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Dandridge, Tennessee

April 09, 2012

District 2 School Board Seats Only Half Filled
Staff Photo / FFA 10th Annual Tractor Pull
Jefferson County is facing a unique situation this election year, as District 2 failed to qualify two candidates to run for the School Board seats being vacated by Board Members Annette Loy and Maurice Solomon. Qualifying deadline was noon on Thursday, April 5, 2012. Though several other races, on both the local and State level, are contested the Jefferson County School Board seats in District 2 and District 4 struggled to find interested candidates. Current District 2 School Board Members Loy and Solomon had remained steadfast in their decisions to come off of the School Board this Fall and current District 4 School Board representative Judy Cavanah was only recently placed on the Board following the exodus of long time White Pine Board representative Michael Phagan. Cavanah has qualified for the District 4 School Board seat and will, presently, run unopposed in the August election. Jonathon Rogers will be on the August ballot for one of the two District 2 School Board seats. According to information provided by Administrator of Elections for Jefferson County, Charles Gibson, a citizen of Jefferson County may still qualify as a write in candidate for the August election, however interested parties must qualify with a nominating petition, as well as meeting other requirements. If a candidate fails to qualify for the second District 2 School Board seat, then the placement will fall to the Jefferson County Commission.

Contested races include the Constable position in several districts, the Senate for the 8th District and the State House for the 11th and the 17th Districts. The 2nd District Highway Commission seat is also contested.

School Bus Purchases

Past Finance Administration Delayed Payments For School Buses - Leaving DOE Playing Catch Up

The Jefferson County Department of Education will be presenting a request for $343,000 from school fund balance for the purchase of 4 new school buses and another $220,000 to be held in a reserve account for the purchase of used buses, as they become available. The reserve account funds would come from school system fund balance and could be accessed by the executive committee, which consists of the Director of Schools and the Chairman of the School Board The request for the $563,000 came from Director of Transportation, Maintenance and Capitol Projects, Michael Phagan and was presented to the School Board for approval during the March 29th Board meeting. Phagan had laid the ground work for the request at the Board’s retreat earlier in the month, citing incongruities in the past purchases and payment schedule of buses that resulted in the Department of Education falling one fiscal year behind in their bus replacement schedule. According to State law, buses must be replaced when they reach a mileage cap or age out. In previous years, Jefferson County had maintained a consistent purchasing schedule, however it appears that the schedule was derailed in the 2009-2010 fiscal year. In the years prior to the 2009-2010 fiscal year, bids were taken, purchase orders assigned and payments were made during the first three months of the year. Typically, February bids resulted in delivery and payment around April. Jefferson County and the Department of Education operate in a fiscal year that ends on June 30. All purchase orders and invoices should be paid prior to that date to not impact the budget of the next fiscal year. Documentation from the Jefferson County Department of Finance concurs with Phagan’s assertion that buses that were slotted for purchase in the 2009-2010 fiscal year were not delivered or paid for from that year’s budget, even though purchase orders were issued in February of 2010. Hand adjustments were made to the purchase orders and a unsigned letter, dated in March, from Sharon Winstead, a former employee of the Finance Department who resigned when current Director of Finance Helton was hired, stated that the payment would not be made until July of 2010, which is in the next fiscal year. There is, as of yet, not a clear explanation why the payment was not made in the fiscal year that the purchases were budgeted for and that a purchase order was assigned. According to Phagan, who is a Certified Public Accountant, he was able to track a handwritten ledger entry that rolled the money assigned for bus purchases in the 2009-2010 fiscal year into the School System Fund Balance. Because the funds budgeted in the 2010-2011 fiscal year for bus purchases were used to pay off the tab accrued in the previous year, the Department of Education has been running one purchase year behind on the acquisition of buses. Phagan stated that he plans to use money in the reserve account to purchase used buses that will cut the number of buses that are assigned to be replaced. The schedule that Phagan presented to the Board includes a 6 bus purchase in the 2012-2013 fiscal year and a 10 bus purchase in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Used buses could be purchased to offset some of those numbers. Of the buses that are currently slotted for replacement, only four are used in routes. Phagan stated that it is necessary to keep “Spares” on hand for breakdowns and field trips. Former Transportation Directors agreed that it was necessary to have a number of spares in the fleet, as there are always several buses that are in repair and other needs, such as transportation for sports teams and field trips, require use of spares, although there was no formula for the number of spare buses that the system should keep on hand.

