Local News Articles

School Board Trims More from Proposed Budget

June 21, 2013
Dwayne Page
School Board and Director of Schools

The DeKalb County Board of Education has cut $113,000 from its proposed budget but still anticipates having to use up to $1.4 million in reserves to balance by the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year next June.

The board held a budget workshop followed by a special meeting Thursday night to revise the proposed spending plan which will be sent back to the county commission's budget committee for approval.

Earlier this month, the school board voted to ask the county to appropriate another $350,000 from the special school sinking or local option sales tax fund for school operation next school year. The county budget committee rejected the request fearing the risk of depleting the sinking fund over time. The county already appropriates from the sinking fund $1,540,000 annually for schools along with $605,620 this year to meet certain school debt service obligations.

The school board Thursday night voted to remove the request for an additional $350,000 from the sinking fund and to cut proposed expenditures in various line items by a total of $113,000. No current positions or programs would be cut.

Board Chairman Johnny Lattimore asked Teresa Miller, Central Office Payroll/Bookkeeper, to outline the proposed cuts made in the budget. "Revenues have been reduced by the $350,000 that we had asked additional dollars from the sinking fund. That is the only revenue adjustment. Regular Instruction Programs has been reduced by $54,260. Special Education Program has been reduced by $3,200. Vocational Education Program has been reduced by $4,000. Attendance Category has been reduced by $13,195. Other Student Support has been reduced by $2,000. Regular Instructional Staff has been reduced by $8,500. Board of Education has been increased by $29,288. That's due to increases in insurance premiums (liability insurance and workers compensation). Office of the Principal has been reduced by $17,000. Fiscal Services has been reduced by $1,400. Operation of Plant has been reduced by $19,000. We reduced Maintenance of Plant by $9,700. Transportation was reduced by $11,000. That brings our anticipated expenditures to $20,626,800. Our revenues are at $19,182,340, which would leave $1,444,460 to be balanced with reserves or fund balance," said Miller.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby said the proposed budget could not stand anymore cuts without affecting personnel and programs. "I think we've done a good job going through and cutting some things that we could. It gets down to operating a barebones budget again like we have done year after year and we're fortunate we've been able to offer the services that we have and to cut a lot more, I'm afraid we would not be able to offer the services our children need," said Willoughby.

"Will the passage of this budget affect children directly?" asked Board member Charles Robinson.

"If we cut much more then we're cutting human capital," replied Director Willoughby. " We're afraid that we would be cutting personnel. We don't want to cut personnel because that we think we have in there what our students need. I really wouldn't feel comfortable cutting any more," he said.

Willoughby added that the school system could do much more for children, if it did not have to be concerned with budget constraints. "There are several things that would improve the education of our children that some school systems already have. We would like to have had math coaches, language art coaches, graduation coaches, and more guidance counselors. These are things that some systems already have. We would like to have audio enhancements in all of our rooms. These are things that are research based that have been proven to help children achieve more. We know as children achieve more, the opportunities for children increase tremendously. Yes, there are other things, if we had the money we would have in this budget," said Director Willoughby.

All seven board members voted for the revised proposed budget including fifth district member W.J. (Dub) Evins, III who seemed frustrated that the school system could not do more. "I would like to make it clear to everyone that this budget once again requires no tax increase request as far as property taxes are concerned. It's unfortunate we have to balance this budget with our reserve. I still disagree with the fact that we can't take $350,000 to $400,000 out of the sales tax (sinking fund). The implication of cutting personnel, that's an insult to the integrity of the people who are responsible for taking care of 3,000 students. We don't have anyone to my knowledge sitting around with nothing to do. We could use more people. We're sitting on a budget once again that's just something we're getting by with. It's nothing fancy, no frills and no enhancements that other schools have. We're still falling behind other schools in the district and we will continue to until we make some changes. Any substantial cuts are not there to be made (in this proposed budget). It's unfortunate we have to balance the budget with the reserve. I do disagree with the funding mechanism but if that's what it takes, that's what it takes. But again, there's no property tax increase request. I don't know how the system has run as efficiently as it does. We haven't had a property tax increase in quite a while and the cost of living goes up every year. Health care costs go up every year and we're still sitting on the same budget. I understand that the budget committee turned our budget down. I would hope that the full commission would look at this budget and consider all the circumstances and the discussion we've had. Once again, we're sending a budget over there with no tax increase and we're not here to cut personnel and I don't intend to. I would hope the full commission and our county mayor would look at this long and hard because we're not asking them for one dime. We're asking them for their consideration for this budget to be passed so we can move forward," said Evins.

