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Willoughby Explains Need for New Positions

July 10, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page/WJLE NEWS STORY
Mark Willoughby at County Budget Meeting

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and members of the Board of Education Thursday night pleaded their case with the county budget committee to include funding for several new positions, which they say are needed in the school system to meet student needs, even if it means a seventeen cent tax increase.

In its proposed tentative budget for the 2011-12 school year, the Board of Education is asking for five new teaching positions (total funds needed $225,000); two new assistant soccer coaches (total funds needed $5,570); one new site coordinator support staff position at DCHS (total funds needed $33,580); a new special education teacher at DCHS (total funds needed $45,000); three new assistant principal positions with benefits (total funds needed $229,100); and adding funding back to the general fund for three teaching positions and an educational assistant, which for the last two years have been paid for with federal stimulus or American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that have now been exhausted (total funds needed $150,000)

The proposed school budget includes a 3.2% pay raise for support staff or non-certified personnel and a 1.6% local increase to match the state's 1.6% pay hike for certified personnel (teachers). Total funds needed $210,000.

Also included in the spending plan are requests for the following increases:

Textbook adoption (Math)- $40,000
Updated hardware/software Accounting Department- $40,000
Minimal increase in utility costs- $6,000
Increase in maintenance of plant supplies- $23,000
Increase in fuel costs: $124,000
Increase in capital outlay- $250,000 (mostly for DCHS science lab upgrades)

Except for the pay raises, County Mayor Mike Foster has asked Willoughby and the school board to make cuts in the proposed school budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

During the meeting Thursday, Director of Schools Willoughby explained why the school system needs the new positions. "A new fifth grade position is needed at Northside Elementary School because of the numbers. We've had an increase in the enrollment there and that is why we need that position," said Willoughby.

Another physical education teacher is also needed at Northside Elementary, according to Willoughby, in order to create more planning time for teachers there. "The P.E. position is needed in order to give teachers enough planning time, so they can have a planning time every day," said Willoughby.

"We also need an additional math teacher at the high school," added Willoughby. " We talked about that two or three years ago with the American Diploma Project, Tennessee Diploma Project where all the students were going to be required to have four math classes, where they had previously been required to have three math classes. Its got to the place now where we need to add that math teacher," said Willoughby.

Joined at the budget meeting by DCHS band director Jonathan Wright and at least two band parents in a show of support, Director Willoughby asked for the creation of an assistant band teacher position. "We have a real good band program now and the numbers of children taking band are going up. But our students at the west school and middle school do not have the opportunity to be part of the band like they should, especially at the west school. In order to grow a good high school band program, you need the feeder schools in there and that's the reason we have this position in there," said Willoughby.

The soccer program could also use some extra help, according to Director Willoughby. "That's something that comes up year in and year out. We're asking for one assistant soccer coach for the boys and one for the girls," he said.

In order to meet the growing need for on-line classes, Willoughby said a site coordinator position should be added at DCHS. " We like many other schools are going to distant learning, on-line classes (with teachers at other schools). That person would not have to be certified. He or she would keep everything going as far as on-line, doing communication with other schools, whether it be another high school program, Motlow or other places. That person would also keep in contact with parents," said Willoughby.

"The other person we need is a special education teacher at the high school in order to meet the needs, under the special ed federal program. We have $45,000 as a budget item there for that," said Willoughby.

For the last two years, the school system has used federal stimulus funds to pay the salaries of three teaching positions and an educational assistant, which were formerly funded in the regular school general purpose fund budget. Since those federal funds have now been depleted, Willoughby told the budget committee that the school system has added those positions back into the general fund. "These positions are returning to GP (general purpose fund) due to ending of stimulus funding. We used that money for that amount of time (two years) to relieve the general purpose budget, to save the county money," he said.

County Mayor Foster said he has learned that the state may cover the costs of those positions previously funded by federal stimulus dollars. "The state used over $170-million in federal ARRA (federal stimulus) money last year to help fund the BEP formula for K-12. After two years of availability, those (ARRA) funds went away. The state budget this year will replace those dollars and include additional funds to cover student enrollment growth and inflationary factors built into the BEP formula. So hopefully, there is money in the BEP formula this year to cover those four ARRA jobs that you lost," said Foster.

