Local News Articles

Fire Guts Home in Wolf Creek Community

July 13, 2011
Dwayne Page
Donny Green Photo

A Wednesday morning fire gutted a home in the Wolf Creek Community on Medley-Amonett Road just across the line in Putnam County.

Central dispatch received the call at 5:03 a.m.

DeKalb County Fire Chief Donny Green said a passerby spotted smoke coming from the two story residence and called 911. Members of the Temperance Hall, Main Station, and Cookeville Highway stations responded along with DeKalb EMS, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, and Carl Halfacre, manager of Edgar Evins State Park.. Green said the structure, apparently used a vacation home, was unoccupied.

When firefighters arrived they discovered the home was located about fifty feet outside of DeKalb County in Putnam County. DeKalb County firefighters battled the blaze until Putnam County stations could get there and continued to provide assistance after they arrived.

The home was extensively damaged.

Green said the cause of the fire was not immediately known. The names of the owners were also unavailable.

School Board Revises Request for Tax Increase

July 13, 2011
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education has updated it's proposed school budget again and now seeks a property tax increase of almost eleven cents.

During another workshop and special meeting Tuesday night, the school board was forced to revise it's budget again after discovering that a line item adjustment was unnoted in the action taken during Monday night's workshop and special meeting.

Board members Monday night left the impression that they had cut the original request for a tax increase down to six and a half cents. But by Tuesday, they discovered the oversight in the calculations and had to schedule another special meeting for Tuesday night to correct it, before the spending plan was re-submitted to the county budget committee. After plugging in the numbers that were inadvertently unnoted, they discovered that the actual property tax hike needed to fund this budget is now 10.96 cents, not six and a half cents.

In it's original request when the tentative school budget was adopted in May, the board of education sought a seventeen cent increase in the property tax rate. But since then reappraisal has been completed and the amount of local money generated by each one cent on the property tax rate has been revised. So the board's initial seventeen cent increase is now closer to sixteen cents.

If no change is made in the tax rate, the new certified rate to fund schools is expected to be 52 cents or $2-million 204-thousand 260, which is sixteen cents less than what the school board is requesting to support schools for the coming year, with all the new positions and pay raises the board wishes to fund.

Members of the county budget committee have previously voted to fund the pay raises, which would be about a five cent tax increase for schools, but not other extras in the proposed school budget. Last week, County Mayor Mike Foster asked Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and the school board to find places to make cuts in their budget.

The school board met Monday and Tuesday night for that purpose. But while the board has trimmed it's request for a property tax hike of sixteen cents by five pennies or $211,948, down to around eleven cents, they are seeking new money from the local option sales tax or sinking fund in the amount of $169,560, and though that is not property tax money, it is the equivalent of four cents. That puts the overall request for new funding at the equivalent of fifteen cents, just one cent or $42,388 below the board's original request of sixteen cents.

The school budget now projects total revenues at $19-million 444-thousand 014 and total expenditures of $19-million 932-thousand 993, a difference of $488-thousand 979 which means in order balance the budget, an actual tax increase of 11.54 cents would be needed.

After meeting in special session Tuesday night, Director of Schools Willoughby hand delivered a copy of the new proposed school budget to County Mayor Foster and members of the budget committee who were meeting at the courthouse. Foster said no action would be taken on the budget until he and members of the committee had more time to review it.

The budget committee is expected to make its final recommendations on all county budgets Thursday night during a meeting at 6:00 p.m. at the courthouse. The new budgets and tax rate will then be published as a legal notice in the newspaper and presented to the county commission for final approval at a meeting in early August.

County Budget Committee Recommends Pay Scale for Sheriff's Department Employees

July 12, 2011
Patrick Ray

In an effort to make wages of sheriff's department employees more competitive the budget committee Monday night, July 11 voted to recommend to the county commission that a new four tiered pay scale be established and funded in the new 2011-12 spending plan. The extra cost to the county in implementing the plan comes to around $300,000 in the new budget.