In order to meet requirements of the federal Affordable Health Care Act, the budget includes funds to offer single coverage health insurance to all full time classified employees (support staff) who want it, beginning January 1, 2014. Employees who take the school system up on its offer will have to pay ninety dollars per month. The school system will cover the rest. No additional insurance benefit will be offered to certified personnel.

"If our guidelines change of course we would have to come back and change this, " said Director of Schools Mark Willoughby in a previous meeting. "We still do not know what the Affordable Health Care Act is going to entail. We'll be learning more about that as the months go on. I don't think there is anyone in Tennessee that really knows how this is going to affect them," he said.

The revised budget calls for certified employees to receive a one time bonus instead of a 1.5% pay raise. Director Willoughby said in a previous meeting that approximately $40,000 in state funds will pay for the bonuses which comes to about $160 per employee. "What I am recommending at this time is the 1.5% pay raise for certified employees to be as a bonus and to take that $40,000 that we receive from the state and split that among all certified employees. That is nothing from local money. If it comes in $41,000 then we'll split $41,000 but it's all straight flow through money from the state," said Director Willoughby.

The budget includes funding for two new teacher positions at DeKalb Middle School: $90,000 total

One new P.E. teacher at Northside Elementary School: $45,000

One new extra teacher position (instead of two) which may or may not be needed depending upon enrollment at the elementary school level: $45,000 (position not to be filled if not needed)

Two federal teacher positions moving to general purpose schools (local budget): $90,000 total

Under the Gifted Education Program: One new gifted position: $45,000

Under Special Education Program: A half time psychologist: $27,000

Other new positions included in the budget:

Assistant band director (working primarily at DeKalb West School), $5,000.

Two new Middle School Soccer Coaches: $2,785 each

One baseball coach at DeKalb West School: $2,785

Two new assistant soccer coaches at DCHS: $2,785 each

One new Cross Country Running coach: $2,785

The budget also includes a $4,150 pay raise for the Transportation Supervisor.

Although it was not specifically addressed in the budget, Director Willoughby said in a previous meeting that the school system might be able to come up with funds for one school resource officer, if the county could fund three new positions. That would put an SRO at each school in the county. Willoughby said $15,000 could be available through a Safe Schools grant to help fund an SRO. The school system, he said, could probably come up with another $15,000. The cost to fund an SRO for the first year would be around $30,000.

Two Involved in Rollover Accident on Allen Ferry Road

June 21, 2013
Dwayne Page
Rollover Accident on Allen Ferry Road

Two men were involved in a rollover accident Thursday on Allen Ferry Road.

Trooper Dewaine Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that 40 year old Armando Blanco of Smithville was driving west in a 2005 Chevy Trailblazer when the vehicle went off the right side of the road and into a ditchline, struck a driveway culvert, and overturned. The vehicle came to rest on its top in the highway.

Blanco was not believed to have been injured. A passenger, 37 year old Alfred Villa was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

Stanley Elected Middle Tennessee Vice President of TACEO

June 20, 2013
Dennis Stanley

Dennis Stanley, the Administrator of Elections in DeKalb County, has been elected to a leadership role in the Tennessee Association of County Election officials(TACEO).

Stanley was recently elected Middle Tennessee Vice President of the organization, which consists of election administrators and election commission members in all of the state's 95 counties. As a regional V.P., Stanley will also serve on the statewide executive committee.

“I am honored to be named to such an important position within the association," Stanley said. “It should be the goal of every election official to work toward improving the electoral process and this position gives me another opportunity beyond the county level to do that.”

Stanley has been a member of the TACEO legislative committee the past two years and has worked closely with state lawmakers in the passage of new and amended election laws designed to protect the integrity of the ballot while making elections more cost efficient.

