Local News Articles

Eighteen DeKalb Students Earn Degrees from TTU

June 22, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

More than 1,200 students earned their degrees in May from Tennessee Tech University, including eighteen from the DeKalb County area.

Those graduates are Haley Marie Snyder, Katie E Nixon, and Shanea M Nixon of Alexandria; Gabrielle B Byford, James Michael Hendrixson, and Jessica D Antoniak of Dowelltown; Kayla Ariana Nunley of Lancaster; Brendan Wesley Mims, Brittany Autumn Richards, Caleb Lee Spencer, Caleb Bruce Gash, Corey B Poss, Karen Lee Pelham, Lauren Nicole Rogers, Macy Felts Nokes, Tiffany M Cowart, and Wesley M Blair of Smithville; and Brooklyn Amber Shirah of Sparta.

TTU’s newest alumni came from 77 Tennessee counties, 31 states and 22 other countries. Their degrees were in 41 undergraduate and 22 graduate fields.

“We have journeyed with these students through a time in their lives they will never forget and that has the protection for profound change – not just in their own lives, but in all of ours and for generations to come,” said TTU President Phil Oldham during the ceremonies.

Each spring, TTU hosts two commencement ceremonies. The morning ceremony is for graduates of the Colleges of Agriculture and Human Ecology, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Interdisciplinary Studies, and the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing. Graduates of the Colleges of Business and Education receive their degrees in the afternoon.

The state’s only public technological university, TTU offers more than 40 bachelor’s and 20 graduate programs to more than 11,000 students. Students come from the top ranks of their high school classes, and more than half of them graduate from TTU debt free. With hundreds of student activities ranging from clubs and organizations to community service projects, intramurals and Greek Life, TTU offers a full campus experience to students from around the world. TTU Golden Eagles Division I sports teams are part of the Ohio Valley Conference. Founded in 1915, Tennessee Tech University is about an hour east of Nashville in Cookeville. Learn more at www.tntech.edu.

DeKalb Students Make TTU Spring 2014 Dean’s List

June 20, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

The hard work of more than 4,000 students has earned them a place on Tennessee Tech University’s dean’s list.

The dean’s list recognizes the university’s top academic performers. To be included on the list, a student must be attending the university full time and earn a grade-point average of at least 3.1 on the 4.0 scale.

Those from the DeKalb County area are:

DeKalb County - Alexandria
Haley Marie Snyder, John E Hale, Matthew Wayne Boss, Shanea M Nixon, Taylor C Leach, Zachary R Martin

DeKalb County - Baxter
Michael C Arms

DeKalb County - Dowelltown
Gabrielle B Byford, Jessica D Antoniak, Rachel Cole Gates

DeKalb County - Lancaster
Kayla Ariana Nunley

DeKalb County - Liberty
Alexandria B Meadows, Kathryn Grace Mitchell

DeKalb County - Silver Point
Breanna Jo Russell

DeKalb County - Smithville
Abigail E Hendrix, Alexander D Hayes, Annieka M Norton, Benjamin F Brandt, Bindiya Rasik Patel, Brady S Evans, Britney M Campbell, Brittany Autumn Richards, Caleb Lee Spencer, Caleb Blake Cantrell, Callie A Gash, Christian J Atnip, Christina B Ferguson, Christopher Riley Young, Connor N Apple, Dalton H Vaughn, Emily Kaye Summers, Ethan B Duke, Hunter T Collins, Jonathan Hunter Tramel, Joseph L Angaran, Justin Brady Wiser, Kirstin Nicole Ramsey, Laura E Martinez, Lauren Nicole Rogers, Layne T Mathis, Lorrie Michelle Merriman, Macy Felts Nokes, Makayla R Ferrell, Mary A Little, Olivia C Norton, Piyush R Patel, Robert Wesley Burchfield, Samantha K Lewis, Stephanie R Phillips, Talisa Marie Cantrell, Tiffany M Cowart, Tyler A Dunaway, Wesley M Blair, Whitney N England, William G Graham

DeKalb County - Sparta
Aaron Jordan Shirah, Brooklyn Amber Shirah

Convicted Sex Offender Arrested at Smithville Municipal Pool

June 20, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Timothy Eugene Bowman

A 41 year old sex offender was arrested Wednesday at the Smithville Municipal Swimming Pool after three young girls there complained that he had made sexual comments to them.