Committee members Jack Barton, Wayne Cantrell, Jerry Scott, John Green, and Marshall Ferrell all voted for the proposal. Larry Summers was absent.

All other full time county employees would get a $1,000 pay raise for the year in the new budget, which equates to about a 50 cent per hour increase, subject to approval of the full county commission. .

As WJLE reported first last week, deputies and detectives at the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department are some of the lowest paid law enforcement officers in the state, according to Sheriff Patrick Ray.

DeKalb has fallen behind counties of similar size and population in recent years in what it pays law enforcement officers and Sheriff Ray's concern is that he will continue to lose more experienced personnel in the months ahead unless the county takes action to catch up.

In a meeting recently with the county budget committee, Sheriff Ray said he has lost five employees since last October because they have found jobs in law enforcement that pay better elsewhere. Sheriff Ray was asked to compile information on pay rates in other counties of similar size to give the committee some idea of where to start. Sheriff Ray provided those comparisons as well as a proposed pay scale for his staff. County Mayor Mike Foster and the budget committee reviewed Sheriff Ray's request, but apparently found it a little excessive. They asked him to get with Foster and come up with a more workable plan.

To address the problem, the budget committee proposes that entry level pay for a first year deputy be increased from the current level of $10.96 per hour to $12.87 per hour or $28,777 per year. The pay would increase each year until the fourth year when a deputy would top out at $15.31 per hour or $34,233 per year.

Pay for a first year detective would increase from the current rate of $12.99 per hour to $16.63 per hour or $34,590 per year. A four year detective would top out on the pay scale at $18.54 per hour or $38,563 per year.

The following is the new salary scale for members of the Sheriff's Department as proposed by the county budget committee, compiled by County Mayor Mike Foster and Sheriff Patrick Ray

Chief Deputy:
$19.30 per hour or $39,573 per year

First Year- $16.63 per hour or $34,590 per year
Second Year-$16.82 per hour or $34,985 per year
Third Year- $17.20 per hour or $35,776 per year
Fourth Year- $18.54 per hour or $38,563 per year

Patrol Sergeant:
First Year- $16.63 per hour or $34,590 per year
Second Year-$16.74 per hour or $34,819 per year
Third Year- $16.85 per hour or $35,048 per year
Fourth Year- $17.09 per hour or $35,547 per year

First Year- $12.87 per hour or $28,777 per year
Second Year- $13.23 per hour or $29,582 per year
Third Year- $13.98 per hour or $31,259 per year
Fourth Year- $15.31 per hour or $34,233 per year

Correctional Officers:
First Year- $11.50 per hour or $25,714 per year
Second Year- $11.93 per hour or $26,675 per year
Third Year- $12.36 per hour or $27,636 per year
Fourth Year-$12.79 per hour or $28,598 per year

First Year-$9.92 per hour or $20,633 per year
Second Year-$10.03 per hour or $20,862 per year
Third Year-$10.26 per hour or $21,340 per year
Fourth Year-$10.58 per hour or $22,006 per year

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

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

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

Meanwhile, the budget committee Monday night also recommended budgeting $5,000 for WCTE-TV in Cookeville to help defray costs of producing the Fiddlers Jamboree. The money would go specifically to assist the televison station in post-production of the Jamboree for the nationally televised two-hour highlight show.

Tuesday night, the budget committee voted to cut the contribution to the Chamber of Commerce from the requested $20,000 down to $15,000 in the new budget for the year.

Dare2Fair Next Week

July 12, 2011
Dwayne Page

The Grandpa Fair of the South kicks off Monday through Saturday July 18th through July 23rd.

With the theme "DARE2FAIR..It's a Sweet Ride ", this year's DeKalb County Fair will feature a fun filled week of activities including rides by the Family Attractions Amusement Company and two new events, Mud Drag Racing on Thursday night and the Lawn Mower Derby on Friday night as part of the Demolition Derby.

