Local News Articles

County Commission Adopts New Budgets and Tax Increase, Rejects School Board Plan

August 8, 2011
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County property owners will have to ante up a little more when their tax bill comes due this fall.

The county commission Monday night, by a vote of 12-2, increased the overall property tax rate to $1.62 cents per $100 of assessed value, as recommended by the budget committee. That's almost a ten cent increase above the new certified tax rate of $1.5214 set by the state after reappraisal this year. A nickel of the tax hike will go to schools and the other five cents will be for the county general fund. County commissioners Jimmy Poss and Jerry Adcock voted against the ten cent tax increase.

Supporters, including a large group of educators, showed up during a public hearing prior to the special meeting to back the school board's request for a bigger tax hike for schools. Several members of the audience addressed the county mayor and commissioners asking them to do more for education. But their pleas failed to win over any support for the plan as the commission unanimously rejected the school board's proposal and instead adopted a plan put forth by the budget committee, which gives schools more money, but not as much as the board of education had sought.



By a vote of 14 to 0, the county commission turned thumbs down on the school board's request for passage of a revised budget which County Mayor Mike Foster said included an 11.54 cent tax hike for schools and an additional $169,000 in funding from the sales tax/sinking fund. Four members of the commission, Marshall Ferrell, Bradley Hendrix, Jimmy Poss, and Jack Barton declared that while they had a conflict, they were representing their constituents and voting their conscience on the school budget. Ferrell, Hendrix, and Poss work for the school system and Barton's wife is a teacher. The school board wanted the extra money from the proposed tax increase to fund some new positions in the school system without having to dip deeper in reserve funds to pay for them..

Instead, the county commission voted 13-1 to adopt the consolidated budget, as recommended by the budget committee which includes an overall ten cent tax increase. Seventh district commissioner Jimmy Poss voted against it. The five cent increase for schools equates to about $210,000 which is expected to be enough to cover pay raises for school personnel.

Among those speaking in support of the school board's request for more money during the public hearing was Mandy Dakas, a teacher at Northside Elementary School. "As a teacher and mother, I definitely have a vested interest in the welfare of our school system. We are and have always been a county that cares about our children. But we only care as far as giving the minimum amount to get by. My whole life I have heard of how proud we are to have such low property taxes, but I can tell you that mentality has made the children and youth of our county suffer over and over again, decade after decade. I hear of statements such as, "I've never had a child in this school system. Why should I have to pay for it?". And all I can think is...You may have never needed the service of the fire department or police department, but your taxes pay those services. And I'll bet you will be praying that they are certified and know what they're doing if and when you need their service. The fact is...the education of our children will directly impact the future workforce and economy of DeKalb County," said Dakas

"So whether it's a property tax increase or a wheel tax or something else, we need to work together as a county and put education at the forefront of everything we do. There is no project more important! So please know that this is not a "we versus them" type of statement. Everyone knows that these are hard times for many people and that tough decisions have to be made. Just please understand that when there are state and federal mandates that require each local education agency to enforce certain teaching methods or observations, and we are not funded in such a way to meet those needs, then we are defeated before we even begin,' said Dakas

In addition to Dakas, others addressing the county commission and county mayor in support of schools during the public hearing were Lindy Jenkins, John Pryor, Beth Gill, Leah Ingram, Jordan Wilkins, David Graham, Danny Parkerson, Luke Willoughby, James Hale, George Sperry, and Jamie Cantrell. Director of Schools Mark Willoughby also made one last request for approval of the school board's revised budget.

Former sixth district county commissioner Danny McGinnis, who claimed he was speaking for the concerned taxpayers, said now is not the time to be raising taxes. "I'm here tonight for the concerned taxpayers of the county. Look at your town. Our town. How many businesses has left?. All your ideas (school board) are very good. But this is not the time for a tax raise. With people losing their homes, losing jobs, losing businesses, the county commission does not have the taxes coming in to give you all what you want. I'm speaking for the concerned taxpayers, the ones who are on a fixed income. When you raise their taxes, what are they going to do? They might lose their homes because they can't pay the taxes. Their social security is not going up. Look how many homes around DeKalb County are for sale. What's that the cause of? Economic slowdown," said McGinnis.

Under its revised budget plan, the school board had proposed to add a new fifth grade teaching position at Northside Elementary School (which will be funded); an additional math teacher at DeKalb County High School; an assistant band teacher; a support staff site coordinator at DCHS; a special education teacher at DCHS; and three new assistant principals (one at each DeKalb West, Northside Elementary, and Smithville Elementary School. The budget also sought to add local 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. Positions which were originally proposed but later dropped from the budget were a new physical education teacher at Northside Elementary School; an instructional coach; and two assistant soccer coaches.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby told WJLE Monday night that even though the school board's proposed revised budget was rejected by the county commission, some of these positions may still be filled using reserve funds this year.

Under the consolidated budget adopted by the county commission, certified and non-certified school employees will get a pay raise. The spending plan includes a 3.2% increase 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).

Prior to the vote, Chuck Cagle of the Tennessee School Boards Association, who represents the DeKalb County Board of Education as legal counsel, asked the county commission to fully fund the school board's request. "We are now facing in education things that we've never had to face before and things about which we have very little control like the state diploma project which was adopted by the state board of education about two years ago but there was no state appropriation to go with it. The cost of that is significant. That proposal added a requirement for math and science and we now find ourselves trying to meet that requirement in order that the high school seniors in this county can meet the minimum graduation requirements of schools," said Cagle.

