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Barrett Group Finds $60,000 in Sales Tax Money for County

May 31, 2018
By: Dwayne Page

A total of $60,777 in local option sales tax funds is being shifted from the cities of Smithville, Liberty, and Dowelltown to the county due to state sales tax reporting errors that were discovered in a review by the Barrett Group of Murfreesboro, who was contracted by the county commission last fall to conduct the study.

During Tuesday night’s county commission meeting, County Mayor Tim Stribling said this money was always due the county instead of the cities but mistakes were made in the reporting of sales tax proceeds from businesses located near the city limits of those three towns.

The portions being taken from the cities and being sent to the county for the last 12 months is $60,568 from Smithville, $199 from Dowelltown, and $9.84 from Liberty. None were found in Alexandria.

“It was not due to any fault of the city or county it was just whoever was reporting their sales tax. It won’t change anything as far as dollar amounts they are reporting but they will now report their portion to the county instead of the city,” said County Mayor Stribling.

City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson made the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen aware of the finding during the May 7 city council meeting.

The review was authorized by the county commission last October when it entered into a Revenue Enhancement Consulting Agreement with the Barrett Group of Murfreesboro.

During a prior workshop, Donna Barrett of the Barrett Group addressed the county commission to explain the proposal.

Under the agreement, the Barrett Group was to conduct a review to make sure the county is getting all the revenues it is due from various state taxes that local businesses pay including sales tax, Hall income tax, beer and liquor tax, excise tax, etc.

For example, if a municipality within the county is found from this review to be erroneously receiving any tax revenues from businesses outside of the municipality, then the mistake will be corrected and the tax money will be re-directed to the county.

The Barrett Group is to receive 50% of any extra revenues generated to the county from this review only for the first year. After the first year, no further fees will be paid to Barrett. Had the review turned up no mistakes, the county would not have owed Barrett anything.

In other business, the commission tabled action on a request by the Board of Education for approval of a budget amendment to receive funds from a U-trust mini-grant in the amount of $15,500.

Grant funds are to be used by the school district as follows:
$5,000 for an End of the Year Celebration
$1,000 for Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week
$7,500 for Monthly Teacher/Staff Morale activities
$1,000 for Teacher of the Year Banquet
$1,000 for Board members Meet and Greet/Open House

Seventh District Commissioner Larry Summers requested that action on this budget amendment be tabled until school administrators address the commission on why the grant funds are being used in this manner.

“We hear all the time teachers need materials to teach. Why are we throwing $15,500 out when it looks like to me it would go a whole lot better for teacher materials? I understand grants but why is there even this category at a time when they’re wanting teacher pay raises and to build new schools and when teachers are constantly having to reach into their own pockets to buy materials? Can any of this money be diverted”, asked Summers?

“Again I understand grants are very specific and it will probably fall under the category of if we don’t use it somebody else will but I would like to ask questions and table this until next month,” added Summers.

On another matter, the commission adopted a budget amendment in the amount of $120,500 by a 12-2 vote that was previously tabled which would allow the Board of Education to use unexpected new funds from the state for the purpose of helping cover the district’s health insurance costs.

Last fall, the Board of Education voted to add another $50 per month to each teacher who has health insurance through the school system to help ease their burden of soaring out of pocket costs.

A few county commissioners felt that the school board should divide this extra money from the state and give it to teachers to further help them with their out of pocket expense for health insurance.

However, Fifth district commissioner Anita Puckett said Director of Schools Patrick Cripps informed her that this new money from the state is a one-time allocation and non-recurring and it could not be spent directly on teachers in this manner.

In a letter to County Mayor Stribling, Director Cripps wrote that “this money was sent for an increase in the insurance. This money was based on the amount of people who left the limited plan to go to a higher cost plan. This was money that was sent to help school districts pay for the cost difference we incurred between the limited and higher cost plan,” wrote Cripps.

In his monthly sales tax report, County Mayor Stribling said local option sales tax for the month of April for DeKalb County was $64, 017. The net collections for the month of April for DeKalb County was $357,369 which is up over collections for April, 2017 which was $342, 329.




Deadline Approaching for August Write-In Candidates

May 30, 2018
By: Dwayne Page

Contested races for county and city mayor, write-in candidates in Alexandria, and nine candidates for governor highlight the ballot for the August 2 elections.

Elections are scheduled in all four of the county’s cities with the mayor’s race contested in three of those towns, including a ballot of mayoral write-in candidates in Alexandria. In addition the county mayor’s race is contested along with the race for sheriff, road superintendent, circuit court clerk and all seven county commission seats. One of three school board seats will also be contested. State primary elections are set for Governor, U.S. Senate, Congress in the 6th district, Tennessee Senate District 17, Tennessee House 40 and 46 and each party’s state executive committee positions.

Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley said his office is gearing up for a busy summer in preparation for all the August elections.

“Letters have already been sent to Smithville property rights voters and we should have an official ballot we can send out in the very near future,” Stanley said. “Smithville property rights voters can only vote in the city race by paper ballots and this, of course, has no impact on their voting early or at the polls in the county general and state primary elections.”

In addition, Stanley said the deadline to be a “write-in” candidate for any of the local races is Noon June 13.

“We already have two-write in candidates for mayor in Alexandria and two write-in candidates for aldermen in Alexandria,” Stanley said. The mayor candidates are incumbent Bennett Armstrong and challenger Donna Davis. The other write-in candidates are Shane Blair, an incumbent, for a full four-year term and Bridgette Rogers, for a two-year term that fills a vacancy.

Stanley said a complete official ballot will be available in the coming days and will be published at www.dekalbelections.com and on wjle.com.

Meanwhile, early voting in the August elections is set for July 13 through July 28 (with exact hours to be announced later). The last day to register to vote is July 3 and that applies also to property rights voters.




Four Seasons Fire Hall Project Delayed Again (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

May 30, 2018
By: Dwayne Page

Another delay in the construction of a new fire hall in the Four Seasons Community.

The county commission has again decided to re-bid the project after offers in the first two rounds of bidding came in too high. But this time, the county may alter the bid specifications and change engineers.

“I think they deserve a fire hall and we’ve told them (community) we’d like to build a fire hall there but I think it’s costly. I think we need to re-draw it, re-think it, and re-bid it. My suggestion is for us to take a look at the drawings and specs again and maybe have it re-drawn. I’ll get with (County Fire Chief) Donny (Green) to see if there is anything that can be cut out and we’ll re-bid it. I want to do a fire hall but I want to take care of our money too,” said County Mayor Tim Stribling during Tuesday night’s County Commission meeting.

Last week three companies submitted bids to build a new fire hall in the Four Seasons Community but they were all much higher than the best bid the county received during the first round of bidding on the project in March.

The latest bids were opened for the fire hall Thursday morning, May 24. Triton Construction of Rockvale had the lowest base bid at $257,000 with two deductive alternates totaling $19,200 (deleting graveling and leveling the parking area and deleting external stairs and lowering the walls). Quality Builders of Sparta submitted a base bid of $278,060 with no deductive alternates and Preston Brothers of Woodbury offered a base bid of $285,300 with two deductive alternates totaling $27,690 (deleting graveling and leveling the parking area and deleting external stairs and lowering the walls).

During the first round on March 29 two bids were received including one for $284,000 from Preston Brothers of Woodbury (minus $11,000 if the county put the gravel on the parking lot) and $197,000 from FTM Contracting of Cookeville (deductive alternate of $2,400).

The county commission, during its regular monthly meeting on April 23, voted to re-bid the project because the first bids received were too high.

County Mayor Stribling said two local builders had come to him recently inquiring about the project but neither submitted a bid

“Would there be an option of the county bidding this out? We have a building committee. Could they sub it out and build it,” asked Second District Commissioner Jimmy Midgett?

“That’s a possibility but anything (project) over $25,000 that the county spends you’ve got to have an engineer or architect according to Tennessee Code Annotated,” replied County Mayor Stribling.

“I can get with Donny (Green) and see if there are some things we can cut out. This is a two bay fire hall. We might could look at a one bay fire hall. You could still have a one bay fire hall with a restroom,” said Stribling.

“There are no frills. Its a metal building with steel construction and concrete floors,” said County Fire Chief Green.

“I am concerned about this because its in my and Commissioner Jerry Adcock’s district and for four years this has been on-going trying to get something constructed. This is affecting our ISO rating. I worry if we keep putting this off the bids are going to continue to get higher. We’re four years into this and not a brick has been laid,” said Fifth District Commissioner Anita Puckett.

“I know we need to look toward the future but we need to look at getting them something we can afford. I think it needs to be a one bay fire hall but it does need a bathroom in it,” added Sixth District Commissioner Betty Atnip.

According to County Mayor Stribling, current plans call for the fire hall to be 40’ x 55’ in size consisting of two bays, a restroom, shower, and a small meeting room. He said while the plans do not include any frills it will be a turnkey project with all the work including construction, concrete pad, septic tank, etc all to be done under one contract.

A new fire station at Four Seasons would be the 12th station in the county operated by the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department. The other fire halls are on Short Mountain Highway, Midway Community, Belk, Keltonburg, Cookeville Highway, Austin Bottom Community, Liberty, Temperance Hall, Main Station, Johnson Chapel, and Blue Springs.




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