As for the request to add three new assistant principals (one at each DeKalb West, Northside Elementary, and Smithville Elementary School), Willoughby said new state and or federal teacher evaluation requirements make these extra positions necessary to help with the additional workload. "A lot of other schools our size already have assistant principals, and have had them for some time. The tenure law has changed and the evaluation process has changed. This is a mandate and we'll have to do these extra observations," said Willoughby.

Dr Gayle Redmon, principal at Northside Elementary and Dr. Bill Tanner, principal at Smithville Elementary, also spoke in support of adding assistant principals during the budget meeting Thursday night. According to Dr. Redmon, the requirement for evaluating certified licensed teachers is going from two evaluations in ten years to four evaluations every school year. For apprentice teachers who do not yet have a professional license, they are subject to six evaluations in one school year.

Willoughby added that certified staff in the central office will also be called on to help with those evaluations. "All the certified people in our office are getting re-trained also to do observations and evaluations,"he said.

The proposed new school budget includes a request for $250,000 in extra capital outlay spending, something of which budget committee members have been concerned. Willoughy said that was included to cover the costs of renovating the science lab at DCHS, a project which has been underway since school closed in May and which is expected to be completed by the start of school next month. "When we started doing our science lab, we had no idea how much we were going to have to spend on that science lab so we put in $250,000. Now that we've gotten started on it and plan to come in (finish the project) right at the end of this month, I don't think it will be $250,000. I think we're going to come out a lot better than we expected on it," said Willoughby.

The general purpose budget for schools totals $20-million 146-thousand 303 consisting of local monies but mostly state funding. In order the make the proposed budget balance a total of $666,893 is needed from the Education Jobs Fund, which is federal one time (grant) monies to be spent for salaries/positions; an appropriation of $658,016 from the school system's allocation of Basic Education Program (BEP) reserves for equipment and capital outlay expenditures; and a seventeen cent increase in the local property tax rate.

In making his case for the seventeen cent tax hike Willoughby said the extra cost to taxpayers in most cases would be less than a cost of a soft drink each day. "For each penny that the tax is raised on a $100,000 piece of property, that person's tax goes up $2.50 per penny. For $150,000, it goes up $3.75 per penny, on $200,000 it increases $5.00 per penny. So on a $100,000 piece of property, that's 12 cents a day. On a $150,000 piece of property, its 17 cents per day. If we were asking for a 17 cent property tax increase, even for a person who owned a $300,000 piece of property, that's 34 cents per day. That's not what people spend on a coke cola per day. I think a majority of people, owning a $100,000 piece of property, could find 12 cents a day," he said.

Willoughby added that "I'm glad that we have a low property tax in DeKalb County but I think the people would be proud to see how we're using our property tax for the kids. We look at what's needed for our children," he added.

However Steve Bates, the county's financial advisor warned that if the school board continues to grow the system while projecting using fund balance (BEP reserves) to balance its budget each year, a much larger tax rate will be needed for schools in the future. "What are you going to do when you get ready to build a school and you've already used it (available funds)? Furthermore, look at your state retirement. Next year, you're going to see your state retirement contribution go way up. Its going to be that way statewide. The problem you have is that your budget is $2.1 million more than last year. You got ARRA (federal stimulus) money in 2010 and your budget went up $717,000 versus 2009. So the path you're on is unsustainable even at the seventeen cents you're asking for because you're going into cash (fund balance) by $1,336,000. Even if we (county) give you four extra pennies, you'll need another thirty one cents on top of that. And then you've got these things you'll have to address next year like state retirement and health care at the federal level. They've (federal government) already said we're going to have to start funding everybody (healthcare). Once you start taking that long view, what are you going to do? Where are we going? How are we going to get there"? asked Bates.

County Mayor Foster added that once the $666,893 Education Jobs Grant Fund is depleted after this year, any new positions added to the school system under this fund may have to be abolished because the county does not intend to fund them beyond this coming year. "This jobs money is one time monies to hire all these new people and next year there's no money," he said

Foster also echoed Bates' concerns about the future. "If you add the 17 cents, plus the $666,000 (to make up for the Education Jobs Fund next year) and the $1.3 million (fund balance) that would be an increase, based on property taxes, of 46% (to balance the school budget). That's unsustainable", said Foster

Willoughby said even though the school system has projected the use of BEP reserves to balance its budget, it may not be needed by year's end. "Its become a tradition to balance our budget out of reserves but we've been fortunate enough to get to the end of the year with our revenues having been more than expenditures. So that's worked out. It would be nice though if we had those reserves each year so they could build up," added Willoughby