"Next I want to get to the evaluation system that's been adopted by the state. Every school principal in your district has just watched the evaluations that he or she must perform increase by ten times. Prior to this evaluation system we evaluated tenured teachers twice in ten years and we evaluated probationary teachers for the first three years until they were eligible for tenure. Now, every teacher in DeKalb County schools will be evaluated annually, tenured teachers four times a year and probationary teachers six times a year. There is absolutely no way to accomplish that with the current staff that you have. This proposal (school board budget) calls for the appointment of assistant principals and those folks are vital to accomplishing the rules and regulations along with the goals that the state has sent down in it's evaluation plan. It's not optional, you have to get it done," said Cagle

"The cost of fuel has gone up significantly and the cost of utilities and textbooks is going up as we speak. We're also faced with testing requirements and graduation requirements under No Child Left Behind and training students who don't have proficiency in the English Language. Our drop out rate is always a concern. None of this gets any cheaper from year to year," according to Cagle

"As a percentage of the budget over the past ten years or so, DeKalb County schools takes less and less in property taxes. It may take half the sales tax but that's by statute. The Tennessee Code says that 50% of all sales tax collected has to go to the education enterprise. But their share of the county property tax continues to decline. Yet we are faced with a continuing escalation in all of our charges. For many years and several years in a row, we've balanced the school system's budget using their reserve account. Balancing their budget using the savings account. The budget you have before you is not a Christmas tree. It's not filled full of ornaments. They have asked for the basics. The budget that the DeKalb County Board of Education has presented to you is reasonable. Yes, it restores some of that property tax funding that they have lost over the years. It pays for some things the state has mandated and it gives children in this district an educational opportunity to which they deserve," said Cagle.

County Mayor Mike Foster, prior to the vote on the consolidated budget, explained to the county commission why the budget committee felt a need to recommend a tax increase, yet not go along with the school board's request."With much discussion, the budget committee found it necessary and advisable to call for an increase in the property tax levy. The tax levy resolution and the consolidated budget document increases the property tax levy to $1.62 per $100 of assessed value and reflects a 9.86 cent increase from the equalized rate of $1.5214 cents and was only considered after making projections and considering long term financial stability. The driving force behind the increase was anticipated future requirements in meeting the school maintenance of effort as well as meeting the local match portion for the state's BEP funding formula," said Foster.

"The consolidated 2012 budget document changes the school board's approved general purpose school funds budget only by lowering the amount of local revenues requested by the school board, which was above what the budget committee deemed necessary. Although the budget committee submitted a tax rate resolution which increases the tax levy for the general purpose school fund by five cents on an equalized basis of seven cents when compared to the prior year. The budget committee believes that expenditures in the general purpose school fund budget which has been approved by the school board cannot be sustained over a long term basis unless the board of education takes immediate steps to correct deficiencies. The budget committee made no effort in trying to identify expenditure cuts which should be the responsibility of the school board and believe that non recurring revenues are being used for recurring expenses," continued Foster.

In addition to addressing the school spending plan, County Mayor Foster said the consolidated budget also includes a five cent increase for the county general fund. "The consolidated budget document also increases the levy for the general fund by five cents. A pay scale system was presented by the sheriff and implemented into the budget in order to maintain qualified law enforcement personnel with longevity pay for the sheriff's department being cut out. Pay raises for county employees are budgeted at $1,000 per year with spending cuts being made by office holders in order to offset some of the additional expenses. Increases in utilities, worker comp, liability insurance are included with particular emphasis on utilities which is a best estimate due to the anticipated occupation of the new county administration building. Although the budget projects a decline in cash fund balances for the general fund, the budget committee does not believe the decline will be as steep as presented. The largest outlays are unknown such as ambulance service revenues and expenditures as well as declines in revenues due to the recession but the budget committee is confident that actions taken in prior budget years have been successful and will carry the county through the current economic downturn and projects fund stability within two budget cycles. The budget committee recommends approval of the consolidated budget and rejection of the school budget as approved for the general purpose school fund," said Foster

The new property tax rate as adopted by the county commission breaks down as follows:
County General: 83 cents
Highway/Public Works: 3 cents
General Capital Projects- 9 cents
Debt Service-12 cents
General Purpose Schools- 55 cents

The solid waste fund does not receive any property tax money. The fund is supported by revenues derived from payment-in-lieu of taxes, local option sale taxes, hotel-motel tax, bank excise tax and wholesale beer tax, etc. Up until two years ago, the solid waste fund was supported by a portion of the property tax rate. Since then the tax rate previously designated for solid waste, 20 cents, has been added to the general fund.

One cent of the tax rate generates $42,389 in local money with a 5.85% delinquency rate figured into the equation.

The new budget includes a new four tiered salary pay scale for employees of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department to bring their salaries more in line with other law enforcement agencies in the area. All other full time county employees are budgeted a $1,000 pay raise for the year, which equates to about a 50 cent per hour increase.

Last year, the county budgeted money to fund an animal control officer but that position was not filled. This year funds for that position, $25,000, will be re-allocated to fund a director position at the new county administrative office complex still under construction on South Congress Boulevard. Four county officials from the courthouse, the Register of Deeds, Assessor of Property, Trustee, and County Clerk and their staffs are scheduled to move to their new offices in the old Town and Country Shopping Center location on Thursday, August 18.

The costs to the county for the new administrative building including purchase price and renovation expense is expected to be $3.2 million unless other change orders or add-ons are required before the entire project is finished. The re-payment schedule on the five million dollars borrowed to pay off previous obligations and to purchase and renovate this building is for fifteen years at a locked in rate of three percent. Yearly payments are to be $409,000 compared to $469,000 under the previous six year debt repayment schedule at 5.8%. The county is scheduled to receive $50,000 a year in rental payments from tenants in a portion of the building, including UCHRA. General fund utilities expense for county buildings combined is budgeted to go from $75,000 last year to $150,000 in the new budget. County Mayor Foster said about $50,000 of the increase for utilities is due to the new administrative building.

