The tennis court at former President Jimmy Carter’s private home is swept twice a day, his pool is cleaned daily and his grass cut, his flower beds weeded and his windows washed on a regular basis — all at taxpayers’ expense.
Under an arrangement with the National Park Service, taxpayers are responsible for the exterior of Mr. Carter’s home in Plains, Ga. — to the tune of $67,841 last year alone. In exchange, the government obtains the right to add the home to the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site when he and his wife pass away.
Other presidents have had similar life estate agreements calling for their properties to be turned over after their deaths, but to have taxpayers footing the bill for upkeep and maintenance of the Carters’ property appears to be unique, and it’s drawing fire at a time of tight federal budgets.
“The sad part is, 67 grand is simply a rounding error. Most people around here wouldn’t think it’s worth the effort, but it’s symbolic,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, Utah Republican and chairman of the subcommittee that oversees parks.
Park Service officials say they are taking such close care of Mr. Carter’s home because that is what the agreement requires, and to ensure that the property will be in good shape when it is eventually added to the Carter National Historic Site, which now covers the president’s boyhood farm and the school he and wife Rosalynn attended.
“My obligation is to meet the requirements of that agreement, and to fulfill those obligations to the best that we possibly can,” said Gary Ingram, superintendent of the site.
The list of daily maintenance, financed with taxpayer dollars, includes clearing the driveway, walkway and tennis court, picking up trash along the road that runs by the home, clearing tree branches that have fallen along the estate’s walking trails and cleaning the pool.
On a weekly basis, the Park Service removes cobwebs, mows grass around the estate’s pond and weeds the flower beds, and on a less frequent basis clears leaves from the pool’s pump house and washes the windows of the home.
As an ex-president, Mr. Carter, who served one term before losing re-election to Ronald Reagan in 1980, is already entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds annually for a pension and office expenses. The General Services Administration said Mr. Carter last year was allotted $518,000, including $199,000 for his pension and $102,000 for office rental, plus other costs for postage and staff.
His allowance is the lowest of any former president: $312,000 less than that of George H.W. Bush, $570,000 less than what Bill Clinton receives and $788,000 less than George W. Bush’s allotment. Presidents are given more staffing money in their first 30 months out of office.
Mr. Carter also receives lifetime protection from the U.S. Secret Service, though that cost is not made public and is not included in the $518,000 figure.
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1967 agreement on his working farm in Gettysburg, Pa., exempted him from paying property taxes, but taxpayers did not pay for maintenance to the home, according to his presidential library.