Timothy Eugene Bowman of 1507 Big Hurricane Road, Smithville is charged with three counts of solicitation of a person under 18 years of age and violation of the sexual offender registry law. He is under a $25,000 bond and will be in court on June 26.

According to Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger, officers were dispatched to the Smithville Municipal Swimming Pool in response to a complaint about a man making obscene sexual remarks to three juvenile girls. A computer check revealed that Bowman is a convicted sex offender and is not to be in the presence of children. He is on the sex offender registry.

Chief Caplinger said Bowman allegedly made sexual comments to three girls, a 14 year old, 13 year old, and 16 year old on Tuesday, June 17 and to the same 13 year old girl last Friday, June 13 while at the pool. Bowman also allegedly asked one of the girls if she would like to see the inside of his vehicle.

Meanwhile, in other cases 30 year old Michael Rose is cited for shoplifting. He was observed by Walmart associates placing items in a Walmart bag. He left the building through the Garden Center and was stopped on the sidewalk. While the officer was talking with him, Rose produced two packages of items he had taken from the store and concealed in his pants. The total value of the stolen merchandise was $141.57.

26 year old Randi Renee Atnip and 23 year old Lastasha Nicole Cantrell are each cited for shoplifting. Chief Caplinger said that on Thursday, May 29 police were dispatched to Walmart in reference to shoplifters. Upon arrival an officer spoke with Walmart employees who said that Atnip and Cantrell concealed pairs of flip flops on their persons.

49 year old Therese Harriott is charged with driving under the influence. Her bond is $1,500. Chief Caplinger said on Thursday May 29 police received a call of a person passed out behind the wheel of a vehicle at Sonic Drive-In. Upon arrival an officer found Harriott passed out and leaning over the console. The keys were in the ignition. Her speech was slurred and she was unsteady on her feet. Harriott submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. She also submitted to a blood test.

25 year old Lila Renee Key is cited for shoplifting. Chief Caplinger said police were recently dispatched to Walmart. Upon arrival an officer spoke with a Walmart employee who said that Key had concealed several items in her purse and tried to leave the store without paying for them.

52 year old Tamra Mears is charged with being a fugitive from justice. She is under a $50,000 bond. Chief Caplinger said that on Saturday, May 31 police were dispatched to DeKalb Community Hospital concerning an unruly patient. Upon arrival an officer spoke with Mears. A background check through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) revealed that Mears was wanted in Richmond County, Virginia for an offense on February 22, 2013.

48 year old Wendy Goodman is charged with assault ad public intoxication. Her bond is $3,000. Chief Caplinger said that on Sunday, June 1 police were dispatched to Restview Avenue and found Goodman outside her residence. She was intoxicated. An officer warned her to go back inside her home or she would be arrested. Less than an hour later police were called back to the scene after Goodman allegedly came out of her home, walked across the street, and got into a fight with a neighbor. She had a strong odor of alcohol on her person and was unsteady on her feet. Goodman was placed under arrest.

46 year old Kimberly Odom is charged with public intoxication. Her bond is $1,500. Chief Caplinger said that on Monday June 2 police were dispatched to Bill Page Ballpark concerning someone in the wooded area nearby who was yelling at children. An officer walked into the woods and found a purse and other items including a six pack of beer. Inside an abandoned shed near the woods, the officer found Odom laying on the ground. She had a strong odor of alcohol on her person and was very unsteady on her feet. Odom was placed under arrest.

43 year old Shauna Taylor of Woodbury is cited for possession of drug paraphernalia. Chief Caplinger said that on Tuesday, June 3, Taylor was stopped on suspicion of shoplifting from Rite Aid Pharmacy. Upon receiving verbal consent to search her purse, an officer found items believed to be used for the illegal injection of narcotics, a hypodermic needle and needle point, two small pieces of cotton, two cut straws, and a small baggie. Taylor allegedly told the officer that she used these items to inject her own pills.

35 year old Janice Renee Velasquez is cited for shoplifting. Chief Caplinger said that on Wednesday, June 4 police were called to the Dollar General Store on South Congress Boulevard where Velasquez was found to have several items in her purse that she had not purchased.