Three cents of the property tax rate, $127,169 helps support the county highway department along with a mineral severance tax, $25,000, Other than that, Foster said all of the county road department's budget is funded by state allocations, mostly state gas tax revenues

The budget again provides local property tax relief of up to $50 for those who qualify for the state property tax relief program.

Capital projects fund expenses include:

"Motor Vehicles" Ambulance-$80,000 (to re-do an existing ambulance, placing a new chassis with an old box remount)

"Furniture and fixtures" (shopping center building)-$150,000 (carry-over expense from last year)

"Motor vehicles" category for patrol cars and or fire truck- $80,000 (money allocated for any emergency vehicle needed during the year)

"Law enforcement equipment" fire department- $31,000 (carry-over expense from last year to be used to purchase an older model equipment truck for the county fire department)

County Fire Chief Donny Green's request for $180,000 to purchase a new fire pumper to replace the Midway engine which is a 1979 model will not be met for now. The truck has not been included in the budget. But in addition to an older model equipment truck, the department may also get to fund replacement of a portion of turnout gear and breathing cylinders.

"Other construction" is caution lights- $30,000 (to purchase and install caution lights at the intersection of State Highway 83 and U.S. 70 near Kilgore's Restaurant)

"Building Construction" Administration Building- $1,300,000 (carry over-expense from last year- About $700,000 to $800,000 left to be spent from remaining borrowed funds to finish rehab construction work on county administrative building)

"Solid Waste Equipment"- $145,000 (to purchase roll back garbage truck)

"Other construction" for various projects-$18,000 (for roof repairs to Omega Apparel building and for work to be done to 911 building)
Total: $1,834,000

A total of $183,053 in gifts and contributions to local libraries, which have been previously kept in a bank account, must now be accounted for as a line item in the county general budget for libraries by recommendation of state auditors.

The county commission also Monday night adopted a resolution making appropriations of $133,243 to the following non-profit organizations:

DeKalb Sparks Softball- $150
Upper Cumberland Development District- $3,411
Tennessee Division of Forestry-$1,500
DeKalb County Rescue Squad- $11,500
Plateau Mental Health-$7,180
Families First-$750
Senior Citizens Program-$26,325
DeKalb Soil Conservation District-$29,281
DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce-$15,000
Imagination Library- $7,200
Genesis House- $1,500
DeKalb County Fair- $1,500
WCTE-TV- $5,000
Prospect Incorporated-$12,500
Upper Cumberland Human Resources-$1,200
UCHRA Assessment-Homemaker Aide, etc-$9,245

Dues and memberships:
Upper Cumberland Tourism Association- $300
Tennessee County Services Association- $1,223
Tennessee County Officials Association- $1,985
Tennessee County Sheriff's Association- $1,500
Tennessee County Commissioners Association- $1,350
Upper Cumberland Development District- $3,000
Association of Tennessee Valley Governments- $400
Total dues and memberships- $9,758

Ferrell Charged with Two Counts of Theft

August 8, 2011
Dwayne Page
Scott A. Ferrell
Gale Edward Winne, Jr.
Jamie Ray Myers
Lisa Rosita Seibers

A Smithville man is charged with two counts of theft after allegedly taking things from two residences on Chapman Hollow Road last month.

Sheriff Patrick Ray reports that 47 year old Scott A. Ferrell of Cookeville Highway, Smithville is charged with two counts of theft of property over $500. His bond is $10,000 and he will be in court September 22.

According to Sheriff Ray Ferrell allegedly stole several items from a residence on Chapman Hollow Road on Tuesday, July 26. Items taken included a turning plow, six foot drag disk, chains and booms, with a total estimated value of $610. The drag disk was later recovered from a local metal recycling business.

On the same day, July 26, Sheriff Ray said that Ferrell allegedly stole several items from another residence on Chapman Hollow Road including a tobacco trailer, MTD 38 inch cut lawn mower, two hay rings, and a lift, with a total estimated value of $775. The tobacco trailer was later located but due to damage, it could not be recovered.

Meanwhile, 48 year old Gale Edward Winne, Jr. of Smithville is charged with vandalism. His bond totals $1,500 and he will be in court on August 18.

Sheriff Ray reports that on Sunday, August 7 deputies were called to a residence on Dearman Street where a man had kicked open a door and entered the home. Upon arrival and speaking to the homeowner and others at the residence, the officers found the man, Winne, inside the kitchen area. Winne allegedly admitted to kicking open the garage door, which caused damage to the door and the frame. According to Sheriff Ray, the incident arose due to an argument among persons at the residence. Winne became angry, left the home, but returned later. When no one answered the door as he knocked, Winne kicked it in. The homeowner said the door is valued at $150.

36 year old Jamie Ray Myers of Soddy Daisy is charged with public intoxication, the illegal use of inhalants and violation of the habitual motor vehicle offender law. His bond totals $8,500 and he will be in court on August 18.

Sheriff Ray reports that on Tuesday, August 2 a deputy was called to check out a suspicious person who was reportedly knocking on doors, telling people he had run out of gas. Upon arrival, the officer found the man, Myers, at Terrell Road and Highway 70 east. Myers told the deputy that he had run out of gas here while enroute from Dunlap to Whitwell. Myers was unsteady on his feet and his speech was slurred. The officer asked Myers if he had consumed any drugs or alcohol. Myers replied that he had been huffing paint thinner. Due to his actions and for his safe being, Myers was placed under arrest for public intoxication. Myers gave consent to search his vehicle and the officer found a two liter bottle of a clear watery liquid and a plastic bag containing a clear liquid, which Myers claimed was paint thinner. The deputy also asked Myers to produce his drivers license, but Myers said he didn't have one because he is an habitual offender. A computer check revealed that on March 18, 2002 Myers was convicted as an habitual offender in Hamilton County.