(Click here to view video clip of 2010 demolition derby at the fair)

Fair Manager Jeff McMillen said these new events should add even more excitement to an already entertaining fair. "The Mud drag racing is basically four wheel drive vehicles that run on a 150 foot track. They run against a clock. They're not actually lined up side by side. It's a time event. This is the best new attraction we've added in the last couple of years. We took away the four wheel drive rock climbing (Off Road Challenge) because it just wasn't drawing the number of spectators that we thought it should. We feel like this event will fill in that gap for us," said McMillen.

Click here to view video clip of 2010 rodeo steer riding event at DeKalb County Fair

"Probably one of the most interesting things we'll have this year is the lawn mower derby. During the demolition derby we've always had this down time between classes so this year we have added a lawn mower derby," said McMillen.

"Another event that we are working on is the corn hole tournament. That has become a popular thing in our community and across the state. We're going to try to put that together. Hopefully, it will be in a tent so that if it rains we can go ahead and have it anyway," said McMillen.

Click here to view video clip of Tony Luna portraying Billy Ray Cyrus at 2010 Vintage Fashion Show

The fair will be bringing back the Open Rodeo, the Demolition Derby, and Super Tractor and Truck Pull, Go Kart Racing, Four Wheelers and Motorcycle Racing, DeKalb Idol, the Vintage Fashion Show, and many other popular attractions.

(Click here to view video clip of 2010 Super Tractor Pull at the Fair)

The Off Road Challenge will not be part of this year's fair line-up of events

McMillen urges fair goers to take the time to enjoy lots of delicious foods from the food booths and stop by to see the many commercial, agricultural, and women's exhibits.

The Kenneth Sandlin Center will be open Monday through Friday from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. and Saturday from 4:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

Click here to view video clip of 2010 Go Cart Racing at the Fair

All Perishable items ONLY will be accepted on Saturday, July 16th from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

Premium books are now available at DeKalb Community Bank, Liberty State Bank, Prichard's Foods in Alexandria, the Chamber of Commerce Office, the U.T. Extension office and at libraries and post offices in DeKalb County. It can also be downloaded from the fair website as well at www.dekalbcountyfair.us.

Take a stroll down Memory Lane and enjoy nightly entertainment at the Memory Lane Stage in Memory Village, sponsored by DeKalb Community Bank. The DeKalb County Fair Memory Lane Stage Line-Up is as follows:

The following events are scheduled:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 18th: National Anthem at 5:45 p.m. at the Lions Club Pavilion; Cattle Show at 6:00 p.m. at the Tot Kelly barn; Rodeo at the T.C. McMillen Arena at 6:30 p.m.; Junior Fair Princess Pageant for contestants ages 13-16 at 6:00 p.m. followed by the Fairest of the Fair Pageant for contestants ages 17 to 20 at the Lions Club Pavilion. $1000 cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 19th: Visit from WSMV's Snowbird; the Little Mr. and Miss Pageant for contestants ages 4-6 at 6:00 p.m. at the Lions Club Pavilion with a concert by The Springs to follow; Go-Cart Racing at 6:00 p.m. at the T.C. McMillen Arena; and a Horse Show at 7:00 p.m. at the Grandstand; $1000 cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 20th: Little Miss Princess Pageant for contestants ages 7-9 at 6:00 p.m. followed by the Miss Sweetheart Pageant for those ages 10-12 at the Lions Club Pavilion; Four Wheeler and Motorcycle Racing at 6:00 p.m. at the T.C. McMillen Arena; $1000 cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m.

Thursday, July 21st: Senior Citizen Day activities at 9:00 a.m. at the Lions Club Pavilion; 4-H Chick Chain Show at 5:00 p.m. at the Tot Kelly barn; Junior Goat Show at 6:00 p.m. at the Tot Kelly barn; a Baby Show at 6:00 p.m. followed by a Vintage Fashion Show at the Lions Club Pavilion; and Mud Drag Racing at the T.C. McMillen Arena at 7:00 p.m.; $1000 cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m.

