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Press Releases

TDEC Pushes Energy Efficiency Projects for Local Gov’ts, Housing Authorities

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation; August 28, 2014:

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau announced the launch of a new program to provide education, outreach and technical assistance to local jurisdictions and public housing authorities to support implementation of energy efficiency and energy management projects.

With a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, TDEC’s Office of Energy Programs and its subrecipient grantee, expert energy efficiency consultancy group Clean Energy Solutions, Inc., will educate local officials on the benefits of energy efficiency and provide technical assistance on cost-effective energy efficiency measures, such as: building audits and reviews; requests for proposals or requests for qualifications to scope energy efficiency improvement projects; collaborating with energy service companies; benchmarking energy and water usage; measurement and verification of energy savings; and procurement and contracting assistance.

The program will explore major financing options to support energy efficiency improvements, such as energy performance contracting, utility incentives, and utility bill repayments. Other financing options may be identified during the grant period, which currently runs through early 2016.

“TDEC is pleased to have the opportunity to collaborate with local government and public housing authority partners in an effort to promote energy efficiency in the State’s harder to reach sectors,” said Commissioner Martineau. “We thank the U.S. Department of Energy for providing the funding for TDEC and its partners to provide often-needed technical consultation and support at the local level.”

Tennessee was one of sixteen states to receive a competitive U.S. Department of Energy State Energy Program 2013 award overall and just one of six states to receive an award in the “Public Buildings Retrofit” category. Additional information on the State Energy Program 2013 is available at http://energy.gov/eere/wipo/sep-2013-competitive-solicitation.

The program is available at no cost to local jurisdictions, including city and county governments, and public housing authorities in the State of Tennessee through January 2016. Interested agencies are encouraged to contact Luke Gebhard, Senior Program Manager of TDEC’s Office of Energy Programs, at 615-741-2994 or luke.gebhard@tn.gov.

Categories
NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

No Competitive Bids for $34K in Van Buren Co.: State Audit

Van Buren County spent more than $34,000 in spending on food and custodial supplies for the county jail and police cameras for which the county failed to solicit competitive bids, state auditors have found.

State law requires competitive bids for purchases over $2,500, auditors wrote in their report, so that taxpayers get the best deal for the money. The review covered fiscal year 2013.

“The failure to solicit competitive bids could result in the department paying more than the most competitive price,” auditors wrote.

Auditors also cited the lack of a paper trail for $3,000 in spending on undercover drug operations in the sheriff’s department and said it had shared its findings with the district attorney.

The county said in its response to the auditors’ findings that it has procedures to make spending of the drug fund money more accountable.

Last year, auditors found similar oversight problems with the drug control money: financial reports that failed to include $7,370, a lack of documentation of cash handled by undercover officers, and missing signatures on paperwork tracking payments to informants. The paperwork should be signed by the informant, the officer making the payment, and a second officer as a witness to the payment, according to auditors in that 2012 review. Van Buren County’s forms lacked signatures from the informants or a second officer as witness.

In a review of Clay County’s finances, auditors said the county commission had approved spending $23,000 for public works beyond estimated funding.

The county also lacks a formal purchase order system, auditors found.

County officials said financial difficulties prevent them from setting up a purchase order system, and that they are making their current purchasing process work “to the best of our ability.”

Categories
Press Releases

Treasurer Pitches Local Pension Options

Press Release from Department of Treasury; Jan. 23, 2012:

 

Treasurer Lillard Proposes New Pension Options for Local Governments

To give local governments more choices for their employees’ retirement plans, Tennessee State Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr. today proposed several new options to state legislators for their consideration.

Lillard stressed that none of the suggested changes would affect K-12 teachers, state employees or higher education employees who are covered under the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS). The changes, which would require approval by the General Assembly, are optional for local governments and would only affect new hires. The proposed options do not affect any current retirees of TCRS.

“Our city and county governments across Tennessee have to balance the need to be good stewards of taxpayer money with the need to offer fair retirement benefits to their employees,” Treasurer Lillard said. “The goal is to make sure pension benefits are affordable, sustainable and sufficient. That’s why I am recommending some choices that would give local governments greater flexibility to meet their specific needs.”

The options presented today were:

• local governments may take no action and remain in the current TCRS defined benefit pension plan with retirement generally at 30 years of service or age 60; or

• local governments may adopt a TCRS defined benefit pension plan with an annual service accrual rate of 1.4%, with an increase in retirement age, limits on cost of living adjustments, a cap on maximum allowed benefits and a revised employee contribution structure; or

• local governments may adopt a TCRS defined benefit pension plan with an annual service accrual rate of 1% to offer reduced pension benefits, but with a supplemental deferred compensation program; or

• local governments may decide to offer only a deferred compensation program as a standalone option.

The proposals were developed following open meetings held throughout Tennessee with more than 200 local government representatives last fall.

“Over the last couple of years, we have had several local governments either withdraw or give notice that they planned to withdraw from TCRS due to changes in market conditions,” Treasurer Lillard said. “We are offering these options because we want local governments to remain part of TCRS, which is in the best interests of local governments, their employees and the citizens they serve. We believe local governments will be more inclined to do that if we’re offering more choices.”

Treasurer Lillard presented his ideas during a meeting of the General Assembly’s Council on Pensions and Insurance. For a copy of the local government pension option proposals and other documents, go to http://treasury.tn.gov/tcrs and look at the tab titled “Proposed Plans for Local Gov’t.”

 

Categories
NewsTracker Tax and Budget

Locals Study New Taxes, Fees

Gibson County leaders want to raise the wheel tax 35 percent in a plan the mayor says will boost business relocation and the economy.

WBBJ TV Channel 7 reports that the mayor is touting the plan to increase the wheel tax from $35 to $47.50 as a way to attract jobs. The county commission is set to vote on the measure Monday.

They’re not the only local governments eyeing taxes and fees. River enthusiasts in Cheatham County, you’re the next target.

County commissioners are considering the formation of a Visitors and Recreation Bureau, which, the Ashland City Times reports, “would regulate and tax recreational businesses such as the canoe rentals in south Cheatham County. The money generated would be used to help promote tourism in the county.”

The story says that the Chamber of Commerce would pay for the bureau staff and that “there is no funding required by the commission.”

Meanwhile, a sewer district near Crossville is considering shaking up its fees, according to the Crossville Chronicle.

The Tansi Sewer Utility District is considering a fee structure of $60 monthly for service and a charge for new connections of $5,950, which could be paid over 10 years.

While locals are talking about what fees and taxes to levy next, the tax talk at the Capitol has leaned in the other direction. State senators on Wednesday approved a measure that seeks to ban any future implementation of an income tax. The proposal moves to the House, and at the earliest could be approved by voters in 2014.