34 year old Lisa Rosita Seibers of Doyle, Tennessee is charged with a second offense of driving under the influence and driving on a revoked license. Her bond is $6,000 and she will be in court September 1.

Sheriff Ray reports that on Sunday, August 7 a deputy responded to a location on Highway 70 east at the request of a TWRA officer, who had been following a vehicle with a flat tire. After the automobile was stopped, the deputy spoke to the driver, Seibers. Her speech was slurred and she was very unsteady on her feet. When asked if she had anything to drink or had taken any medications that day, Seibers replied no but added that she had taken a xanax and consumed some alcohol the night before. Seibers submitted to and performed poorly on several field sobriety tasks. She also submitted to a blood alcohol test. Seibers had a prior DUI charge in 2010.

New Class 6 ISO Rating for County Expected to Result in Lower Homeowners Insurance Premiums

August 7, 2011
Dwayne Page
County Fire Chief Donny Green
County Mayor Mike Foster
Donny Green Addressing Fellow County Firefighters About New ISO Class 6 Rating
County Firefighters

The Insurance Services Office (ISO) is upgrading the DeKalb County Fire Department's service area rating from a Class 9 to a Class 6, effective November 1 which is expected to result in lower homeowners insurance premiums for many families across the county.

County Fire Chief Donny Green made the announcement Sunday afternoon during a meeting of county volunteer firefighters at the department's main station on King Ridge Road. County Mayor Mike Foster was also present for the announcement.

Chief Green issued the following prepared statement for the local news media:

The fire-protection services of DeKalb County Fire Department's entire service area, as evaluated and rated by Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO), has improved from Class 9 to Class 6. In 2009, the department improved the rating for residents of the cities of Liberty and Dowelltown. In March 2011, the department underwent another intensive and comprehensive ISO survey to collect and evaluate the fire protection capabilities of the remainder of the county. On Friday, August 5 the department was officially notified of the rating improvement.

Effective November 1, 2011 all areas serviced by the DeKalb County Fire Department will be classified as an ISO Class 6 protection area. If your property is within 5 road miles of one of the department's eleven fire stations and a fire hydrant or credited alternative water source is located within 1,000 feet of your property, you will receive a Class 6 Protection Rating. This improvement will save residents in these areas an estimated $200 annually on their homeowner's insurance premiums. This rating does not affect the current ratings for residents in the cities of Smithville and Alexandria.

DeKalb County Mayor Mike Foster said "I am tremendously proud of the level of fire protection and efficiency provided by our fire department, water system, and 911 Center. The fire department, as evident by this evaluation, has made significant strides in improving fire protection in DeKalb County's communities. The financial impact of this new rating is very important, but just as important is the fact that our communities should enjoy the reassurance that the DeKalb County Fire Department is providing a level of service, using an all-volunteer staff, that many communities would love to have. Residents and property owners of DeKalb County should know that their dollars are spent very efficiently. The hard work put forth by our fire department has resulted in this improved rating that positively affects everyone, especially those living on fixed income." In 2009, Mayor Foster commended the fire department for improving the ISO rating for the cities of Dowelltown and Liberty and stated that " our ultimate goal is to improve our fire protection ratings countywide." With this recent announcement, that goal has been achieved.

DeKalb County Fire Chief Donny Green pointed out that this rating improvement was no small task. "I want to personally recognize our department's officers and members who made enormous time sacrifices to make this happen. In addition, it took support and assistance from the water utility districts that serve DeKalb County, the DeKalb County 911 Emergency Communications District, Mayor Mike Foster, and the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners. Our ability to improve our PPC classification was positively influenced by our increase in training activities, updated equipment, the DeKalb County 911 Emergency Communication District's efficiency in receiving and handling fire alarms, and the ability of our water systems to deliver sufficient water flows. DeKalb County will become one of only 205 fire departments in Tennessee to achieve a Class 6 rating according to the latest information from ISO. Of the 1,011 fire departments in Tennessee, the majority, 311 are ranked as Class 9 fire departments according to ISO. This is a huge step," said Chief Green.

ISO collects information on municipal fire-protection efforts in communities throughout the United States. In each of those communities, ISO analyzes the relevant data using its Fire Suppression Rating Schedule. The company then assigns a Public Protection Classification from 1 to 10. Class 1 generally represents superior property fire protection, and Class 10 indicates that the area's fire-suppression program doesn't meet ISO's minimum criteria.

ISO will advise its subscribing insurers of this classification change, The rating becomes effective November 1, 2011. DeKalb County homeowners should check with their insurance companies after that date to make sure these savings are applied.

County Commission to Decide on School Budget Monday Night

August 6, 2011
Dwayne Page
Mark Willoughby

As Monday night approaches, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and members of the board of education are hoping that the county commission will see fit to increase local funding for schools.