Fifth District School Board member W.J. (Dub) Evins, III told WJLE that the school board would not have to be in the position of asking for a property tax increase if the county commission had not, in recent years, already cut the tax rate for schools and re-allocated it to other departments of county government

According to Evins, several years ago, about two thirds of the county property tax rate was allocated for schools and the sinking fund (local option sales tax fund) which is also for schools, was used only for capital outlay expenditures, the way, he said, it was meant to be. Today, Evins claims only about a third of the property tax rate goes to schools, and the county commission is using $1.5 million of the sinking fund for school operation plus over $500,000 for debt service. And while the tax rate for schools is decreasing, Evins said the tax rate for the county general fund has increased by twenty cents within the last three years, going from 55 cents to 75 cents.

Last August, in addition to funding schools the $2-million 127-thousand 365 generated by the 48 cent local property tax rate for schools, the county commission voted to transfer $1-million 540 thousand from local purpose tax fund (sinking/sales tax fund) to help operate schools for the year along with $580,534 to fund the school debt service for payment on the Northside Elementary School and roof at Smithville Elementary School. The state BEP allocation for schools this past year was budgeted to be $12-million 508-thousand dollars.

When the sales tax referendum was approved by the voters in May 2007 raising the local option sales tax rate in DeKalb County from 1.5% to 2.75%, Evins said the public was told by county officials that the extra money derived from the increase would go to schools. And while the school system does receive more sales tax funds, the property tax rate for schools has been cut by an equal amount, essentially putting schools right back where they were. "The sales tax referendum was passed with the understanding that the money was going to schools, but an equal or greater amount of money was taken away from the schools by reducing our property tax rate sixteen and a half cents and debt service by two cents, which makes eighteen and a half cents."

County Mayor Foster insists that before the sales tax referendum was passed it was explained to the public that property tax payers would be getting an overall 19 or 20 cent property tax break, if the referendum were approved " That was the intent. It was the design that the sales tax would take the place of part of the property tax rate for schools. We made that clear in the (public) meetings and when it (referendum) was voted on and that's exactly what has been done.," said Foster.

During the meeting Thursday night, County Mayor Foster asked the school board to revise its proposed budget for this year and make cuts where possible, except for the pay raises, which the county intends to fund.

The school board will meet in a workshop to consider making those cuts Monday night, July 11 at 6:00 p.m. followed by a special meeting at 8:00 p.m. to formally adopt the revisions in the proposed school budget.

The county budget committee will meet again to review other aspects of the county budget Monday night, July 11 at 6:00 p.m.

The county's property tax rate is currently $1.46 per $100 of assessed value. The new certified tax rate, as established by the state after reappraisal, is expected to be $1.52. Even though the certified rate is higher than the current rate, it is supposed to generate to the county about the same amount of total local revenue, because of the overall drop in assessments countywide since the last reappraisal.

Still, a tax increase appears to be coming, even with the new certified rate. Steve Bates, the county's financial advisor, told the budget committee Thursday night that a five cent tax hike would be needed to fund the school system's pay raises and the county general fund needs more revenue as well.

While no vote has been taken by the budget committee, based on their discussions, the new tax rate could be as much as $1.57 to $1.60, if adopted by the budget committee and the county commission.

Foster said all budgets must be ready for passage by no later than next Friday, July 15 so that the county commission can get them adopted by early to mid August.

Line-Up Announced for DeKalb Fair Memory Lane Stage

July 10, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mid-State Cloggers to Perform Friday, July 22 at 7:45 p.m.
Evermean Evergreen Cloggers to perform Thursday, July 21 at 6:30 p.m.
Burden Rock Band to Perform Monday, July 18 at 7:45 p.m.
Abigail Rose to Perform Saturday, July 23 at 7:45 p.m.

The DeKalb County Fair and DeKalb Community Bank invite you to take a stroll down Memory Lane and enjoy nightly entertainment at the Memory Lane Stage July 18-23 during fair week in Alexandria .