22 year old Clay Bain is charged with driving on a revoked license and cited for violation of the registration law, violation of the financial responsibility law, and traffic control device. His bond is $1,500. Chief Caplinger said that on Wednesday, June 4 police observed a GMC pickup truck fail to yield to a stop sign at Murphy Street and Bright Hill Road. An officer stopped the truck. Bain, the driver, did not have a valid drivers license. A computer check revealed his license were revoked for a DUI. Bain was placed under arrest.

38 year old Angela Sheffler of Nashville is cited for simple possession of a schedule IV drug. Chief Caplinger said that on Wednesday, June 4 police were dispatched to Market Street in reference to a complaint of someone being intoxicated. Upon arrival, an officer spoke with Sheffler who was standing outside at 118 Market Street. She had slurred speech and was very unsteady on her feet. The officer entered the building and found on a counter top, a blue prescription bottle containing fifteen pills but the medication was in a different bottle than was prescribed. Sheffler said the pills belonged to her but she could not produce proof of a valid prescription. She will be in court July 10.

34 year old Christopher Mooneyham is charged with robbery. His bond is $8,000. Chief Caplinger said police were recently called to a residence on Green Acre Drive in response to a theft. Upon arrival an officer spoke with a woman who said her ex-husband, Mooneyham, came to her home and accused her of stealing money from him. Mooneyham allegedly reached for her looking for money, leaving a bruise on her inner thigh. Finding no money, Mooneyham allegedly grabbed her purse and left, going toward his home. The contents and value of the purse was $220.

31 year old Christopher White of McMinnville is cited for theft of property. Chief Caplinger said that on Friday, June 6 police were called to 515 West Broad Street in reference to a theft. Upon arrival, an officer spoke with a witness who saw White take thirty three dollars worth of items from the residence. White allegedly admitted to the theft. He will be in court on July 10.

Donald Rigsby is cited for possession of drug paraphernalia and public intoxication. He will be in court July 10. Chief Caplinger said that on Saturday, June 7 police were called to 627 West Broad Street concerning a person who was intoxicated. Upon arrival the officer spoke with the man, Rigsby who was found to be very unsteady on his feet with slurred speech. A search incident to arrest revealed three syringes containing a yellow residue in Rigsby's right sock. He was placed under arrest.

41 year old Scottie Sykes is cited for possession of drug paraphernalia and simple possession of a schedule II drug. Chief Caplinger said on Saturday, June 7 police were called to 605 Alexander Street on a domestic call. An officer responded and spoke with Sykes who was found to have on his person, four hypodermic needles and three pills believed to be morphine. His court date is July 3.

29 year old Amanda Lena Krauss is charged with theft of property. Chief Caplinger said that on Thursday, June 12 police responded to the Dollar General Store on South Congress Boulevard in regard to a shoplifter. Upon arrival, an officer spoke with Krauss who was found with several items from the store in her purse. She will be in court July 10.

32 year old Stephanie Nicole Green is cited for simple possession of a controlled substance. Her court date is July 24. Chief Caplinger said that on Thursday, June 12 an officer made a traffic stop and received consent from Ms. Green to conduct a search. He found her to be in possession of a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana.

26 year old Brandy Turner is charged with theft under $500. Her bond is $1,500. Chief Caplinger said that on Monday, June 2 Turner went to the home of a woman who had just died on Restview Avenue and took a pill bottle filled with morphine pills. She allegedly admitted to taking the pills.

School Board Makes Cuts but Keeps New Athletic Coaching Supplements in Budget

June 19, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
School Board and Director of Schools (Older Photo)

The Board of Education went back to work Wednesday night on making adjustments and cuts to its proposed budget for the 2014-15 school year.

To comply with the wishes of the budget committee of the county commission, the school board voted 4-3 to reduce proposed spending by a total of $331,469 to keep overall expenditures in the general purpose school budget at the same level next year as this year, $20,576,347.

No current positions or personnel will be eliminated because of the cuts but a proposal to add at least one new academic coach to help teachers and students in the classrooms will not be funded. New athletic coaching supplements will remain in the budget.

Concerned that the school system may soon have to actually start dipping into its reserves to operate, members of the county budget committee last Thursday voted 4-1 to ask the school board to make cuts in its proposed budget.