Friday, July 22nd: Toddler Show for contestants 13 months to 47 months at 6:00 p.m. followed by DeKalb Idol Final Competition at the Lions Club Pavilion; a Super Truck and Tractor Pull at 7:00 p.m. at the T.C. McMillen Arena; and a Demolition Derby/Lawn Mower Derby at 7:00 p.m. at the Grandstand; $1000 cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 23rd: Horseshoe Tournament at the Tot Kelly barn at 1:00 p.m.; Gospel singing at the Lions Club Pavilion at 6:00 p.m.; Super Tractor and Truck Pull at 7:00 p.m. at the T.C. McMillen Arena: and a $1000 cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m.

One thousand dollars in cash will be given away each night, Monday through Saturday at 9:30 p.m. at the Lion's Club Pavilion and you must be present to win. If no one presents the winning ticket within three minutes, the money will be saved and given away on Saturday night in increments of $1,000. Your fair admission ticket is your ticket for the cash drawing.

Rides on the Midway will be provided by the Family Attractions Amusement Company. Unlimited rides will be available each night for $18.00. Wednesday will be Discount Ride Night- Arm Bands Only for $14.00

Admission to the fair is $3.00 per person. Children age four and younger will be admitted free! Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. Parking is Free!

Every night is T-shirt night! Wear any DeKalb County Fair T-shirt from ANY YEAR and ask for your ticket to win the newest fair T-shirt during the cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m. at the Lions Club Pavilion. Request tickets at the gate.

Sign up to compete in the DeKalb Idol competition Monday through Thursday backstage at the Lions Club Pavilion from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. The registration fee is $10.00. The final competition will be Friday, July 22 at 7:00 p.m. following the Toddler Show at the Lion's Club Pavilion. You could win a $300 cash prize and a $100 People's Choice Award.

For more information, call 529-FAIR or visit on-line at www.dekalbcountyfair.us.

Art Revolution Coming to DeKalb County

July 12, 2011
Betsy Driver
Betsy Driver

Nearly a year ago, local photographer Jessica Atnip hatched an idea for a revolution.

This isn’t the type of revolution that overthrows the government but one that centers on art and gives DeKalb County’s teenagers an alternative in a small community where sports rules.


The result is an organization named Art Revolution that offers teenagers in grades 7-12 nine-week courses on different art forms. With the large artist community in DeKalb County, the group has been able to pull together a wide variety of artists to teach classes.

This Saturday from 7-9 p.m., after months of work, Art Revolution is officially unveiling the plans with a festive event at the 303 Building in downtown Smithville. More than 100 tickets have been sold for the event.

The 21-and-up event will feature wine from Stonehaus Winery and a silent auction with items such as a rocking chair made by award-winning artist Tim Hintz, a $100 gift card to Sunset Grill in Nashville, and art from the Appalachian Center for Arts & Crafts and Off the Beaten Path Artists. Tickets are $25 at the door but can be purchased at Stella Luna Gallery and the Chamber of Commerce or call Betsy Driver at 615-597-8507.

Most everyone knows that sports reigns king in DeKalb County. But Atnip said sports shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all. “And neither should art,” she said.

Atnip said the idea for Art Revolution is to level the playing field for teenagers and narrow the segregation between the artists and non-artists. The program is designed to be inclusive, bringing together aspiring artists with any student no matter their status, who want to show their creative side or have their creativity revealed through the classes.

“I think everyone enjoys a certain amount of expression,” she said.

Classes are scheduled to begin in October at the county’s new office complex on South Congress. They would have started closer to the beginning of the new school year but tornado damage delayed converting the former shopping center into new county offices.

Art Revolution secured space in the building fairly quickly because County Mayor Mike Foster got on board with the idea quickly.

