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Budgets, SROs, early literacy discussed

Agenda full for financial committee

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 7/30/22

Bedford County Commission’s Financial Management Committee met Tuesday to review monthly reports as well as adopt an amendment to the budget that implements the new County pay scale …

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Budgets, SROs, early literacy discussed

Agenda full for financial committee

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Bedford County Commission’s Financial Management Committee met Tuesday to review monthly reports as well as adopt an amendment to the budget that implements the new County pay scale model.
“We spent a lot of time trying to get these numbers laid down into the proper structure to reflect the amendments that would allow the model presented before the board,” County Mayor Chad Graham said.
According to County Finance Director Robert Daniel, this strictly includes the salary study as well as a percentage of the property tax ($0.03) that goes to the highway department. Graham said all County departments have been informed about the pay scale changes.
“The model is just like every amendment document we’ve put forward. It will then place the money in the appropriate place to be spent.... Once you approve this, then that would infuse it into the individual budgets...” Graham said.
The Board of Commissioners will meet Aug. 9 to vote to pass the amendment. The meeting will be held in the Courthouse at 7 p.m.
Commissioner Tony Smith commented, “This committee worked very hard on our budget for next year and it passed unanimous here. It was presented to the commission on the 28th (of June). It got rejected, which happened for the first time in over 30 years...In my opinion, what this did, was show disrespect for this group of individuals that worked on it. It showed a lot more disrespect for every individual in Bedford County who owns property.
“And, Mr. Mayor, if this is the way we’re going to conduct our business for the County from here going forward—that we put things up on the commission floor and vote on them without going through a standing committee or being studied—I suggest that we dissolve all four standing committees. We’re wasting our time and effort.” He said that the 18 commissioners need to get together and act as a team once again.
“We appreciate your comment,” Graham said.
Quarterly report
According to the finance office’s monthly report, property taxes collected in June were $800,000 more than the same time last year. Sales tax collections were $1.5 million more than last year.
The total fund balance budget as of July 1 is $10,267,123.
TNTP contract
Bedford County School system received an $80,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Education. The grant comes from TNTP (formerly known as The New Teacher Project), a nonprofit headquartered in New York that aids in teacher training and consultation work.
TNTP serves as TDOE’s Early Literacy Network vendor. Last November, the state established a $16 million, two-year contract with TNTP. According to TDOE’s Fiscal Review Committee Submission contract, the state’s contract extends from March 2021 to March 2024 and is “100 percent federally funded.”
As part of Gov. Bill Lee’s initiative to get all school aged children reading by the 3rd grade, it is to help combat the “COVID lull” that many students are facing.
“Our goal is to get at least 75 percent of our students proficient by the third grade and I think this will help us get there,” said Bedford County School Superintendent Tammy Garrett.
On the state level, there were some concerns raised over TDOE’s contracting with TNTP when it was implemented last year. For one, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s husband allegedly works for TNTP, creating a conflict of interest. There are also some concerns that state education departments that contract with organizations such as TNTP “privatize education” since they are funded by private businesses.
The contract for Bedford goes on for two years with the County receiving $40,000 each year.
According to Garrett, the program is based on foundational skills. The County will also get a support organization that has professional communities with principals to conduct walk-throughs and evaluations to show principals what they should be looking for, such as high-quality materials and engagement among students.
“It just helps administrators be better at recognizing that high-quality instruction,” said Garrett.
Building update
Garrett added that they are still in the design phase of the construction of the new Cartwright Elementary School, located along the 437 Bypass.
Daniel explained that the County has a 70/30 savings, which means if the construction manager comes in under contract, the County gets 70 percent of the savings.
There is also “equipment on the ground” for the construction of the new Community High School wing.
New SROs
The finance committee also voted to use funds from the sale of the EMA building (1304 Railroad Ave) to hire five Student Resource Officers in the inner-city elementary schools for the next 12 months. These five schools would be Southside, East Side, Thomas Magnet, Learning Way, and Deery Eakin.
Total cost to hire the SROs would be $378,000 with each receiving about $75,000 (depending on the level of experience of the SRO), according to Garrett.
This is one-time money, according to Graham, so there would need to be another solution at the end of the cycle.
Commissioner Linda Yockey, who brought the motion before the committee, said, “There may be some grants that come along the way that can help with all this and maybe there could be another one at Cascade and another one at Community in the future. But if we could get these five in the City right now, I just feel like that’s a very positive thing.”
Garrett added, “There are parents that have called me who lose sleep every night because of the things going on in society that are out of their control, and they feel that this would be a great addition to have to keep our students, our teachers, and our staff safe.”
In addition to keeping the school physically, Graham added that this will show young students that law enforcement officers are “friends not foes.”
 

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