Meeting in special session Wednesday night, the board voted on proposed cuts outlined by Director of Schools Mark Willoughby. Reductions were made in many line items throughout the spending plan. "The county court (commission) requested that we cut $331, 469 from our expenditures. We have gone through here and in some areas we have cut large. Some areas we have cut low. It (cuts) comes to a total of $331,469. What pleases the board is what we'll try to work with," said Director Willoughby.

New athletic coaching supplement positions totaling $20,333 were included among the cuts but Sixth District member Doug Stephens proposed an amendment to keep those supplement positions in the budget by moving funds from two other line items to pay for them including making an additional $18,000 in cuts for natural gas from "Operation of Plant" and $2,300 from "Other Contracted Services" in Transportation .

Stephens said he felt comfortable making further cuts in natural gas because actual expenditures this year and in the last couple of years have been much less than budgeted amounts. " "I think there is a surplus there. The previous two years that are shown, we budgeted more (for natural gas) than what was shown (actual costs). We've reduced it (natural gas) by $10,000 (in this budget) but I think there is still some money there.We're cutting it by $10,000 off the $175,000 that is proposed. But we spent (as of today for this year) $127,000. We project to spend around $135,000 (this year) so there is some extra money in there. And considering that natural gas can go up, conservatively $18,000 (more in cuts for natural gas) is the number (to be transferred to help fund the additional coaching supplements)," said Stephens.

The board voted 4-3 to approve the amendment offered by Stephens to make the fund transfers to keep the coaching supplements in the budget. Board members Stephens, Billy Miller, Kenny Rhody, and W.J. (Dub) Evins, III voted in favor. Board members John David Foutch, Charles Robinson, and Chairman Johnny Lattimore voted no.

First district member John David Foutch said he voted no on the amendment because he would rather try to find the money to fund at least one academic coach. "I'd like to see that academic coach in this budget. That's the reason I'm voting no on this. I believe we could research this and find that $50,000 for that academic coach and give us a pilot program to see if this works. I think it is something that would help our schools. I think it is something that is needed in these schools. In talking to these educational professionals, they recommend it and they deal with this every day. I don't. I think they know a lot more about it than I do and if they think it's necessary I believe we need to try to find a way to fund it," said Foutch.

The board then voted on the proposed budget which makes cuts but adds the new athletic coaching supplement positions. Again the vote was 4-3 with Billy Miller, Doug Stephens, Kenny Rhody, and W.J. (Dub) Evins, III voting in favor and John David Foutch, Charles Robinson, and Chairman Johnny Lattimore voting against.

"I vote no, not because I'm against sports or adding the positions, but we've got a very, very tight budget and it's just going to get tighter and tighter if we don't have additional tax dollars coming in and we may be coming back next year, whoever is on this board, and more than likely will be coming back and cutting these positions as well as other positions if something doesn't change that we have additional revenues. We may have these assistants (coaching supplements) today but we may not have them a year from today. So my vote is no," said Chairman Lattimore.

Director Willoughby said he hopes more emphasis will be placed on academics in future budgets. "I'd like to say that the next time that we do something pertaining to a budget and adding something is going to be with a focus on the academic programs that we have in our schools. Our kids in our athletic programs and extracurricular activities do a good job. But Tennessee needs to do a better job day in and day out of preparing our children to be college and career ready. That starts even before they get to school but the foundation is laid by the third grade," said Director Willoughby.

The proposed budget still includes funding for a new second grade teacher as well as an English teacher, Chemistry teacher, and a part time English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at DCHS.

A total of $20,330 is budgeted for additional coaching supplements including two DCHS assistant soccer coaches (one for the girls team and one for the boys team) totaling $5,570; two assistant DeKalb Middle School soccer coaches ($2,790), a DeKalb Middle School assistant basketball coach ($1,395), a DeKalb Middle School/West School Cross Country Coach and a DCHS Cross Country coach (2 positions totaling $5,000), an assistant DeKalb West School basketball coach ($1,395), an assistant DeKalb West Baseball coach ($1,395); and an assistant high school football coach ($2,785). The original plan included $5,000 for an Athletic Director and $2,500 for DeKalb West School to have its own Cross Country Coach but those supplements were cut from the budget. The board decided to create one Cross Country program for the DeKalb West and DeKalb Middle School combined.

The proposed school budget includes funding for a half-time speech pathologist; a new full time Technology position; and a four thousand dollar pay raise for the Transportation Director position putting that salary up to $36,710.