“Once he said yes, the ball rolled even faster,” Atnip said. “He really wanted it for the community.”

Foster pulled out the plans for the new building and showed the possible rooms that could be used. Free space is the county’s contribution.

Foster said that the program goes hand-in-hand with his idea for the community to be able to use the new office complex.

“(Art Revolution) addresses a group of kids who potentially are at a crossroads in their lives and gives them an opportunity to find direction,” he said.

Foster added that his hope is that the program grows to a point where it’s available to all ages in the community.

So far, Art Revolution has raised more than $2,000. Tuition for the classes will be $50-75, depending on the class. Culinary classes will be a bit higher because of the materials involved.

Atnip said the goal is to offer tuition assistance to students who can’t afford the full tuition. But Art Revolution officials said the goal is to keep tuition as low as possible.

So far, Art Revolution has signed up Louie Colombarini, who works with clay; his wife Christine, who also works with clay; Jason Evans, the chef at the Inn at Evins Mill, to teach culinary arts; Ed Wooten, who works with glass; Claudia Lee, who works with paper making and bookmaking; Kathe Reed-Nelson, who works with jewelry; and Cherry Cratty, who works with pulp painting. Matt Gillard, a graphics designer, is possibly on board along with Shan Burklow, photographer and illustrator.

Atnip said more artists may get involved. Her email list started with 25 artists and grew to 75 and she said she’s heard from artists from neighboring counties.

The increasing interest from artists is the result of months of Atnip talking to whomever would listen to her pitch.

“She has tirelessly been working on this project while caring for her family, never missing a beat - keeping her family her first priority,” Art Revolution board member Betsy Driver said of Atnip. “She is teaching her children the art of perseverance, compassion and community. Hopefully Jessica's philosophy will be contagious among the students and volunteers coming through and supporting Art Revolution. Better yet, in our community as a whole".

Man Charged with Assaulting Son-In-law with Knife

July 11, 2011
Dwayne Page
Larry Lattimore

Smithville Police have charged a 50 year old man with aggravated assault for allegedly pulling a knife on his son-in-law and cutting him across the palm of his hand during an argument early Saturday morning.

The incident was reported around 12:55 a.m. Saturday.

Chief Randy Caplinger said that Larry Lattimore of 102 East Market Street is under a $5,000 bond and he will be in court on August 4.

According to police, Lattimore was visiting the home of his daughter and son-in-law at 114 Juniper Lane when he got into an argument with them. The dispute apparently continued outside the residence on Bell Street. After being asked to leave, Lattimore allegedly turned to walk away. However, police said Lattimore suddenly became aggressive, pulled a knife, and cut the left hand of his son-in-law about four inches across the palm. The victim was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital where he was airlifted to Vanderbilt Hospital. Lattimore apparently left the scene before police arrived but Chief Caplinger said he turned himself in on Sunday.

School Board Makes Cuts in Proposed Budget

July 11, 2011
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education, following a two hour workshop, met briefly in special session Monday evening to trim the proposed budget for schools for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

The revisions were made by the school board after County Mayor Mike Foster and members of the county budget committee last Thursday night asked Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and the school board to find places in the budget to make cuts.

SCHOOL BOARD from dwayne page on Vimeo.
The school board is now asking for a six and a half cent tax hike for schools, down from the original request for a seventeen cent increase. However the board is seeking an additional $169, 560 from the local option sales tax or the so called "sinking fund" in the new spending plan for schools above the $1.5 million in sales tax funds already included in the budget.

The overall budget for schools, as originally presented to the county budget committee in May, totaled $20-million, 146-thousand 303 dollars. The school board has now reduced that amount by $213,310 to $19-million 932-thousand 993. Projected revenues are budgeted at $19-million 655-thousand 962, which is $277,031 below estimated expenditures for the year.