The purpose of the Tennessee Association of County Election Officials is to provide an educational forum for the exchange of ideas relative to the administration of elections and to offer an opportunity for members to suggest and participate in the implementation of improvements in or to election law.

Chamber Urges Local Businesses to Participate in "Project Welcome Mat"

June 20, 2013
Dwayne Page
Suzanne Williams

The Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce is encouraging all local businesses to help welcome visitors to the 42nd annual Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival by participating in the 12th annual "Project Welcome Mat"

Businesses having changeable signs or marquees are asked to post welcome greetings for our Jamboree visitors. The wording may be only a simple "Welcome to the Jamboree" or as elaborate as you choose. Executive Director of the Chamber, Suzanne Williams, says, "With thousands of visitors coming into town, every effort should be made by the local merchants to show our guests that we appreciate them and welcome their business. The program has been successful over the past years with many businesses participating. Let's keep on showing folks how friendly the DeKalb County / Smithville area can be!"

All businesses may participate in "Project Welcome Mat." There will be recognition awards in 3 categories: "Best Worded," "Most Original" and the "People's Choice Award." Plaques will be presented to winners along with media recognition.

If your business would like to participate in the contest, email the Chamber at dekalbtn@dtccom.net or call 597-4163. Wording should be in place no later than Thursday, June 27th.

Alexander: Removal of Buoys Below Cumberland River Dams “the Right Way to End the Fishing Controversy

June 20, 2013
Lamar Alexander

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to remove buoys restricting access to fishing areas below dams on the Cumberland River – in compliance with legislation he sponsored that became law on June 3 – is “the right way to end the fishing controversy.”

“This preserves the freedom to fish for generations of Americans who enjoy fishing below the dams on the Cumberland River, and does so in a way that gives the appropriate state wildlife agencies authority for boating safety,” Alexander said.

The Corps announced today the decision to remove buoys it previously put in place as part of its plan to restrict access beneath 10 dams on the Cumberland River in Tennessee and Kentucky. The announcement follows the June 3 enactment of a law Alexander sponsored in the Senate that prohibits the Corps from implementing restrictions for two years, while also delegating enforcement below the dams to appropriate state agencies.

In addition to the two-year ban that became law June 3, the U.S. Senate also passed on May 15 Alexander’s permanent solution as part of the Water Resources Development Act. That permanent solution would prevent the Corps from establishing physical barriers, require that any further action be based on actual operating conditions – as opposed to 24 hours per day – and give sole responsibility for enforcement of restricted areas below dams to the states.

The U.S. House of Representatives has not yet taken up its version of the Water Resources Development Act, which Alexander said made it necessary to pass the two-year ban.

Alexander’s legislation, known as the “Freedom to Fish Act,” was cosponsored by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). A similar version was sponsored in the house by U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Andy Barr (R-Ky.).

Two Submit Qualifying Petitions for Alexandria Election

June 19, 2013
Dwayne Page

The names of two people will appear on the ballot in the Alexandria Municipal Election on September 5.

A mayor and three aldermen are to be elected

Jim H. York, Jr. will be running for mayor.

Pat Jackson was the only candidate to qualify to run for alderman.

Noon Thursday, June 20 was the qualifying deadline for the election.

Miller Wins Alderman Seat, Jacobs and Washer Re-elected

June 19, 2013
Dwayne Page
Danny Washer, Shawn Jacobs, and Josh Miller

The Smithville city council will have a new member next month.

Josh Miller, who is employed in the construction and real estate business, led the ticket with 311 votes (20.94%) in his race for one of three alderman seats in the Smithville Municipal Election Tuesday. "I'm excited. I've been a little nervous all day. I definitely want to thank my family and all the ones who came out and voted for me. I thank you so much. I promise not to take this office lightly. I'll do the best job I know how to do. Thank you so much," said Miller.

Incumbent aldermen Shawn Jacobs and Danny Washer were re-elected. Jacobs, who won a third term, received 278 votes (18.72%). Washer had 261 votes (17.58%) to win a second term.