Total revenues come to $19,203,975. Expenditures are $20,576,347. The school board proposes to use a total of $1,372, 372 in available Technology and BEP cash reserves and unassigned monies from the fund balance to meet expenses in balancing the budget.

New State Law Adjusts 911 Surcharges

June 18, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Bradley Mullinax

Local land line telephone subscribers will soon be seeing a reduction in 911 surcharges. The rate will increase for cell phone customers.

According to Bradley Mullinax, Director of the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District, the Tennessee General Assembly recently passed a bill (SB 2407/HB2255) that will take effect in January 2015 to effectively lower the 911 surcharge for DeKalb County citizens. "Currently, residential customers pay $1.50 per month for 911 service. The new legislation will reduce the residential surcharge to $1.16 per month. We are excited about this legislation since the results will actually increase funding for DeKalb County 911. Essentially, the TN General Assembly's actions have set the 911 surcharge at $1.16 across the board for all counties. As a result, there will be a larger pool of money to be distributed among the districts," said Mullinax.

"Cell phone customers will see a small increase in charges. The current rate is $1.00 per cell phone and that charge will also be set at $1.16, an increase of only 16 cents per cell phone," he added.

Meanwhile, Mullinax reports that several upgrades are being made in the DeKalb County 911 system. " Specifically, the district has purchased a new mapping system that has been made available to many of the county officials and government offices in DeKalb County. This service should help make doing business with county government much easier. Additionally, we are in the process of making major radio upgrades in the community. There will be more information on the radio updates once they are complete. However, the most important part of these upgrades is they are being completed with grant funding with no local match. Therefore, No tax dollars have been required to make these upgrades," said Mullinax.

911 Board Recognizes Foster and Stribling

June 18, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mike Foster and Bradley Mullinax
Tim Stribling and Bradley Mullinax

The DeKalb County 911 Board recognized both County Mayor Mike Foster and Smithville Alderman Tim Stribling during a regular meeting Tuesday night.

According to a prepared statement released by Bradley Mullinax, Director of the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District," County Mayor Foster was honored by a permanent resolution for his dedicated service to the District. The resolution thanked Mr. Foster for his outstanding leadership in helping DeKalb County 911 become a centralized entity that has provided state-of-the-art service to the citizens of DeKalb County".

Alderman Stribling serves on the DeKalb County 911 Board but his term expires this month. "The board recognized Mr. Stribling for two years of dedicated service to the 911 Communications District and the citizens of DeKalb County. Tim has been a member of the board since he was elected to the Smithville Board of Alderman in 2012. He has been instrumental in leading the 911 center in acquiring new equipment and providing the best service possible at the lowest possible cost to the citizens of our community," according to the prepared statement.

" The DeKalb County Emergency Communications Board of Directors and employees would like to thank these two men for their service to our district. We have been very fortunate to have such outstanding leadership," the statement concluded.

Business Picks up at Lakeside, UCHRA Still Looking to Sell Resort

June 18, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Lakeside Resort

As UCHRA continues efforts to sell the financially troubled Lakeside Resort, business there is picking up this summer.

"Business has been good. Sales are up 25% for the month of May which is encouraging. As of now we're already full (booked) for the fourth of July," said Bob Sotis, manager of Lakeside in an interview with WJLE Tuesday. "We're helping a little bit with the Smithville Jamboree this year. We're going to be one of the stage sponsors. We're housing six of the judges for the Jamboree. They are going to be staying with us versus coming back to Cookeville. In the past years, we've never really participated but this year we're trying to be part of the community and it's real positive. We're full this weekend. We're full the following weekend. We're full the fourth of July weekend so we're looking good. We need to get some longer dates (booked) like Sunday through Thursday dates booked," said Sotis.

In April, 2012 UCHRA settled on a deal to sell Lakeside Resort to the Brentwood Arts Society, an entity controlled by Jim Himelrick and Bob Pierce, real estate developers and former investors in Nashville Shores but the deal later fell through when the partners failed to come up with the earnest money of $50,000.

The sale price for Lakeside is for the amount that is still owed on it, which is approximately $1.5 million. Of course the property is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (federally owned property cannot be sold) but any sale of the resort would include the purchase of the equipment, furnishings, and the rights to be able to occupy and use the facility. The Corps and USDA Rural Development would have to give approval for any new owner to assume the land lease.