The original proposed budget included funds for a few positions which have now been cut from the spending plan including the following:

A new physical education teacher at Northside Elementary School; an instructional coach; and two assistant soccer coaches. Total cuts in this category -$95,570

A total of $290,000 had been budgeted for diesel fuel costs but that has been cut by $84,000

The board had requested an additional $250,000 in capital outlay expense but that has been reduced by $31,855.

An additional $40,000 budgeted for updated hardware/software Accounting Department has been reduced by $1,885

The proposed school budget still includes a 3.2% pay raise for support staff or non-certified personnel and a 1.6% local increase to match the state's 1.6% pay hike for certified personnel (teachers)

Proposed new positions which remain in the budget are as follows:
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 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 revised school budget, which was adopted on a 5-1 vote, will now be presented to the county budget committee for review Tuesday night, July 12 at 6:00 p.m. at the courthouse. School board members voting in favor were Kenny Rhody, Johnny Lattimore, W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, Charles Robinson, and Bruce Parsley. Board member John David Foutch voted "no" saying he could not support it until he knows what one cent of the property tax rate is projected to generate. Board member Billy Miller was absent.

Gandy Charged with Carrying Prohibited Weapons

July 11, 2011
Dwayne Page
Steven Levan Gandy
Delania Gene Mandrell
Karen Renee Hunter

A 30 year old man, pulled over by a county deputy on a traffic violation last Monday, was found to be carrying prohibited weapons

Steven Levan Gandy of Sparta Highway, Smithville is charged with illegal carrying or possession of a weapon and prohibited weapons. His bond totals $6,000 and he will be in court on August 4.

Sheriff Patrick Ray reports that on Monday, July 4, a deputy was responding to a reckless driver call on Cookeville Highway when he spotted Gandy's vehicle and pulled it over for a traffic violation. The officer spoke to the driver, Gandy and asked him for his drivers license. A check of his license found them to be expired. After receiving consent to search the vehicle, the deputy found a loaded handgun underneath the arm rest compartment. Gandy said that he did not have a permit to carry the gun. The officer also found in the vehicle two knives with blades exceeding four inches. Another knife was found on Gandy's person with a blade length exceeding four inches. In addition to the gun and knives, the deputy confiscated two black poles, each of them three feet long, with weights on the end of them which were wrapped with tape. Sheriff Ray said that these poles have no common lawful purpose and appear to be for use as a weapon to inflict serious bodily injury.

52 year old Edwin Dale Evans of Smith Road is charged with driving on a revoked license. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court July 14.

Sheriff Ray reports that on Wednesday, July 6, a detective saw Evans operating a Mustang traveling west on West Broad Street. Having prior knowledge that Evans' license were revoked, the detective stopped Evans on Dry Creek Road. A computer check confirmed that his license had been revoked for a prior driving under the influence offense.

54 year old Delania Gene Mandrell and 42 year old Karen Renee Hunter both of Hayes Ridge Road, Lancaster are charged with burglary and theft of property under $500. Bond for each is $7,500 and they will be in court on August 4

Sheriff Ray reports that on Saturday, July 9, Mandrell and Hunter were charged with entering an outbuilding on Chapman Hollow Road with the intent to commit a theft. Items taken were a birdhouse, two rugs, a skillet, an antique Army metal gas can, a wooden milk stool, two metal flower stands, a marble smoke stand, and a small wooden chair with a total value of $303.

Children Attend Summer Reading Party at Justin Potter Library

July 11, 2011
Dwayne Page

Several children attended the summer reading club finale party Friday at Justin Potter Library.

In addition to receiving a goodie bag of treats, the kids enjoyed a performance by singer/musician Kevin Kidd

WJLE's Dwayne Page then interviewed many of the children.


children 1 from dwayne page on Vimeo.


CHILDREN 2 from dwayne page on Vimeo.

Willoughby Explains Need for New Positions

July 10, 2011
Mark Willoughby at County Budget Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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