"I am both honored and humbled by the results of the election and the sentiment of the people of Smithville," said Jacobs. "It has certainly been a great four years that I have served. We have made some progress and I certainly do hope that we can all work together and keep it up. I don't see any reason why we can't do that. We are going to miss Gayla. She has been quite an asset to the council but I also want to congratulate Josh who has run a good race and will be joining us on the council. All of the candidates conducted themselves very appropriately as ladies and gentlemen. Being a candidate, you always appreciate that. I want to thank, not only those who voted for me, but everybody who turned out to vote. I just wish more people had voted," said Jacobs.

Washer also thanked his wife and supporters. "First, I'd like to thank my wife. I don't know of anybody who worked any harder. I worked pretty hard but she worked a lot harder than I did. I want to thank everybody who voted for me and all my friends that supported me and worked hard for me. Congratulations to Josh. I'm going to miss Gayla. I hope we can move forward. I appreciate everybody who voted for me. Thank you very much," said Washer.

Alderman Gayla Hendrix lost her bid for re-election to a second term. She came in fourth place with 237 votes (15.96%). Anthony Scott and Aaron Meeks were also unsuccessful in their bid for alderman. Scott received 222 votes (14.95%) and Meeks garnered 172 votes (11.58%).

"I would like to say thank you to everyone who supported me and to let the citizens of Smithville know that I've thoroughly enjoyed serving on the city council," said Hendrix. "I think we've gotten a lot of good things started. I want to congratulate the ones who are in and I wish them well. We'll be supporting them behind the scenes. Let's just keep the city moving forward," she said.

"I would like to thank the Good Lord for giving me the strength and courage to step out and run for office," said Scott. "I'd like to also sincerely thank my family and my friends for the support and encouragement they have shown me through this process. Having them by my side has been a humbling experience and I cannot thank each of them enough from the bottom of my heart. I would like to thank each of you who came out and voted. Whether or not I received your vote, you came out to vote and make a difference and that is the most important thing. I would like to congratulate the three winners. I'd like to encourage them to always ask questions, listen to the people, and always do the right thing the first time, every time," said Scott.

"I would like to say thank you to everybody who took the time out to either vote in early voting or election day," said Meeks. "Our total voters were 615. That's less than one third of the qualified voters in the city. I certainly would have liked to have seen twice that many or even more but I do appreciate everybody who came out and I want to thank everybody for their support," said Meeks.

A total of 615 people voted in the election including 431 early votes/absentees combined and 184 on election day. There were 33 absentees (included in the early voting total).

There are 2,948 registered voters in the City of Smithville.

The new make-up of the aldermen are: Josh Miller, Shawn Jacobs, Danny Washer, Tim Stribling, and Jason Murphy. Jimmy Poss is the mayor.

Miller, Jacobs, and Washer will be sworn into office July 1st. They will each serve a three year term. The terms of Mayor Poss and Aldermen Stribling and Murphy will be up next year.

Starting in 2014, the Smithville Municipal Elections will be held on the first Thursday in August instead of the third Tuesday in June. The terms of office for the mayor and aldermen will be four years instead of two years, beginning with next year's elections.


Two Involved in Pickup Truck Wreck

June 19, 2013
Dwayne Page
Two Involved in Pickup Truck Wreck

Two people were involved in a pickup truck accident Monday afternoon on Highway 146.

Trooper Jimmy Tisdale of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that 37 year old Larry Murphy was driving north in a 1988 Chevy S-10 pickup when he came up on traffic in front of him which had stopped. Trying to avoid a collision, Murphy swerved to the right but went off the road and struck and split a utility pole. The truck came to rest off the road near a nursery.

According to Trooper Tisdale, Murphy was not injured but a passenger, 41 year old Patsy McCoy was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital. Murphy was charged with driving on a suspended license.

Metro Police Charge Man for Allegedly Pulling Knife on National Guard Recruiter

June 19, 2013
Patrick Counts

Metro Nashville police arrested a man from DeKalb County for aggravated assault after he allegedly pulled a knife on a military recruiter.

24 year old Patrick Counts, was arrested after an incident at the National Guard Recruiting Office at Edge O Lake Drive in Antioch last Tuesday.