This year's Memory Lane Stage Line-Up is as follows:

Monday, July 18
6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Donny Barthelemy
7:45 p.m.- 8:45 p.m. Burden Rock Band

Tuesday, July 19
6:30 p.m.- 7:30 p.m.: Born for This-Zachary Allen
7:45 p.m.-8:45 p.m.: Kingdom Reign-Zachary Allen

Wednesday, July 20
6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: Lil John-Magician
7:45 p.m.-8:45 p.m.: Mercedes Luna

Thursday, July 21
6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: The Evermean Evergreen Cloggers
7:45 p.m.-8:45 p.m.: Terri Lynn Weaver

Friday, July 22
6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: Ronnie Wison Band
7:45 p.m.-until?: The Mid-State Cloggers

Saturday, July 23
6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: Pickin Friends
7:45 p.m.-8:45 p.m. Abigail Rose

Police Department Conducts Demonstration on Proper Use of Child Passenger Restraints

July 10, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Captain Steven Leffew buckling up 4 year old Emily Louise Robinson
Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger and Captain Steven Leffew Greet Children

The Smithville Police Department recently conducted a demonstration on the proper use of child passenger restraint devices.

Chief Randy Caplinger and Captain Steven Leffew conducted the exercise in the parking area of Northside Elementary School. Four year old Emily Louise Robinson, seven year old Courtney London, nine year old Cody Robinson, and ten year old Caleb London were on hand for the demonstration.

Under state law, children under one (1) year of age, or any child, weighing twenty (20) pounds or less, must be secured in a child passenger restraint system in a rear facing position, meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards, in a rear seat, if available, or according to the child safety restraint system or vehicle manufacturer's instructions. (Note: If the child safety seat has a higher rear-facing weight rating, usually 30 or 35 pounds, it may be continued to be used in a rear-facing position so long as the child's weight permits. Check the manufacturers instructions accompanying the child safety seat for more information.)

•Children age one (1) through age three (3), and weighing more than twenty (20) pounds, must be secured in a child safety seat in a forward facing position in the rear seat, if available, or according to the child safety restraint system or vehicle manufacturer's instructions
.
•Children age four (4) through age eight (8), and measuring less than four feet nine inches (4'9") in height, must be secured in a belt-positioning booster seat system, meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards in the rear seat, if available, or according to the child safety restraint system or vehicle manufacturer's instructions. (Note: If the child is not between age four (4) and age eight (8), but is less than four feet nine inches (4'9") in height, he/she must still use a seat belt system meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards.)

•Children age nine (9) through age twelve (12), or any child through twelve (12) years of age, measuring four feet nine inches (4'9") or more in height, must be secured in a seat belt system. It is recommended that any such child be placed in the rear seat, if available. (Note: If the child is not between age nine (9) and age twelve (12), but is four feet nine inches (4'9") or more in height, he/she must still use a seat belt system meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards.)

•Children age thirteen (13) through age fifteen (15) must be secured by using a passenger restraint system, including safety belts, meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards.

•Provision is made for the transportation of children in medically prescribed modified child restraints. A copy of Doctor's prescription is to be carried in the vehicle utilizing the modified child restraint at all times.

•The driver of the car is responsible for making sure that children under age sixteen (16) are properly restrained and may be charged and fined $50.00 for violation of the law. If the child's parent or legal guardian is present in the car but not driving, the parent or legal guardian is responsible for making sure that the child is properly transported and may be fined for non-compliance.

•Police officers observing violations of this law are permitted to stop drivers and take enforcement action. PLEASE PROPERLY RESTRAIN CHILDREN

For more information on Tennessee's Child Restraint Laws, visit the Click it or Ticket website, or refer to T.C.A. 55-9-602

(TOP PHOTO: Captain Steven Leffew buckling up 4 year old Emily Louise Robinson)

(SECOND PHOTO FROM TOP) Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger, Caleb London, Emily Robinson, Courtney London, Cody Robinson, and Captain Steven Leffew

First Day of School Education Celebration Set for August 1

July 9, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Michelle Burklow
2009 Photo of First Day of School Education Celebration

The Sixth Annual First Day of School Education Celebration for DeKalb County will be held on Monday, August 1st from 6:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. downtown around the courthouse square.

Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-Kindergarten to 6th Grade, says the event is free and all parents and students are urged to attend to help kick off the new school year. "Our goal is to provide an evening of activities, education, and enjoyment for the residents of DeKalb County. We will be having information booths, passing out school supplies, refreshments, and various activities for the students to participate in while promoting education."

"This will also provide a time for our teachers and parents to come together to build a foundation for new and positive relationships, right from day one," said Burklow

"Our First Day of School Celebration is an opportunity for our schools to take a leadership role in re-enforcing and improving relationships among parents, teachers, students, and the community. This is the one day each year when it is both easiest and most important to enlist families as partners in our children's education. This is a great time for us to engage our families and make them feel welcome into our schools."