The county budget committee is asking the county commission to adopt a new school budget which gives the school system a five cent increase in the property tax rate which equates to $210,000. But Willoughby, in an interview with WJLE Thursday said that would only be enough to cover proposed pay raises. "The five cents basically takes care of the 1.6% raise (local match) that the state is giving to all certified employees. We as a system are giving a 1.6% raise to all certified employees. We as a system are also proposing to give a 3.2% salary increase to all non-certified employees. On the part of the certified personnel, that (local match) is on the state portion of the salaries. That is not on the state portion plus the local portion. So the five cent increase that the budget committee has proposed to the full county commission just takes care of the pay raises," said Willoughby

Because the school budget is so complex, Willoughby said it is difficult for many people to understand. "We have money coming from many different sources. We have grants. We have local funds, federal funds. We became aware just a few days ago that we are going to get another grant but we don't yet have the specifics of how much that is going to be but it could be up to around $200,000. We have a Jobs Grant which I'm concerned about in this budget. The Jobs money in this grant is over $660,000 but I doubt very seriously if that will be in the budget next year. So if we use over $900,000 of our reserves to balance our budget this year and the $660,000 Jobs Grant money goes away next year, then we're looking at close to $1.6 million (needed to balance the budget next year) if everything stays the same. I do want to say though that revenues have come in more than expenditures in the past, which has been good. We were able to end our school year this year with more than $700,000 to the good. But each year, if you didn't have to use your reserves to balance the budget, it could be like building up a savings account. We do have reserves in there for things like if we had to have a roof in an emergency situation, we could use those reserves for that. But we do not need to use our reserves for day to day operations like we've been having to do. It has become a tradition for us to use reserves to balance our budget each year. I wish we didn't have to do that," said Willoughby

In recent years, the county has been budgeting more money ($1,540,000 this year) from the special school sinking fund or local sales tax money for school operation. Willoughby said he believes the sinking fund should be reserved for capital projects. "We really don't like to use the sinking fund for our general operating budget. We would like to use that for capital outlay projects. We have two schools that definitely need a new roof. Of course the Smithville Elementary cafeteria got one (roof) because of the May storm damage but that was from the insurance. But DeKalb Middle School and DeKalb West School are both in need of a roof. As long as we use our sinking fund for operating expenses, its difficult to hold that money back for capital outlay projects. We would like to have a budget where we do not have to use reserves," said Willoughby

Willoughby said that while the school system has received an increase in local funding from sales tax money and in the state allocation of Basic Education Program (BEP) funds in recent years, the percentage of local property tax money designated for schools has declined. Based on per capita statistics, Willoughby said he believes DeKalb County can afford to do better for schools. "Out of fifteen counties in the surrounding area, Van Buren, Pickett, Fentress, White, Macon, Clay, DeKalb, Cannon, Jackson, Overton, Warren, Putnam, Cumberland, Smith, and Wilson, DeKalb County ranks ninth in per capita income at $17,306. Looking at the property tax rate, we rank twelfth at $1.46. The next county up from us happens to be Overton county at $1.80. Our sales tax rate is a little bit higher than their's (Overton county). Their's is 9.5% and ours is 9.75% but they have a $30 wheel tax and I don't know where that $30 wheel tax goes to. But based on property taxes, if you have a $100,000 piece of property in DeKalb County, you're paying $365 in property taxes. If you have a $100,000 piece of property in Overton County, you're paying $450 in property taxes. In Clay county, its $775 (property taxes) on a $100,000 piece of property. I do want to point out though that one cent (property tax rate) in DeKalb County brings in more money than some of these other counties but vice versa, one penny in other counties brings in a lot more than in DeKalb County," said Willoughby

Director Willloughby said he believes the county should appropriate a greater share of local property tax dollars for schools. "In DeKalb County, of the tax rate and assessments for 2010-11, the percentage that the school gets is 32.88%. But when you go back to 1993, the school system received 67.22% of the local property tax in the budget. In the year 2000 it was 60%. In 2003 it was 48.47%. In 2007 it was 38.42%. This is a percentage of the property tax rate and assessment for schools. I do want to point out though that more money is actually coming into the school system and the county because of the increase that one cent of the tax rate brings in. But our increase (for schools) has actually come from sales tax not from the property tax increase. So the more people buy, the more money we get. So that's where these percentages come from. This just shows how it (percentage of property tax fundsfor schools) have decreased over the years. Property tax is one of the things that is consistent. Sales tax is not consistent. We feel like the school system should be getting more of the property tax dollars while we do realize that the school system, over the years has received more sales tax dollars as the sales tax has increased. We (schools) get two thirds percent of the sales tax," said Willoughby.

As for schools, County Mayor Mike Foster insists that the county is adequately funding schools with local money at more than $4.5 million dollars and is exceeding the state's BEP required local match for schools by close to $200,000.

"Schools have gone from over $11- million dollars nine or ten years ago to $19.9 million dollars today and that does not include the $2.8 million federal budget that goes in there for the cafeteria fund," said Foster.

The General Purpose Schools budget totals $19,932,993. The property tax rate for schools as recommended by the budget committee is 55 cents per $100 of assessed value, five cents more than last year but not as much as the school board has requested. In addition to the $2-million 331-thousand 429 for schools generated by the 55 cent tax rate, the county commission is expected to transfer $1-million 540 thousand from the local purpose tax fund (sinking/local sales tax fund) to help operate schools this year along with $570,645 to fund the school debt service for payment on the Northside Elementary School and roof at Smithville Elementary School. The school system also gets $55,954 from Trustee's Collections (prior years), $30,309 from Clerk and Masters collections (prior years), $12,823 in interest and penalty, $8,603 in pick up taxes, and $1,000 in bank excise taxes. The total appropriation of local funds for schools is $4,550,763. The state BEP allocation for schools is $13-million 198-thousand dollars, an increase from last year's budget of $12,508,000. The school system also receives, according to County Mayor Foster, some $2.8 million in federal funding in addition to local and state appropriations.

Director Willoughby is still holding out hope that the county commission Monday night will adopt the board of education's revised budget proposal for schools, which asks for a larger tax increase than the proposal offered by the county budget committee.