UCHRA's real estate committee recently sought bids for proposals to list Lakeside but received none."The committee meeting was designed to possibly hire a real estate company to orchestrate a sale of Lakeside but no real estate company has taken interest in that as of this point but we have been in negotiations with some other people so we have some development out there. There has been three or four different entities that have looked at it that would be real positive for DeKalb County. We've looked at possibly a children services (program) and different developments like that have looked at it that have shown some interest. That's real positive. It's a good deal for the $1.5 million to take it over but it's going to take someone with a good heart and good ideas to take it to the next level," said Sotis.

Last fall, UCHRA Officials said if the deal to sell Lakeside to the Brentwood Arts Society did not go through, they would look at the possibility of opening a residential center for youth there. As of now, Sotis said UCHRA has not yet given up on efforts to list the property. "I believe what is going to go on now is that James (Starnes) who is our (UCHRA) Deputy Director, he is going to make some direct phone calls to some real estate companies and see if they want the listing and try to sell the lease to it (Lakeside). But quite honestly, it needs to be in Nashville, Knoxville, or some bigger cities that have a little bit larger exposure versus a town like Cookeville or Smithville. We need to be with some corporate brokerage firms like Coldwell Banker. One of those big ones that will span it out to all the United States. Someone will take the listing, it's just a matter of finding that right person," said Sotis.

Postal Service Plans to Reduce Hours at Dowelltown Post Office

June 17, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Dowelltown Post Office

The U.S. Postal Service is looking to reduce hours of operation at the Dowelltown Post Office.

The proposal is to reduce the window hours from eight hours to six hours a day Monday through Friday. Saturday hours would remain the same. Similar plans have already been enacted at both the Alexandria and Liberty Post Offices.

(CLICK PDF LINK BELOW TO VIEW PUBLIC NOTICE BEING SENT TO DOWELLTOWN POSTAL CUSTOMERS)

Dowelltown Public Notice.pdf (103.17 KB)

A community meeting is set for Tuesday, July 15 at 2:30 p.m. to discuss the proposals with the public at the Dowelltown Post Office. "Back in May of 2012 the U.S. Postal Service announced a strategy that we would keep post offices open in smaller communities but with modified retail window hours to match customer usage. We are looking to take the Dowelltown Post Office from an eight hour office down to a six hour office. We will be holding a community meeting on Tuesday, July 15 at 2:30 p.m. at the post office to discuss this plan with the customers," said David Walton, a spokesman for the Tennessee District of the U.S. Postal Service in an interview with WJLE

Dowelltown Postal customers are being sent a notification letter along with a survey. "What we do in advance of the meeting, we send the customers a letter and along with that letter is a survey because of course they (customers) are the ones who use the post office so we want their input on any decision that we make. This survey gives them four options. One option would be keeping the post office open at reduced hours. The other three suggestions would be to close that office and they would obtain their services through other means," said Walton.

The Postal service will post a final decision a few days after the community meeting is held. "Once the decision is reached, we'll put a posting up at the office to let people know what the decision is. Usually after the decision is made it will be implemented within thirty days," Walton concluded.

Committee Rejects School Budget Again

June 17, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

Concerned that the school system may soon have to actually start dipping into its reserves to operate, members of the county budget committee are asking the school board to keep spending next year down to this year's levels.

By a vote of 4-1 Thursday night, the committee turned down the Board of Education's 2014-15 budget request and asked that proposed spending be cut by $331,469 to keep total expenditures next year at the same level as this year.

Members of the county budget committee are Wayne Cantrell, Rick Cantrell, Jerry Adcock (alternate), Jerry Scott, and Marshall Ferrell. Larry Summers was absent. All voted to reject the proposed school budget except Ferrell."I just feel like we've had this thing (budget) too short a time tonight to know how much to cut," said Ferrell.

The budget committee's action means that total spending for schools is to remain at $20,576,347 for 2014-15. The school board had asked to spend $20,907,816.

Total local revenues for schools will be $4,037,739 for 2014-15, an increase of $25,649. The rest of school funds are derived from State BEP and federal sources.