"So come out and join us. Everything is free that evening. We'll have free school supplies, free food, snacks and lots of community people coming together to make this event possible", said Burklow

"There are many volunteers, churches, and organizations that come together to make this event possible for our children so they are able to start school with new supplies and a great positive attitude."

If you would like to help with this event please call Michelle Burklow at 597-4084.

This celebration is totally free of charge to those who attend so make plans now to join the fun downtown Smithville on Monday, August 1st.

Budget Committee Asks School Board to Make Cuts In Proposed New Budget

July 8, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
School Officials Meet with County Budget Committee

County Mayor Mike Foster and the budget committee of the DeKalb County Commission met with members of the Board of Education and Director of Schools Mark Willoughby Thursday night to review the proposed school budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year which calls for pay raises, the hiring of several new personnel, and a seventeen cent increase in the property tax rate.

The budget committee has already previously voted once to reject the budget requests for new spending to create positions. They have only okayed the proposed pay raises.

During the meeting Thursday night at the courthouse, Director of Schools Willoughby renewed the requests for new positions and the tax increase, based on school needs.

Saying that the budget requests were financially unsustainable at this time, County Mayor Mike Foster asked the school board to revise its proposed budget and make cuts where possible.

The school board will meet in a workshop to consider making those cuts Monday night at 6:00 p.m. followed by a special meeting at 8:00 p.m. to formally adopt the revisions in the proposed school budget.

The county budget committee will meet again to review other aspects of the county budget Monday night at 6:00 p.m.

The county's property tax rate is currently $1.46 per $100 of assessed value. The new certified tax rate, as established by the state after reappraisal, is expected to be $1.52. Even though the certified rate is higher than the current rate, it is supposed to generate to the county about the same amount of total local revenue, because of the overall drop in assessments countywide since the last reappraisal.

Still, a tax increase appears to be coming, even with the new certified rate. Steve Bates, the county's financial advisor, told the budget committee Thursday night that a five cent tax hike would be needed to fund the school system's pay raises and the county general fund needs more revenue as well.

While no vote has been taken by the budget committee, based on their discussions, the new tax rate could be as much as $1.57 to $1.60, if adopted by the budget committee and the county commission.

Foster said all budgets must be ready for passage by no later than next Friday, July 15 so that the county commission can get them adopted by early to mid August.

DeKalb Deputies Among Lowest Paid in State, Sheriff Asks County for More Competitive Wages

July 7, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page/WJLE NEWS STORY
Patrick Ray

Deputies and detectives at the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department are some of the lowest paid law enforcement officers in the state and Sheriff Patrick Ray wants to change that.

In a meeting recently with the county budget committee, Sheriff Ray said he has lost five employees since last October because they have found jobs in law enforcement that pay better elsewhere.

DeKalb has fallen behind counties of similar size and population in recent years in what it pays law enforcement officers and Sheriff Ray's concern is that he will continue to lose more experienced personnel in the months ahead unless the county takes action to catch up. "Since October, I've lost four or five of my deputies. Most of them have been in my department for quite sometime. Some of them are over four year deputies. All of them pretty much have moved because of the pay. They've found better jobs somewhere else and some of those places offer benefits like health insurance," he said.

During a recent meeting with the budget committee, Sheriff Ray was asked to compile information on pay rates in other counties of similar size to give the committee some idea of where to start. "They asked me to get information on what other counties were paying their deputies, comparable to our county size and population and I have done that. I took six out of the ten smallest counties in the state based on the 2000 census, including Pickett, the smallest in the state with around 5,000 people, and learned that of those six counties, we were paying less than them." said Sheriff Ray.

For example, DeKalb County, with a population of 17,423 (based on the 2000 census), pays its deputies $10.96 cents per hour while Pickett County, with a population of 4,945, pays deputies $12.78 cents per hour. Detectives in Pickett County earn $13.28 cents an hour compared to $12.99 in DeKalb County.

Smith County, with a population closer in size to DeKalb County at 17,712, pays deputies $14.86 cents per hour compared to $10.96 in DeKalb County. Smith County detectives make $16.58 cents per hour compared to $12.99 in DeKalb County.

The City of Alexandria pays its patrolmen $11.50 per hour and $12.50 per hour for the sergeant position.

