Two re-nominated to serve on Franklin school board

Published 9:40 am Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Franklin City School Board’s current ward one representative, Rebecca Jester, and ward three representative, Dr. Andrea Hall-Leonard, were both re-nominated to serve another term on the board at a public hearing held during Franklin’s city council meeting on Monday.

Jester received her nomination from current ward six school board representative Bob Holt, and Hall-Leonard received her nomination from Amy Branch.

Of Jester, Holt said, “In the short five months she has been on the board we have accomplished quite a bit. We have appointed a new superintendent, we have worked through budgets, her experience as a CPA has been an asset.”

Branch, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, spoke of Hall-Leonard’s influence on her career and said she believed it was important to have a member of the school board like Hall-Leonard who volunteers in the school system and the community.

Per state law, the council must wait a minimum of 10 days following the public hearing before appointing anyone to the school board. They will not, however, be conducting interviews with the candidates this time around.

Following a second public hearing that night, this one concerning a request by Greg Scott of the Cover 3 Foundation to exempt the Foundation’s meal delivery vehicles from the city’s personal property tax, the council voted unanimously, with one absent, to grant Scott’s request.

The only person to speak during that public hearing was Will Holt, an attorney, who spoke on behalf of Cover 3. Since its founding in 2009, he said, the Cover 3 Foundation has provided 2.5 million meals to the children of regional low-income families. The three vehicles for which Cover 3 was requesting an exemption included two Chevrolet Express vans and one Mercedes Sprinter sports van, on which the Foundation paid a total of $3,200.18 in personal property taxes in 2016.

Holt, anticipating council’s asking why the foundation needed such an expensive vehicle, said the Mercedes van was the same tall, delivery-type vehicle that FedEx uses. Councilman Benny Burgess, though he voted for the exemption, suggested that the council develop some sort of criteria or policy for personal property tax exemptions in case others make such a request.

The council also presented a certification of election to newly elected ward six Councilman Bobby Cutchins and presented outgoing interim ward six appointee Donald “Bill” Scarboro with a commemorative plaque thanking him for his service to the city. They also passed a unanimous resolution proclaiming May 14 through 20 as National Police Week in Franklin.

During the approval of the prior month’s council meeting minutes, a debate ensued when Councilman Greg McLemore objected to the minutes for the work sessions on April 17, 18 and 20 not including several questions he claims to have asked.

“This was a long meeting, three hours, and many citizens know as well as council I asked many questions, and hard-hitting questions in regard to these budget requests,” McLemore said. “When important questions are asked and answers are given I feel they are worthy of the city manager’s notes so there is some sort of record of what transpired.”

Specifically, his concerns centered around questions he claims to have asked representatives of the city’s police department regarding their budget request for new tasers. According to McLemore, the city’s police department has only used its tasers, which were purchased in 2007, a total of 56 times over 10 years, counting both humans and animals. That he felt was insufficient justification to warrant the purchase of new tasers.

City Manager R. Randy Martin replied that to accurately reflect every comment made during each of these meetings would have taken pages upon pages of minutes and that he did not go into great detail with each department’s request in the minutes because members of council already had that information available to them in the attached documents included with each meeting’s agenda.

Council tabled its vote on the work session minutes following an agreement between McLemore and Martin to discuss his concerns at a later date. However, Martin added that he had “no intention of writing verbatim minutes” to appease McLemore.

During the city’s financial report, Martin announced that the completed draft of the finance staff’s proposed 2017-2018 budget was available for public review at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in downtown Franklin, and that a public hearing on the draft will be held next Monday, May 15, at 7 p.m.

Currently, the draft specifies a total budget of $56.9 million, which is approximately $15,000 less than the city’s 2016-2017. He added that there was a gap of about $3.8 million between projected revenue for the coming fiscal year and the total amounts requested by non-governmental agencies and all the city’s departments.

The proposed budget, as it stands now, specifies no change in the city’s personal property tax rate, no change to the real estate tax rate, and level funding for most agencies. It includes $52,000 to cover the city’s portion of a 10.3 percent increase in health insurance premiums for city employees, $50,000 for the city’s portion of a shared utility services study, no energy rate increases and no changes to the city’s solid waste collection rates until the Southeastern Public Service Authority finalizes its 2017-2018 budget.

For the school division’s budget, the city finance staff is currently recommending local funding in the amount of $4.9 million, which is the same as what the division received last year. The school board is expected to approve an official budget request for the coming fiscal year during their May 18 meeting.

The next regular scheduled meeting of council will be on Monday, May 22, and council will likely take action to formally adopt its budget during its June 5 meeting.