County offers growth, health and strong business environment – Anderson
By Carole Robinson
On the heels of the county’s recently passed $434.8 million budget, County Mayor Rogers Anderson presented his annual State of the County report to the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday.
According to Anderson, while there are issues that need to be addressed, as a whole the county is good shape.
The median household income is $89,063 and the homeownership rate is 82.2 percent. Success and growth go hand-in-hand. Where there is job growth, there is people growth.
Current projections indicate job growth in Williamson County will exceed 13 percent in the next five years and 23 percent in the next 10 years and the current population of more than 192,911 will reach 226,297 by 2020. That good news creates big issues like the need for more roads and schools.
“These are good signs that we live in a healthy, vibrant and growing community,” Anderson said. “Today, Williamson County is one of the most educated, healthiest, business-friendly places to live in America. We are strong, we are growing and we are planning for the future, because today we realize it can all change tomorrow.”
Those plans include a new public safety facility, new senior citizens facility in Academy Park, the construction of several new schools and a Sustainable Management Using Aeration Recirculation Treatment (SMART) program at the Landfill to handle solid waste.
Three primary sources provide revenue to balance the budget and pay for the above plans – 69 percent comes from local property taxes, sales taxes and other local fees, 29 percent from state revenues and 2 percent from the federal government.
High dollar building projects are funded through bonds; which means debt. Williamson County’s debt is about $462 million, which begs the question, what is debt’s affect on the AAA bond rating the county now enjoys.
“We typically finance the construction of school buildings, which are meant to last 40-50 years, with 20-year bonds,” Anderson said. “That reduces some of the burden on current taxpayers, but it also provides adequate financial flexibility for future needs.”
To determine how much is too much debt, Anderson said tax base is a primary consideration. Five years ago, the county had $20 million less debt, but the tax base was $6 billion less than the current base and 10 years ago the debt was $120 million less with the tax base at $15 billion less.
“Our debt as a percentage of our tax base is decreasing, not increasing,” he said. “That’s one reason our AAA bond rating is stable.”
Bonding companies evaluate debt as a percentage of the total tax base.
Although the total debt amount is increasing, Anderson said the county is making substantial payments of the principle.
“We are currently scheduled to retire over half of our existing indebtness within the next seven years,” he said. “If our debt grows, it is because we are continuing to invest in new projects that are consistent with our values in Williamson County. These are the same types of investments that have made us who we are in Williamson County.”
The success of the county creates growth and maintaining conservative debt ratios in a growing county is difficult, Anderson said.
“We strive to manage that growth and our AAA bond rating is an affirmation that we are doing a good job.”
According to Anderson, Williamson County is growing because the people come together as a community working for the “Good of the Whole” to provide an array of quality of life factors many communities don’t provide.
“The county is strong because everyone works together for the good of the whole,” he concluded.
Time was allowed at the end for a couple questions from the gathering. The first was a question about Anderson’s proudest moment and what he holds in his heart.
“My proudest is to be able to work for the people,” he said. “This job is not about me or (Franklin Mayor) Ken Moore – it’s about everyone in this county.”
Handling growth in the future rattles his heart occasionally. Williamson County has the fourth highest assets in the state behind Shelby, Davidson and Hamilton counties and it will surpass Hamilton shortly.
For information about the budget breakdown and statistics used in Anderson’s presentation, visit www.williamsoncounty-tn.gov.
Posted on: 7/17/2013