In addition to the pay, Sheriff Ray said the benefit package with some other law enforcement agencies is much better. "The City of Smithville is another competitor of ours. They start their officers at between $13.09 and $16.30 per hour. That's what some of their officers are making as just regular patrolmen. Their part-time officers make $14.17 per hour which is a whole lot more than our deputies. Plus they get almost eight thousand dollars worth of health insurance, eighty five dollars worth of life insurance, and $276 worth of dental insurance," said Sheriff Ray.

DeKalb County pays a little over $200 per month toward health insurance for employees who enroll in the county plan, but Sheriff Ray said because officers receive such a low wage, they still can't afford it. In addition, a mandatory five percent comes out of their wages toward retirement in the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System.

The following are the current hourly wages for DeKalb County Sheriff's Department positions:

Detectives (3 positions): $12.99 per hour or $27,024 per year
School Resource Officer (1 position): $10.96 per hour or $24, 514 per year
Deputies (14 positions): $10.96 per hour or $24,514 per year
Sergeant (1 position): $12.51 per hour or $26,023 per year
Correctional Officers(15 positions): $9.92 per hour or $22,174 per year
Correctional Officer/Training Officer (1 position): $22,674 per year
Secretaries/Correctional Officers (4 positions): $10.66 per hour or $22,174 per year
Litter Guard (1 position): $10.66 per hour or $22,174 per year
Cook (1 position) $10.11 per hour or $21,024 per year

The chief deputy is a salaried position and he receives $37,523 a year.

"By law we can work our law enforcement personnel 43 hours per week without any overtime. We do twelve hour shifts at the sheriff's department, the deputies, correctional officers. The rest of them are on eight and a half hour shifts," said Sheriff Ray.

Sheriff Ray said he isn't asking for any more benefits for his employees, only that their wages be more competitive. "We're not asking for more than what our county population is. As a matter of fact, we're asking for a whole lot less. We just want to be competitive"

According to Sheriff Ray, what normally occurs is that the county pays for new officers to become trained and certified only to see those officers move on to better paying jobs and the county lose that investment. The county is then forced to start all over again paying for the training of officers to replace them. "The county pays around $3,500 to get each officer through the academy (Walters State Community College Academy) as well as their salary while they are in the academy for eight weeks, along with their uniforms, vests, gun belts, and things like that. Plus, we often have to pay another officer overtime to work the shift of the one in the academy until he graduates."

The county does make an effort to recoup some of the costs if an officer leaves within the first two years of employment, according to Sheriff Ray. "If we send somebody (to the academy) we do a two year (employment) contract with them but if they quit within those two years we pro-rate that for them to pay us back," he said

A loss of experienced officers can also affect the quality of law enforcement. "If the correctional officers are there, they understand the operation of the jail and the knowledge of our booking procedures and releasing of inmates. Officers and detectives, with time, gain informants and become better acquainted with the public which helps them solve crimes but that becomes much more difficult with newer officers coming in all the time."

Sheriff Ray said that when he has a shortage of deputies, he moves up correctional officers into those positions.

During the latest budget committee meeting Tuesday night, county commissioners asked that Sheriff Ray and County Mayor Mike Foster work together to come up with a pay scale or proposal for them to consider.

Sales Tax Holiday August 5-7

July 7, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Tennessee Sales Tax Holiday

The 2011 Sales Tax Holiday is coming up in August providing three full days of tax breaks on certain clothing, school and art supplies, and computer purchases.

The holiday begins Friday, August 5 at 12:01 a.m. and ends Sunday, August 7 at 11:59 p.m. During the designated three-day weekend, consumers will not pay state or local sales tax on select clothing with a price of $100 or less per item, school and art supplies with a price of $100 or less per item, and computers with a price of $1,500 or less. These items are exempt from state and local sales tax in Tennessee during the holiday. Local governments are held harmless and are reimbursed lost sales tax revenues by the state.

Any individual can make a tax-free purchase during the holiday. However, items purchased for use by a trade or business are NOT exempt.

The holiday also includes purchases of qualified items sold via mail, telephone, e-mail or Internet if the customer orders and pays for the item and the retailer accepts the order during the holiday for immediate shipment, even if delivery is made after the exemption period.

If a customer wishes to order a certain tax-free item during the holiday and it is not in stock, the item remains tax-free upon delivery. In other words, backlogs and backorders outside the buyer's control will not affect the exempt status of tax free items. Intentionally delayed sales are taxable.