The motion to request the money for the purchase of the buses from fund balance was approved in a 6-1vote, with Jarnigan casting the “no” vote. The issue will come before the Jefferson County Budget Committee for Approval and the question of rolling funds and purchase orders will most likely be raised. While Phagan has located the 2009-2010 appropriated funds in fund balance, he stated that he can not answer why the purchase order issued and not paid in the same fiscal year. The Department of Education and the Jefferson County Finance Office have both experienced shifts in personnel during the past several years and the lack of continuity in staff has left the County with an information deficit. Key decision makers during the times in question are no longer employees of the County . This is not the first time that questions of inconsistent budgeting issues involving previous employees have reached the Budget Committee. The County Budget Committee must approve the fund transfer and the special reserve account transfer for it to be completed.

When You Want All The News

Jefferson City Council Passes Resolution in Response To Original Student Rezoning Plans

Further Concerns that future school projects take into consideration the location, infrastructure and majority of affected students.

Jefferson City Mayor Mark Potts and the Jefferson City Council have approved Resolution 2012-09, regarding the busing of Jefferson City students to the new Mt. Horeb School. The original rezoning proposal split Jefferson City through the center of their business district and sent students on the right side of the road, when traveling East, to the new school while leaving their neighboring counterparts at Jefferson Elementary. Both the Mayor and the City Council expressed concern that students were to be bused, from within the city proper and close proximity to their community school, to a location that is further away. Also of concern was splitting the city apart with the new zoning proposal. The document acknowledges that there has been no shift in numbers since the inception of the new school and that its location is remote for inner city students. The Resolution requests that the School Board consider all districts fairly and in regard to location during the rezoning process and not single out Jefferson City but, rather, appropriately rezone all districts to send students to the school closest to their proximity. In addition, the Resolution requests that future School projects take into consideration the location of the majority of affected students and the infrastructure of the site.

The rezoning proposal is currently being reviewed by the Department of Transportation and the School Board is awaiting the delivery of the final proposal that could include zoning changes. Some members of the School Board expressed concern that the original rezoning proposal splits not only Jefferson City but Dandridge, as well. The Dandridge Mayor and Town Aldermen are considering a Resolution of their own to express their concern that the Town is split down the middle in the original proposal.

Jefferson City’s signed Resolution will be delivered to the Jefferson County School Board, the Jefferson County Commission and the Director of Schools. [Read complete Resolution Here]

Human Sacrifices In Mexican Mining Village
Believed linked to Santa Muerta (Saint Death)
By Jake Depew, Jefferson County Post Staff Writer

Prosecutors in Mexico are investigating a poor family in the mining village of Nacozari, which sits on the edge of the Sierra Madre. The family is suspected of sacrificing two 10-year-old boys and a 55-year-old woman to Santa Muerta (Saint Death), a popular saint that is condemned by the Roman Catholic Church. The cult is believed to consist of 44-year-old Silvia Meraz and as many as seven of her relatives, with Meraz acting as the cult leader.  According to investigators, the family members have stated their belief that offering blood to the saint would spare them from misfortune, and that Santa Muerta would help them end their poverty. If these killings are officially linked to worship of Santa Muerta, they would be the first in Mexican history. Santa Muerta cults are of particular concern to authorities, as there is no official clerical head to monitor the religious practices. Many citizens of Nacozari have been interviewed, with all exclaiming their shock that such violence befell their community. At this time, no formal charges have been filed, although the investigation is proceeding quickly and smoothly.

House Republicans Push To Eliminate Death Tax and Reduce Food Tax

This week, House Republicans took a major step towards accomplishing long-time goals of everyone who is concerned about economic growth in Tennessee, by advancing two bills that will ultimately do away with the death tax in the State and lower the sales tax on food.

For the first bill, the amended legislation includes a full repeal of the death tax phasing it out over the next four years. By 2016, the tax will be completely eliminated. Tennessee is one of only two States in the South with a death tax.

The food tax cut, House Bill 3671, reduces the food tax from the current rate of 5.5% to 5.25% after an amendment was placed on the bill this week by House Republicans. Representative David Alexander (R—Winchester) was given the responsibility of running the legislation by House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R—Chattanooga).

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April 09, 2012 Go To Page

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