Even if the county commission doesn't approve the school board's revised budget, Willoughby said pay raises and some new positions could still be funded, while other needs would have to wait. "My hope is that the county commission would pass the revised budget that we sent over. In that revised budget, we had already taken out, in some particular situations, monies in that revised budget. One of the places we had taken out was the county wide instructional coach. The P.E. teacher at Northside Elementary, we had taken that particular spot out. We had also taken the (assistant) soccer coach (positions) out. We're doing a lot of renovation with the chemistry/science lab at the high school. We had added $250,000 in the budget for the science lab at the time when we did that (planned it). We did not know (at that time) exactly how much that was going to cost. We now know that's going to be less than the $250,000. We have actually taken $250,000 out of capital outlay (for the project)," said Willoughby.

Some new positions, Willoughby said, are almost a must, given new state requirements being imposed on local school systems. "Let me give you an example of how this year is different than past years. A significant amount of money is in the budget this year, which hasn't been in the budget before and that's for three new assistant principal positions. That's estimated at close to $230,000 and that's not talking about the take home pay. By the time we meet the matching requirements we have to meet, the retirement with the benefits, insurance and everything, that is where we come up with the $230,000. Elementary principals, such as Smithville Elementary, (are especially being affected by new evaluation requirements). Last year, Mr. (Bill) Tanner had to do twenty eight observations of his staff. This year with the new guidelines, he tells me that he will have to do two hundred and eight observations. There's just no way that can take place. There's no way he can do that without help. I think we should have had assistant principals a long time ago, but these are particular things which have come down and are mandated that we have to do to get those observations taken care of," said Willoughby.

Willoughby said that the three new assistant principals, including one at Northside, Smithville Elementary, and at DeKalb West Schools, can help ease the burden of conducting those extra observations and evaluations.

As for other new positions, Willoughby said "At the high school, we asked for one new position for a site coordinator. That's basically to take care of on-line dual credit courses and distance learning classes. We have thirteen different classes that are going on in the lab and there's a minimum of sixty students. Try to take care of that and increase the dual enrollment and increase the on-line classes. That's the only way we're going to meet those needs. We also have students who are taking Spanish III, now that's not a dual credit class, but they're taking the course (on-line) from a class in Cookeville. We had also offered Advanced Placement (AP) History so students in Cookeville could take our History class (on-line). We're trying to do more of that back and forth which helps out both school systems. Financially it helps out our system by not having to hire a full time teacher to do that. That's what a lot of rural school systems are having to do in order to ease the budget demands. What is needed at schools now is completely different than what was required as recent as eight or ten years ago such as our technology requirements, our on-line courses, and our dual credit classes. Next year, its going to be a requirement that all students take four math classes, one math class per year. So by doing that we will have to have another math teacher in there. This year with the way the budget is, if we can get by one more year without doing that (adding a math teacher) we will but its not the best for the children. What we try to propose in a budget to send to the county commission is what is best for children. I don't have the exact numbers but I think since 2003-04 to today, we have increased in enrollment by probably over 400 students. That requires a lot of money. For example, math books this year cost an average of about eighty dollars so with 130 more students, that gets over $10,000. In our budget we do have those three assistant principals but we haven't hired them yet. We had in our budget the one extra teacher at Northside Elementary because we thought we were going to have to have that for numbers (due to an increase in the number of students). I can tell you now we have to have that teacher and we've already hired that particular teacher. As far as the other things in the budget we haven't made the new hires yet until after we get our budget passed. But we feel that what we have in this budget is extremely important," said Willoughby.

The school board initially adopted a tentative budget requesting a seventeen cent property tax rate increase for schools to fund pay raises for personnel and to add some new positions in the new budget. The county budget committee rejected the request for new money, except for pay raises. The committee asked the school board to make cuts in their proposed budget. The school board later revised its proposed budget and brought back a proposal asking for an eleven cent tax increase and more money from the sales tax or sinking fund to meet their budget request. The county budget committee again rejected the proposed spending plan but voted to recommend a consolidated budget that includes a five cent tax increase for schools to send to the county commission. Although neither the budget committee nor the county commission can dictate how the school board spends the money, the proposed five cent tax increase is just enough to cover the proposed pay raises for school personnel.

The overall proposed property tax rate recommended by the county budget committee is $1.62, which is ten cents above the certified tax rate. Five cents of the proposed increase would go for schools and the other nickel would be for the county general fund. County Mayor Foster has said that if the school board's revised budget plan is adopted, the overall property tax rate would have to be $1.72.

The school board has proposed 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)..

The school board, according to its revised plan, seeks to add the following new positions:

A new fifth grade teaching position at Northside Elementary School.
An additional math teacher at DeKalb County High School
An assistant band teacher
A support staff site coordinator at DCHS
A special education teacher at DCHS
Three new assistant principals (one at each DeKalb West, Northside Elementary, and Smithville Elementary School)

The school board's revised budget adds local 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

Also remaining in the spending plan are requests for the following increases:
Textbook adoption (Math)- $40,000
Minimal increase in utility costs- $6,000
Increase in maintenance of plant supplies- $23,000

The county commission will be asked Monday, August 8 to either approve or reject the school board's revised budget request or to approve or reject the county budget committee's recommendation. That special meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. following a public hearing on the proposed budgets and tax rate at 5:00 p.m. in the basement courtroom of the courthouse

Meanwhile, Willoughby and members of the school board are still at odds with County Mayor Foster and members of the county commission over the county's decision in August 2007 to cut the local property tax rate for schools by sixteen cents and to give back to the school system an equal or greater amount of local funding from the sinking or sales tax fund for school operation

That decision by the county commission came after the voters of DeKalb County, in May 2007, approved a referendum, increasing the local option sales tax rate from 1.5% to the maximum level of 2.75%

Some claim they were under the impression that the entire sales tax increase, as approved by the voters in the referendum, would immediately go directly to schools, in addition to the property tax rate that was in place for schools at that time. However Foster said that was never the intent. It was always intended, he said, to be a direct tax swap from property tax to sales tax revenues for schools. While the exact amount of the property tax cut to schools wasn't made specific before the sales tax referendum, Foster insists that it was explained to the public that property tax payers would be getting an overall 19 or 20 cent property tax break, with the passage of the sales tax referendum. "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 was done. That's why you saw a decrease of sixteen cents in the property tax rate for schools at that time (2007)," said Foster.