Qualified items previously placed on layaway are exempt when the final payment is made during the holiday. Items are also exempt if placed on layaway during the holiday and the final payment is made after the exemption period.

Examples of exempt items include:

· Clothing: Shirts, dresses, pants, coats, gloves and mittens, hats and caps, hosiery, neckties, belts, sneakers, shoes, uniforms whether athletic or non-athletic and scarves

· School Supplies: Binders, book bags, calculators, tape, chalk, crayons, erasers, folders, glue, pens, pencils, lunch boxes, notebooks, paper, rulers and scissors

· Art Supplies: Clay and glazes; acrylic, tempera and oil paints; paintbrushes for artwork; sketch and drawing pads; and watercolors

· Computers: Central processing unit (CPU), along with various other components including monitor, keyboard, mouse, cables to connect components and preloaded software (Note: While the CPU may be purchased separately, other items must be part of a bundled computer package in order to be eligible.) iPad's are eligible for tax exemption, video games and consoles are not.

Please visit www.tntaxholiday.com to learn more about the items exempt from sales tax.

DeKalb County Schools Re-Open for Registration August 1

July 7, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County students will head back to school next month.

Registration for all students will be Monday, August 1st. That will be an abbreviated school day from 7:30 a.m. until 9:30 a.m.

Tuesday, August 2nd will be an administrative day

The first full day of school for all students will be Wednesday, August 3rd.

DCHS Registration for students new to DeKalb County will be July 18th and 19th from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. Students should bring birth certificate, immunization records, proof of DeKalb County residence and any school records from previous school. Also, DCHS students may pick up their schedules on the above dates and times.

A system wide professional development day will be Monday, July 25th at DCHS and all teachers from all schools must attend from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

All teachers will report to DCHS for a system wide professional development on Tuesday, July 26th . All teachers will report to their individual schools on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday July 27th, 28th, & 29th from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. each day.

Students will not attend on Monday, Labor Day, September 5th.

Schools will be closed for the fall break October 10th-21st

Students will be off for the Thanksgiving holiday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, November 23rd, 24th, & 25th and for the winter break December 19th through December 31st. Friday, December 16th will be the last day students attend before winter break and that will be an abbreviated school day. Students will return after the holidays on Tuesday, January 3rd.

Schools will be closed for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 16th and for President's Day, Monday, February 20th.

Schools will be closed for spring break April 2nd-6th.

Students will not attend on Tuesday, May 22nd. That will be an administrative day and all teachers must attend. The last day of school will be Wednesday, May 23rd. That will be an abbreviated school day and report cards will be sent home.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held on Tuesday, October 4th and Tuesday, March 13th at DeKalb County High School from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will also be held from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Thursday, October 6th and Thursday, March 15th at DeKalb Middle School, Northside Elementary, Smithville Elementary, and DeKalb West School.

Report cards will be sent home on Monday, October 3rd, Thursday, January 5th, and Monday, March 12th.

AYP-EOC/Gateway Testing at DCHS will be Tuesday through Thursday, December 6th-8th and May 1st-3rd at DCHS and a make-up AYP-EOC/Gateway Test will be Friday, December 9th and May 4th.

ACT Test for the 11th grade will be Tuesday, March 20th

Writing Assessment for the 5th, 8th, and 11th grades will be Tuesday, February 7th. Writing Assessment make-up will be Wednesday, February 8th.

TCAP testing of elementary students will be April 26th through May 4th

(Stockpile Days) Professional Development/Instructional Days will be held from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Friday, October 7th and Monday, January 2nd. Students will not attend on those days.

Man Pleads Guilty to Aggravated Assault for Stabbing his Brother

July 6, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Heladio Nunez Gutierrez

A 35 year old Smithville man, charged with aggravated assault after he allegedly stabbed his brother three times with a knife last December, pleaded guilty in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Thursday, June 30

Under a negotiated settlement, Judge David Patterson sentenced Heladio Nunez Gutierrez to a three year sentence, all suspended to good behavior probation except for six months to serve. He was given credit for time served from December 17, 2010 through June 30th, 2011.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said Gutierrez was arrested Friday, December 17th at a residence on Blue Springs Road, accused of assaulting his brother Ricardo Gutierrez by stabbing him in the side with a knife. After the first attack the victim began running, trying to get away, but Gutierrez chased after him and stabbed him twice again. Ricardo Gutierrez was taken to the hospital for treatment. His injuries were apparently not life threatening. Gutierrez, the assailant, admitted to the assault.