During a special meeting on the budget, the Board of Education last Tuesday voted 4-3 (with board members Billy Miller, W.J. "Dub" Evins, III, and Johnny Lattimore voting against it) to request that the county adopt a spending plan totaling $20,907,816 in expenditures with total revenues at $19,233,260. To make up the difference , the school board asked that a total of $1,674,556 in available Technology and BEP cash reserves and unassigned monies from the fund balance be budgeted to meet expenses in balancing the budget. Although the school system is not seeking a tax hike, the $1.6 million in reserves proposed for school operation in next year's budget is equivalent to almost an additional 39 cents on the property tax rate, if it had to be funded that way.

County budget committee members are concerned that if reserves are used and eventually depleted, a large tax increase for schools could be coming in the future. "What worries me is going into the reserves by that much money ($1.6 million). Sooner or later that's going to bite us if they keep doing that," said county budget committee member Wayne Cantrell.

While the school system normally anticipates having to use some reserves to balance its budget each year, it has not yet had to do so. Last year (2012-13), the district projected a deficit but actually ended up around $300,000 in the black by the end of the fiscal year. However this year (2013-14), school officials are projecting a shortfall of possibly more than $500,000 by June 30, 2014.

Three weeks ago, the Board of Education submitted its original tentative spending plan for next year but the county budget committee rejected it because it was $273,000 out of balance and would have required a six to seven cent property tax increase. After last Tuesday's meeting, the school board had cut the request for additional local funding down to $29,285.

The proposed budget still includes funding for a new second grade teacher as well as an English teacher, Chemistry teacher, and a part time English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at DCHS.

A total of $20,330 is budgeted for additional supplements including two DCHS assistant soccer coaches (one for the girls team and one for the boys team) totaling $5,570; two assistant DeKalb Middle School soccer coaches ($2,790), a DeKalb Middle School assistant basketball coach ($1,395), a DeKalb Middle School/West School Cross Country Coach and a DCHS Cross Country coach (2 positions totaling $5,000), an assistant DeKalb West School basketball coach ($1,395), an assistant DeKalb West Baseball coach ($1,395); and an assistant high school football coach ($2,785). The original plan included $5,000 for an Athletic Director and $2,500 for DeKalb West School to have its own Cross Country Coach but those supplements were cut from the budget. The board decided to create one Cross Country program for the DeKalb West and DeKalb Middle School combined subject to funding.

The proposed school budget includes funding for a half-time speech pathologist; one Academic Coach totaling $50,000 instead of $200,00 to fund four positions as had been originally proposed; a new full time Technology position at $30,000; and a four thousand dollar pay raise for the Transportation Director position putting that salary up to $36,710.

Funds are also included in the budget for Odyssey Ware. "This is a credit recovery program and we have been paying for that out of the Race to the Top money. That money has gone away so we have added that ($20,000) into the budget (Under Other Contracted Services),"said Director of Schools Mark Willoughby.

Fifteen thousand dollars is budgeted for New Attendance Software under Other Contracted Services.

Under Evaluation and Testing $37,000 is budgeted including new money of $18,000 for Universal Screener and $4,000 for ACT software. "We will be doing state required assessments of students throughout the year through Universal Screening. The ACT software will help students score better on the ACT," said Director Willoughby.

The Board of Education will meet again in a work session on Wednesday, June 18 at 6:30 p.m. regarding the 2014-15 school budget followed at 8:00 p.m. by a special called meeting to consider and act on passage of a revised Tentative budget for the 2014-15 year.

Aldermen Okay New City Budget On First Reading

June 17, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Janice Plemmons Jackson, Mayor Jimmy Poss, and Hunter Hendrixson
Aldermen Tim Stribling, Josh Miller, Shawn Jacobs, and Danny Washer

It appears Smithville property taxes and water and sewer rates will remain the same for another year.

The Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen this morning (Tuesday) adopted the new 2014-15 budget on first reading. The vote was 3-1. Alderman Shawn Jacobs cast a no vote saying the budget does not meet city needs. "I appreciate the work you all have done in balancing the budget but I don't think it meets the needs of the city therefore I'm voting no," said Jacobs.

Aldermen Tim Stribling, Danny Washer, and Josh Miller voted for the budget. Alderman Jason Murphy was absent.

Second and final reading will follow a public hearing during another special meeting set for Monday, June 30 at 9:00 a.m. at city hall.