Foster added that since the sinking fund is only designated for schools, the rest of county government could not legally have taken money from that fund in a tax swap. He said the tax swap could only have been made with schools.

Judge Hands Down Sentences in Criminal Court

August 5, 2011
Dwayne Page
Auston Wood
Nieka (Nikki) Danielle Barrett Patton

A 24 year old man charged in the theft of a truck last November was sentenced in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday after entering a plea in a negotiated settlement.

Auston Wood pleaded guilty to theft under $500 and Judge Leon Burns, Jr. sentenced him to 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to probation except for eight days to serve. He has already served the eight days and has been given jail credit for it.

Wood was arrested by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department on Monday, November 8th, 2010 after he obtained the services of a tow truck operator to haul off a truck for scrap from property on the Cookeville Highway. But what the tow truck operator did not know was that Wood was actually stealing the truck. The value of the truck is $450. According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Wood told the tow truck operator that he had bought the truck and that he wanted to haul it off to a scrap yard on the Cookeville Highway. The truck was already loaded on the wrecker and ready to go when officers arrived. But again, Sheriff Ray stressed that the tow truck operator had no knowledge that Wood was trying to steal the truck.

Meanwhile, 31 year old Nieka (Nikki) Danielle Barrett Patton pleaded guilty to initiating the manufacture of meth. She received an eight year sentence in community corrections. Patton was fined $2,000.

She was arrested by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department on February 12, 2010 after complaints of illegal drug activity at her home. Sheriff Ray said when officers entered the home, they detected an odor of marijuana. After obtaining consent to search, authorities found drugs such as percocets, Xanaxs, marijuana, adderall, methadone, and methamphetamine in Patton's bedroom along with drug paraphernalia such as razors, gravity and digital scales, a pill grinder and rolling papers. While searching an outbuilding, detectives also found a methamphetamine lab, a two liter bottle of a three layer liquid, a gallon of muratic acid, jars of unknown liquids, propane tanks with burners, turkey baster, coffee filters, Pyrex dishes, tubing, funnel, rubber gloves and a duffle bag containing butane fuel, lighter fuel, and a leatherman tool. Patton also had in her bedroom more components of the lab including 14 lithium batteries, coffee filters, and 168 cold tablets that contained pseudoephedrine.

The Sheriff's Department also contacted the Department of Children Services after finding in the home Patton's three children, ages 13, 10 and an infant. The Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force's response truck and an Environmental Cleanup Service were summoned to assist detectives at the scene.

56 year old Susan Jenna Brown pleaded guilty to sale and delivery of a schedule III controlled substance and received a three year sentence in each case to run consecutively for a total of six years in community corrections. The sentences are to also run consecutively with a violation of probation against her. She was fined $2,000

34 year old Gary R. Ashford pleaded guilty to a first offense of driving under the influence. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days with 48 hours to serve. Ashford was fined $365 and he must make restitution. Ashford will lose his license for a period of time and he must also attend an alcohol safety program and undergo an alcohol and drug assessment. He was given credit for four hours served.

Smithville Junior Police Program Receives Donation from Project Hometown Help

August 5, 2011
Dwayne Page
Smithville Junior Police Program Receives Donation from Project Hometown Help

The Smithville Police Department's Junior Police Program has received a donation of $150 from Middle Tennessee Natural Gas Utility District's Project Hometown Help.

Project Hometown Help began in April, 2005 and since that time has distributed more than $1,304,815 to the communities served by the MTUD district. It is funded by the customers of Middle Tennessee Natural Gas Utility District who allow the District to round their monthly bill to the next dollar. Funds collected are allocated back to the areas from which they were contributed to the extent practical.

According to MTUD's "Gaslight News"a total of 213 allocations were made to various agencies and organizations totaling $144,895 through Project Hometown Help from November, 2010 through May, 2011 including $11,929 allocations in DeKalb County

Pictured above: Front Row Left to Right:: Kaden Trapp, Jordan Parker, Ethan Trapp, Canaan Johnson, & Milas Driver

Back Row Left to Right: Detective Brandon Donnell, Officer Bradley Tatrow, Mike Corley, Police Chief Randy Caplinger, Captain Steven Leffew

(Note: misprint on check: Actual donation $150)

Allens Chapel UMC to Host "Freedom to Soar" Seminar for Women

August 5, 2011
Dwayne Page
Jamie Anderson and Carrie Alston

"Freedom to Soar", a Women's Seminar will be held Friday, August 5 from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. and Saturday, August 6 from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. (lunch provided) at the Allen's Chapel United Methodist Church, 1037 Coconut Ridge Road, Smithville.

Inspirational speaker Carrie Alston will be featured along with a Woman at the Well Dramatization and Testimony from Jackie Elliott.