Police said he walked into the office around 1 p.m. and inquired about enlisting. A Sergeant, who told police he had prior knowledge of Counts, asked him to leave.

At that point, police said Counts pulled out a pocketknife, unfolded the blade and approached the Sgt. in a "threatening manner." The Sgt. said because of his history with him, he was in fear for his safety.
No one was hurt.

There was another person inside the office at the time, so police arrested him on two counts of aggravated assault.


City Awards Bid for Airport Runway Paving and Apron Expansion

June 18, 2013
Dwayne Page
Cracks in Airport Runway
Airport Runway Crack
Airport Runway to be Resurfaced

Highways Incorporated has been awarded a bid to perform the runway overlay and apron expansion at the Smithville Municipal Airport along with the design and construction of the new infrastructure for the Papi (runway) lights.

The aldermen Monday night approved the bid of Highway's Incorporated at $1,633,738 which was the lowest of the two bids submitted. "We did bid openings for airport bids for the overlay and apron expansion of the runway and also for the Papi lights," said Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson. These are two different grants but they are being bid under one project through our engineer R.W. Armstrong. We only had two bids turned in. Highways Incorporated turned in a bid for the paving of $1,561,653 and $72,130 for the runway lights for a total of $1,633,738. LoJac was the only other bidder for the paving of the runway and apron expansion at $1.9 million and $102,000 for the runway lights for a total of $2,072,000. Obviously Highways Inc. was the low bidder by roughly $400,000. Our engineering firm R.W. Armstrong made the recommendation to go with Highways Incorporated," said Hendrixson.

Last year, the city was approved for a $1.5 million grant to do runway overlay and apron expansion. State grant funding totaled $1,350,000 and the local matching obligation was $150,000. The grant for the design and construction of the Papi infrastructure was $96,300. The city's portion is $4,815. Since the grant does not cover the cost of the paving project, the city has applied for up to $190,000 in additional grant funds. If approved the city would be responsible for a 5% local match.The grants are made available through the Tennessee Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Division.

The airport runway may be closed while the paving project is in progress. The work is expected to begin next month.

Wesley Nokes, Manager of the Smithville Municipal Airport recently told WJLE how the grant funds will be spent. "We're having the runway resurfaced and we are expanding the ramp and our parking area at the airport. We're repairing a spot of existing asphalt that has deteriorated probably due to an underground spring. The design for all that, the engineering portion of it, we got a grant for that and then we got a separate grant for the actual construction, the asphalt for the runway, the asphalt for the apron extension and to repair the older asphalt," said Nokes.

"Another grant is for our PAPI lights, which are lights at the end of the runway that let the pilots know if they are on the right guide slope and if they are too high or too low coming in for approach for landing," said Nokes. "The wiring that supplies the electricity for these lights is extremely old. It was probably put in during the early 1970s. Its now dilapidated and corroded. This grant will replace all that wiring from the main hangar building out to each end of the runway, "he said.

In other business, the aldermen voted 4-1 Monday night to approve the new $7.8 million budget on second and final reading following a public hearing in which there was no public comment. Alderman Shawn Jacobs voted against the budget apparently because it does not include funding for at least one additional paid full time firefighter position.

The budget includes a 1.5% pay raise for all city employees including salaried personnel. Some employees will also get step increases depending upon where they fall in the wage scale for their department.

The city property tax rate will remain the same at .6490 cents per one hundred dollars of assessed value and there will be no increases in water or sewer rates.

Water customers will continue to pay $5.00 for the first one thousand gallons of water usage plus $5.00 for each additional one thousand gallons of usage. Outside city rates are $7.50 for the first one thousand gallons of water usage plus $7.50 for each additional one thousand gallons of usage.

The rate for city sewer customers, under the new budget, will continue to be $5.00 for the first one thousand gallons of usage plus $5.00 per thousand gallons thereafter. In addition, all sewer customers will continue to pay the $3.62 cent per month flat rate usage fee.

The rate the city charges the DeKalb Utility District for water is $2.05 per thousand gallons but will increase beginning with January 1, 2014 sales. The rate will be determined in a new contract between the city and the DUD, which has not yet been negotiated.

The new city budget takes effect July 1.


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