(CLICK PDF LINK BELOW TO VIEW 2014-15 CITY BUDGET)

2015 budget and amended 2014.pdf (1.12 MB)

"This is by far the most barebones budget I've worked with, "said City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson. "It's a no frills budget. I'll have to commend this board. Basically all of them told me including the mayor that they wanted a balanced budget and that's what we did. We had to cut out some of the projects we were looking to do this year and they are going to be put on hold until we find ways to fund those projects. Our revenues are not going up or down. Expenditures are the only thing going up. Until we find a way to increase revenues we need to cut back as much as we can without having to use city surpluses to compensate for any revenues we're not getting," said Hendrixson in an interview with WJLE after the meeting Tuesday.

During the meeting, Alderman Jacobs said the city should begin thinking in terms of incremental property tax increases to keep up with inflation. "Unfortunately we can't make improvements in the city as a result of every year or almost every year the consumer price index goes up and we don't have any way of accounting for that. Personally, I think it would be good to take a percentage of the consumer price index and applying that to our property tax rate every year because one of these days we're going to have to raise property taxes. Instead of a small incremental increase every year it's going to be a big increase. I'd rather do an incremental increase every year. I know most people don't appreciate that logic but with government, that's the way it is and I think we are behind so many cities our size in the services we provide them," said Alderman Jacobs.

The new budget totals $6-million 504-thousand 600 dollars. Under the new spending plan, the property tax rate will remain the same at .6490 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Water and sewer rates are to remain the same. City water customers will continue to pay $5.00 per thousand gallons of usage. Rates for customers outside the city limits are $7.50 per thousand gallons. The rate the city charges the DeKalb Utility District remains at $2.67 per thousand gallons. City sewer customers will continue to pay $5.00 per thousand gallons plus the flat usage rate of $3.62.

Hourly and salaried city employees will get a 1.5% cost of living pay raise except for police officers who are due to get a raise under the eight step wage scale for all hourly employees in the department.

When the fiscal year started July 1, 2013, the general fund was projected to be $386,608 in the red by June 30, 2014. City officials have revised the deficit projection down to $365,112 but as of April 30, 2014, the city was in the black by $251,517 in the general fund according to the proposed budget. Projections are that the general fund will end in the black by June 30, 2015 by $4,906.

Hendrixson said the actual deficit by the end of this fiscal year 2013-14 (June 30th) should be less than the projection of $365,112. "We took out $150,000 we had put in for paving which isn't going to happen before July 1. When you take that out and a few other things we have the projections down to a little over $200,000 in the red for this fiscal year but we have a good cash surplus in the general fund and water and sewer," he said.

The water and sewer fund, at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, 2013 was expected to finish in the red by $62,280 as of June 30, 2014. The deficit projection now is expected to be $60,149. But as of April 30, 2014, the water and sewer fund was $88,510 to the good. Projections are that the water and sewer fund will end in the black June 30, 2015 by $14,882.

Proposed capital outlay expenditures in the general fund for the new year come to $1,002,000 but $904,000 of that is for airport projects, which are largely funded by grants.

Specific projects are as follows: Legislative- $5,000; Parks and Recreation- $5,000; Public Works-Buildings and Grounds (unspecified)-$10,000; City Hall Building (Unspecified) $10,000; Fire Protection (Pagers) $10,000; Street Department (Unspecified) $25,000; Police Department (Police Car)$28,000; Animal Shelter-$5,000; and Airport-Lighting Rehabilitation $427,500, Fuel Farm $330,500, Hangar Door $50,000, and Land Acquisition $96,000 for a total of $904,000.

According to Hendrixson, a home near the airport is in the flight path and will eventually have to be removed. The state provides grant funds to the city to help acquire the property. "There's a house (currently being rented by the owner) on Allen's Chapel Road that is in our flight path according to the FAA. The state funds monies to municipalities to go out and acquire properties (such as this). We'll have to demolish the house once it's been acquired through the state and it will become city property. The state is in the appraisal phase and then the property has to be surveyed," said Hendrixson.

Proposed water and sewer fund capital outlay expenditures include $55,000 for a water service truck, $150,000 for sewer plant improvement design fees, $410,000 for the automatic meter readers project, which will be funded largely through a loan/grant program

Although these capital outlay projects are budgeted, they all may not be funded during the year.

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