Alston was born in Dothan Alabama to a very poor family. Though they were materially poor, they were rich in their love of God and the church. Her rich spiritual heritage explains her passion and how the Lord has carried her beyond where she was to where she is now. Alston has been in the ministry field for many years as a missionary and an evangelist. She has worked with the widows and orphans in Africa as well as at home teaching and preaching the love of God. She is no stranger to suffering, but it is through the suffering of life and circumstances that Alston has learned obedience. With the Holy Spirit being her teacher, she has found her way to the path of freedom.

The lesson she desires to bring to women is of freedom. There are times we all experience trouble and heartache as we carry burdens that are of our own making or at times of others. The message Alston brings is there is a way out and that is Jesus. In His Word we find His promise of healing and wholeness to body, soul, and spirit. Freedom comes as you give to Him what you have in exchange for what He gives. The call is to the sinner and the saint, whosoever will let him come.

For more information about the seminar, call 615-489-7247

Final Slate of Candidates Set for DTC Election of Directors

August 5, 2011

The final slate of candidates is set for DTC Communications’ election of directors next month.

Directors will be elected in three exchanges, including the Milton (273), Norene (286), and Woodbury (563) exchanges.

Incumbents Charles Dwight Vinson, Terry McPeak, and Greg Rogers are running unopposed in the Milton, Norene, and Woodbury exchanges, respectively.

Voting for directors will take place at the cooperative’s annual meeting on Saturday, Sept. 17. Gates to the DeKalb County Fairgrounds in Alexandria will open at 11:45 a.m., with voting from noon until 4 p.m. The business meeting will begin at 4 p.m. or once the last person in line at that time has voted.

Only DTC members may vote, and each member must present identification. For a single membership, only that individual may vote. Either member of a joint membership may vote, but not both. In the case of a business membership, a business affidavit is required.

Thursday, Sept. 8, will be the last day to make changes to your membership for the 2011 election.
For questions regarding membership and voting guidelines, refer to the by-laws section included in the current DTC phone directory, or call DTC at 615-529-2955.

Local Businessman Indicted Again

August 4, 2011
Dwayne Page
Mark Violet

A little more than thirteen months after being charged with felony theft in a previous case, a Smithville businessman is in trouble with the law again, this time accused of selling a stolen U.S. military issue laser sight .

Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said that Mark Violet of K & M Jewelry has been named in a sealed indictment returned by the DeKalb County Grand Jury charging him with theft over $1,000. Violet is under a $10,000 bond on the charge and will appear for arraignment in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Monday, August 15.

The indictment alleges that on or about the 6th day of January, 2011, Violet knowingly obtained or exercised control over certain property, to wit: a military issue "inoculator" laser sight being over the value of $1,000, the property of the United States Government, constituting the offense of theft.

The case against Violet was presented to the Grand Jury on Monday and a sealed indictment was returned that afternoon. He was arrested on the charge Wednesday and has posted bond.

Violet was charged with two counts of theft over $1,000 in a separate investigation by the Smithville Police Department and DeKalb County Sheriff's Department in June, 2010. Violet was indicted on those charges last December. That case against him remains pending in court.

Five Indicted in Smithville Police Department Undercover Drug Investigation

August 4, 2011
Dwayne Page
Terry Price
Mark Goodson
Travis Malone
Danny Ponder

An undercover drug investigation by the Smithville Police Department has resulted in grand jury sealed indictments against five people.

Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said four of the defendants have been arrested including 50 year old Terry Price, 45 year old Mark Goodson, 29 year old Travis Malone, and 50 year old Danny Ponder, each of them charged with sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance in a school zone.

According to Detective Matt Holmes, a confidential source purchased two dilaudid pills from Malone and Ponder on February 23 and from Goodson on March 4 at a location within one thousand feet of Smithville Elementary School.

Price allegedly sold two dilaudid pills to an undercover source on March 4 at the City Walk Apartments, where he lives which is also within one thousand feet of Smithville Elementary School.

Bond for each is $50,000 and they will appear for arraignment in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Monday, August 15.

The indictments allege that on or about February 23 with Malone and Ponder and March 4 with Goodson and Price, the defendants sold and delivered a schedule II controlled substance within 1,000 feet of the real property that comprises a public or private elementary school, middle school, secondary school, preschool, childcare agency, or public library, recreational center or park.

Meanwhile in a separate investigation, Smithville Police while checking out a suspicious camper where drug activity is alleged to have been occurring, arrested a 37 year old man Tuesday on drug charges and other offenses.

Chief Randy Caplinger reports that Jeff Sanders of Lincoln Street is charged with tampering with evidence, disorderly conduct, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a schedule IV controlled substance (Xanax) and possession of a schedule II controlled substance (Morphine). His bond totals $18,000

Detective Brandon Donnell said that Smithville Police were called to investigate possible drug traffic coming from a camper on West Main near Lincoln Street. "As we pulled up to the camper, Jeff Sanders walked up. We told him that we were there on an investigation. Sanders said it was his camper and that he was fixing to move it. We told him not to move it until the investigation was complete," said Detective Donnell.

"Sanders left and came back with a blue wrecker. He backed the wrecker up to the camper and moved the camper about ten yards until we got him to stop. We then took Sanders into custody. As I was searching Sanders prior to his arrest, I found a syringe in his pocket," said Detective Donnell.

"K-9 officer James Cornelius deployed the K-9 around the camper and the dog hit on the camper. We made entry inside the camper and found a syringe, two small blue pills and a spoon with a melted pill believed to be morphine," according to Detective Donnell.

The wrecker was seized after police identified it as a vehicle used in the commission of a felony stemming from a recent theft investigation.

In addition to K-9 officer Cornelius, Detective Donnell was assisted at the scene by Sergeant Andy Snow, Detective Matt Holmes, Chief Randy Caplinger, and Patrolman David Phillips.


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