Well its been an busy and tumultuous week in the City of East Ridge. With all the buzz and media focused on the Superior Creek Lodge tragedy an extremely important event has gone relatively unnoticed. That event my friends and neighbors is the resignation of Thad Jablonski the city’s first Treasurer.
Thad was a polarizing figure to many within the City rank and file. Some found him to be arrogant and harsh, still others found him to be a good leader and strong asset to city government. I found him to be a good-humored, pleasant and polite man. Someone who had small town values and was enthusiastic about East Ridge and where it was headed.
No matter what you thought about him, there was no denying that Thad Jablonski is extremely intelligent. When he would speak on matters of finance it did not take many words for him to go shooting over the head of most people in the room. He was an extremely capable City Treasurer. The city couldn’t have had a better ace up their sleeve than having Thad at its disposal as the Border Region Act began.
The Border Region Act according to city leaders is going to be the one piece of legislation that almost single handedly drives the city from the cusp of ruin and into an economic powerhouse of tomorrow.
We are not talking about changes that effect tomorrow. We are talking about the kind of changes that can potentially effect an entire generation. This is no minor manner to be taken lightly or as an insignificant side note.
The future City Treasure of this city will have to be a numbers wiz. We need someone who understands numbers, speaks in numbers, dissects numbers, eats, sleeps, breaths numbers. They will have to ensure that great care is being taken to watch the bottom line and ensure that the city’s coffers are adequately filled. On top of that, they must work with the state to make sure the millions of dollars of Border Region reimbursements are flowing in.
That last sentence I cannot stress the importance of enough. One error that is not caught or corrected in a timely fashion could cost us millions of dollars. If you ask me the gravity of the responsibility of the City Treasurer makes it the most important job in city government. Even potentially more important than the position of City Manager itself.
I want to lean in now and clarify; I am not saying this person has more power than the City Manager. I am saying that making sure we find the perfect candidate for the position is vital. This person’s qualifications or lack thereof can effect the pocketbooks of taxpayers for years to come.
Let me just give you one example. Thad went to Nashville to review sales tax data for the city, the first official from the city of East Ridge to ever do so. While reviewing this data he discovered that when the Rave Movie Theater was purchased by Carmike the theater was accidentally classified as being within the city of Chattanooga and at least a year of sales tax revenue generated by the theater was paid to the city of Chattanooga. This money, once the distribution was made, was unable to be returned. The same held true with four or five other businesses also coded incorrectly with East Ridge sales tax revenue being sent to the city of Chattanooga.
By catching this mistake Thad was able to recapture over $250,000 in reoccurring sales tax revenue, including a one-time payment of over $100,000. He basically, in recognizing and correcting this one error, paid for his position for life. Not too shabby if you ask me, especially when you consider how this revenue directly impacts the reimbursements received from the Border Region legislation.
Later, when it appeared there was a discrepancy in the numbers from the first year’s Border Region report, the city treasurer went to Nashville and asked to look at the file. He discovered they were using negative sales tax figures as well of other errors such as including double entries for some businesses. This mistake and the $250,000 mistake are just a few examples of why finding a highly-qualified candidate is so important.
We have Bass Pro Shops coming in at one end of town along with a development at Jordan Crossing that according to the Exit One folks will generate more than $1 million a year in city sales tax revenue. On the other end of town we have a $100,000 contract with Retail Strategies to help capture businesses and fill or redevelop available properties. A vast majority of this will fall under the guise of the Border Region Act.
I’ve spoken to Interim City Manager Mike Williams and from our brief conversation I fully believe he understands how important the Border Region Act is to the future of this city. He is committed to ensuring that we find a qualified candidate that knows about the Border Region legislation and understands its workings.
I encourage the City Manager to take his time. To carefully screen applicants. Let’s try to find someone who is a CPA or at the least a Certified Municipal Finance Officer (CMFO). Of course we need someone who is a wiz with numbers. Beyond numbers they should also have a masters in public administration or have the experience in administration needed to make deals with developers to unlock the full potential of the Border Region Act for this city.
My children’s and potentially grand children’s future in East Ridge will be shaped in part by the qualifications of the candidate of this extremely important position.