FEMA Grant Approved for DeKalb West School Safe Rooms

November 9, 2012
Dwayne Page

The school system has received final approval for a FEMA grant to fund a classroom addition at DeKalb West School, including eight tornado "safe rooms". During Thursday night's meeting, the Board of Education gave tentative approval to hire Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris of Mount Juliet as the architects for the project, subject to final approval by the board once the contract has been reviewed and accepted.

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David Brown of Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris Architects updated the school board on the project "At long last, we got our final approval letters from the state and FEMA and the last of the hoops to jump through were approved for our grant at DeKalb West," said Brown.

"The next thing that will happen is you'll get a contract from the state that documents the 12 1/2% that they are going to put toward this (project) because if you'll remember out of the total grant, FEMA is going to take care of 75% and then the state of Tennessee is going to kick in another 12 1/2% which only leaves 12 ½%. That is what we've been waiting for. Its about eight weeks later than I thought it would be. We submitted (grant application) in March. We had heard from the state that everything looked good and that they were passing you on to Atlanta (FEMA office). Its what we've been waiting for and we can now move ahead with the project," said Brown.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency had earlier approved grant funds of more than $1.5 million for the safe room project at DeKalb West School, pending final approval by FEMA in Atlanta. The spending plan calls for $600,000 in local funding to meet a 12.5% FEMA grant match for building eight tornado "safe rooms" at DeKalb West School. The proposed addition would be constructed in the front of the school, including eight classrooms, restrooms, a new secure entrance, an office, clinic, conference room, guidance and teacher work area.

The county commission, in July, approved funding for the plan in the form of a $3.4 million note to cover the $600,000 grant match for the safe room project along with an $850,000 cafeteria and kitchen renovation project at DeKalb West School as well as roofing projects at DeKalb Middle School, DeKalb West School, and Smithville Elementary School.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby updated the school board on personnel moves since last month.

Rachel Seal, LPN has been hired as a substitute school nurse. Josh Lawson has been transferred from a substitute bus driver to a full time route. Jimmy Mullican, a school bus driver who died during the fall break, was also remembered by Director Willoughby and the board.

The school board adopted a resolution of appreciation honoring Director Willoughby.

The resolution states that "Whereas, our Superintendent has upheld the distinction and honor of his position by making decisions based on integrity and honesty and by practicing effective leadership; and

Whereas, our superintendent creates a budget for our district and provides the resources necessary for our schools within the confinements of the budget; and

Whereas, our superintendent strives for excellence in every aspect of his job and encourages his staff and students to do the same; and

Whereas, he provides support for the programs at the schools, helping students and faculty grow and develop academically and socially, and has built support within the community for our school system.

Therefore, Be It Hereby Resolved, that the Board of Education officially recognizes the continued services of Mr. Willoughby to the students of DeKalb County and extends its appreciation for his work to enhance the learning environment of the students in our district;

Be It Further Resolved, that the DeKalb County Board of Education hereby declares November 20, 2012 as Superintendent Appreciation Day in DeKalb County.

Be It Further Resolved, that each school principal take necessary measures to implement Utrust's Employee Appreciation Program in their school, by recognizing superintendents this month".

The DeKalb County School System was written up in the latest state audit report for a school federal projects fund cash overdraft in the amount of $96,023 as of June 30, 2012.

Director Willoughby said the reason for the overdraft is because the school system did not receive its federal reimbursement of grant expenditures in time to cover it.

In order to keep this from reoccurring, the school board Thursday night adopted a resolution to transfer $80,000 from the local option sales tax sinking fund to the federal projects fund for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013 to cover any potential overdraft.

The resolution states "Whereas, Federal Projects grants operate on a reimbursement basis and funds are requested from the State of Tennessee by DeKalb County for non-payroll expenditures on a monthly basis; and

Whereas, the Federal Projects fund operates with a cash deficit at various times throughout the fiscal year due to a slow turn-around time for reimbursements from the State of Tennessee; and

Whereas, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles consider a cash deficit in any fund to be a significant deficiency in internal control; and

Whereas, DeKalb County does not desire to operate any fund with a cash deficit.

Now Therefore, Be It Resolved, by the Board of Education of DeKalb County, a school district in Tennessee, meeting in regular session on November 8, 2012, and by the County Commission of DeKalb County that

Section 1. Local Option Sales Tax-Sinking Fund shall transfer $80,000 to the Federal Projects Funds following approval of this Resolution by both parties.

Section 2. The $80,000 transfer shall remain in the Federal Projects Fund as a designated fund balance from the Local Option Sales Tax-Sinking Fund and may be repaid at any time as noted in a resolution passed by the Board of Education and County Commission.

Section 3. This resolution will take effect upon the approval of both governing parties. The Secretary of the Board of Education shall include this Resolution in the minutes of the DeKalb County School System. The DeKalb County Clerk shall include this Resolution in the minutes of DeKalb County".

Unless Congress and the Administration take action, drastic cuts and massive tax increases will be coming in January under the Budget Control Act or what is known as "sequestration".

The school board Thursday night adopted a resolution asking that the Congress and the Administration amend the Budget Control Act to mitigate the drastic cuts in education.

The resolution states that "Whereas, a world class public education is essential for the future success of our nation and today's school children; and

Whereas, the Budget Control Act of 2011 includes a provision to impose $1.2 trillion in across-the-board budget cuts to almost all federal programs including education that would become effective January 2, 2013; and

Whereas, these across-the-board budget cuts would impact school districts during the 2013-14 school year, with the exception of the Impact Aid program, with which a reduction would become effective this school year; and

Whereas, these across-the-board budget cuts, also known as sequestration, would impact education by a reduction in funds of 8.2% or more and could result in larger class sizes, fewer course offerings, possible four-day school weeks, loss of extracurricular activities, and teacher and staff lay-offs; and

Whereas, sequestration would impact almost every public school system in the nation and the millions of students educated through programs such as Title I grants for disadvantaged students, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, English Language Acquisition, Career and Technical Educational, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and more; and

Whereas, DeKalb County, as well as other public schools, would be impacted nationwide by an estimated $2.7 billion loss from just three programs alone–Title I grants, IDEA special education state grants and Head Start–that serve a combined 30.7 million children; and

Whereas, federal funding for K-12 programs was already reduced by more than $835 million in Fiscal Year 2011, and state and local funding for education continues to be impacted by budget cuts and lower local property tax revenues; and

Whereas, states and local governments have very limited capacity to absorb further budget cuts from sequestration, as DeKalb County has already implemented cuts commensurate to state and local budget conditions;

Now Therefore, Be It Resolved, that the DeKalb County Commission urges Congress and the Administration to amend the Budget Control Act to mitigate the drastic cuts to education that would affect our students and communities, and to protect education as an investment critical to economic stability and American competitiveness.

Adopted this the 8th day of November 2012, by the DeKalb County Board of Education, Smithville. A copy of this Resolution shall be included in the minutes of the DeKalb County School System, and sent to the National School Board Association".

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