including 20 years worth of city audits and 12 years of budget amendments.” Personally, he didn’t go far enough back and he laid the blame mostly on Mayor Gist and his administration. In reality the blame falls solely on the council for failing in watch dogging the budget, which defined by the charter, is their main responsibility.

In the council defense, however, I would guess the previous mayor had already neutered that group and started a progressive push which started the process of financial failure. Mayor Gist grasped those failures and just made them worse. He also followed his predecessor in over budgeting his departments and funneling that money to pet projects, political patronage and governmental growth. Both mayors were extremely good at that and then stating that all this was approved by council, which is correct.

So take a look what Friedman did get right and we congratulate and the Jackson Sun for once.

Despite tax revenue growing by 30% since 2009, the city of Jackson still has to borrow money each year to repave roads.

“In 2009, the city generated $75.6 million from taxes and fees, whereas last year the city collected $98.6 million.

The 30.4% revenue growth has given the city the opportunity to subsidize the Jackson Generals and city-contracted garbage service Waste Management, and fund projects like the Animal Care Center, West Tennessee Tennis Complex and a new city court.”

What he missed: 

In 2006 and 2007 the city annexed the northwest part of Madison county into the city and assuming control and maintenance of what were county roads, which cost the city millions of dollars in investments and legal fees. Going back further, the city drops its responsibility in education so that it can finance two major projects… Baseball and the new city hall. Technically the stadium bond issue ended in 2015/2016… I am not sure about city hall.

Seven million for Lambuth University. This is Gist’s greatest achievement, according to him. The Dems were thrilled to see the Christian University go down the drain and have a secular institution take it over. While this may have been at a positive move it cost the taxpayers a great deal more than it should have. One councilman projected the cost would have been a third less if the city would waited till auction. His suggestion was ignored.

Editor’s note: Baseball…. from 2011 to 2020 when the contract ends with the baseball owners with the city, which council approved, subsidized baseball with over $9,000,000.00. Mayor Gist subsidized that further on his own.

What he ignored:

While he didn’t exactly ignore it, Jackson-Madison County Humane Society, the council was told that operations would cost $140,000 per year. This year, the city council budgeted operations at $450,000. He did miss the millions in building costs. You might think with spay and neuter laws in affect it would severely reduce the need for such an institution but the growth of government must continue. But not this mayor. Of course the current one is going to ignore it as well… he worked with those that control that area.

Mayor Jerry Gist’s administration often under-budgeted and underestimated costs for projects. 

True…. what else can we say.

The city dissolved the $1 million Kate Campbell Robertson park trust fund in 2013 in order to fund the tennis complex overages.

Correct… Theft was not beyond the mayor.

The city council would approve money for one project and then the mayor’s office would move it to another project without telling the council.

Standard practice…. already explained above… how much money… about 3.5 million annually. Best guess.

The city’s “rainy day” fund balance of $17.2 million is made up of the overcollection of garbage fees.

He is correct.

Remember that $17 dollar a month fee that the Utility company collects monthly…. well that number was collected to pay for gas cost increases that Waste Management had payed but were not included in the contract. Well since that time that money that the city continued to collect over and above the contractual fees charged by Waste Management. That money went into the coffers of the city. Oh, by the way, we are still paying that fee.

Conger’s administration is trying to develop policies and procedures to ensure future projects are properly funded and money is properly managed.

This is where we have to congratulate the mayor and give him some credit for reacting to a horrible situation.

At the same time, we can exonerate council and mayor for continuing a bad investment, such as animal control, where the taxpayers already pay for a perfectly designed system of collection of strays in conjunction with privately supported rescue groups. That is unneeded governmental growth.





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