A 38 year old Liberty man charged with vandalism after his car crashed into posts supporting a walkway canopy, cut down a small tree, and then hit the brick exterior of the cafeteria's outdoor dining area at DCHS last September, was sentenced in criminal court Thursday.

Under a negotiated settlement, Steven Blake Goad pleaded guilty to vandalism over $500 and received a two year sentence, all suspended to probation. He must make restitution on the insurance deductible in an amount to be determined

43 year old Greta Lynn Higgins pleaded guilty by information to reckless endangerment and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to supervised probation.

21 year old Christopher Garrett pleaded guilty to introduction of contraband into a penal institution and manufacturing methamphetamine. He received a total sentence of nine years including three years to serve in the contraband case to run concurrent with a violation of probation against him but consecutive to the meth case in which Garrett received a six year sentence to be served on state probation. He was given jail credit for time served from August 1st to November 17th, 2010, January 21 to May 20th, 2011 and from June 15th to June 30th, 2011.

31 year old Aubrey Rigsby pleaded guilty by information to evading arrest and vandalism. He received a total sentence of three years including two years in the evading case, all suspended to supervised probation except for time served. Rigsby also received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in the vandalism cases, all suspended to supervised probation. The two sentences are to run consecutively with each other. Rigsby was given jail credit of 160 days.

30 year old Corey Thomas pleaded guilty to simple possession of a schedule IV controlled substance and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to supervised probation except for time served. He was fined $250. The sentence is to run concurrent with his present probation in another case. Thomas was given jail credit from May 28 to June 30.

43 year old David Howard Dixon pleaded guilty to theft over $1,000 and aggravated assault and received a three year sentence in each case, all suspended to supervised probation. He received a total sentence of six years. The two sentences are to run consecutively. He is to make restitution in an amount to be determined later.

22 year old Aaron Battle pleaded guilty to theft over $500 and received a two year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation. He is to contribute $150 to the economic crime fund.

26 year old Amanda Lattimore pleaded guilty to promotion to manufacture methamphetamine and received a two year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation except for time served. She was fined $2,000. Lattimore is applying for judicial diversion.

49 year old Linda Barrett West pleaded guilty to simple possession of a schedule II and III controlled substance and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in each case, all suspended to supervised probation. She was also fined $750. The sentences are to run concurrent with each other and with her probation in another case.

26 year old Jessica Hubbard pleaded guilty to two counts each of sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (suboxone) and received a total sentence of six years or three years in each case to run consecutively, suspended to supervised probation. She was also fined $2,000.

53 year old Harold Hutchings pleaded guilty to initiation to manufacture methamphetamine. He received a sentence of eight years to serve. The term is to run concurrent with a White County violation of probation against him. He is to undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and pay a $2,000 fine. Hutchings was given jail credit of 169 days.

28 year old Brandon Gurley pleaded guilty to sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance and manufacturing meth. He received a total sentence of nine years including three years in the sale and delivery case to serve and six years on the manufacturing charge, suspended to supervised probation. The two sentences are to run consecutively with each other. He was fined $2,000

29 year old Robert Prater pleaded guilty to possession with intent to sell a schedule III controlled substance. He received a two year sentence, all suspended to probation. He must undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and pay a $2,000 fine.

Woman's GEO Tracker Runs Off Road Into Trailer Home

July 6, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
1992 GEO Tracker Runs into Trailer Home

A 53 year old Smithville woman escaped injury but got in trouble with the law after she lost control of her 1992 GEO Tracker and ran into the front of a trailer home Tuesday morning.

Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said Patricia Oaks of Short Mountain Highway was traveling on West Bryant Street when she lost control and went into a ditch. Oaks overcorrected and came back across the road and into a trailer park where she struck the front of a mobile home at 204 West Bryant Street. Both vehicle and trailer home received minor damage.

Corporal Travis Bryant reported that Oaks was unsteady on her feet and had slurred speech. She performed poorly on field sobriety tasks and submitted to a blood test. Oaks was placed under arrest for DUI and simple possession. An unmarked prescription bottle was found containing ten oval shaped pills believed to be Loratab. Oaks was also issued citations for failure to follow proper lane of travel and for violation of the financial responsibility law.

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