Saturday, February 5, 2011

Debt Management Plan: Further Research

Just as a follow-up to what I was discussing earlier today, I have taken a look for the specific language that the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury suggested for local government in developing “Statements on Debt Policy.”
Here is the TCT – Office of State and Local Finance website.
And, here is some of the specific language suggested by the TCT.

RC: Should WE Have a Debt Management Plan?

I came across a timely article in the Tennessee County Services Association publication COUNTY NEWS: “Debt Management Plan Available For Use By Tennessee Local Governments”

I find this article most interesting in our ongoing conversation as relates to tax increases, re-structuring our debt…and, well, it stops right there because there has not been a conversation (that I have formerly seen by the Budget Committee, or otherwise) about the budget. Now, I know that it is not the “time” to discuss the budget per our calendar. I just stand in awe at how government processes work where we are told that a tax increase is coming this year without taking a look at the management of what we spend.
And (for now), that will be all of my discussion of where we are in this discussion.
Here is where you can find the article. Here is what I find interesting:
Local governments in Tennessee now have a debt management policy model they can mirror as they borrow money in the future.
The next time any of you see your commissioner: ask them what your Robertson County policy is….
Here is a discussion of what that model policy stands for:
The model policy urges Tennessee governments to follow four guiding principles while developing their own policies:
1) Debt transactions should be clearly understood by the decision-makers
2) Citizens should be able to get clear explanations about transactions
3) Steps should be taken to avoid conflicts of interest among the parties involved in transactions
4) Costs and risks associated with transactions should be clearly disclosed
The model policy contains some minimum requirements for governments.
I have tried to share the word about the massive re-structuring of debt the RCC is considering at this time. Per example in Robertson County, let’s look at an example provided within the article:
For example, deferral of debt payments is only allowed if specific justification is provided – and no payments of principal or interest may be extended beyond the useful life of any asset financed through debt.
Can you answer those questions as applied to us?
Now, I ask you, should we have a Debt Management Plan?

"Sell[ing] a tax increase..."

Our neighbor commission to the north and west is an unenviable position.
I do not envy commissioners in Commissioner Vellejos’s position:
The delay was proposed by District 14 Commissioner Tommy Vallejos, who said the commission would need more time to study the proposal and sell a tax increase to voters if one is needed.
But, watch out: You are about to hear the same rhetoric from those within the Robertson County Commission.

Grading OUR Schools

You may have seen this article in the Robertson County Times this past week.
Interesting, yet simultaneously disappointing:
The recent release of Robertson County School’s report card has people talking about schools being on the target list and one school moving into the improvement 1 category. But what does this actually mean?
This report card showed Greenbrier Middle and Jo Byrns Elementary Schools as target schools, but with the state’s tougher standards, that it is something not easily explained.
GMS is judged on 42 subgroups of test scores. Out of that 42, GMS had one test entry not make the grade. The class is an eighth-grade special ed class that is tested using the same test that the regular and advanced eighth graders took.
That one entry out of 42 entries on the report card put GMS on the target list.
Springfield Middle was classified as an improvement 1 school. Part of the issue pushing it into this category was due to being named a Title 1 school.
A Title 1 school is a school with more than at least 60 percent of their students being enrolled with the free and reduced lunch program. If a school has more than 75 percent, they will automatically be put in the program.
However, if it has between 60 and 75 percent students enrolled on the free or reduced lunch program, the school officials can decide to put them on it.
“We knew we were taking a risk but it was a calculated risk,” said Dr. Dan Whitlow, director of schools.
“We chose to change it to a Title 1 school because we could get more federal money.”
The $500,000 of federal money paid for new electric wiring and new computers, something Whitlow said wouldn’t have happened if the school system hadn’t taken the chance.
Because of SMS’s move to the improvement status, letters were sent home to parents with an offer of changing their child to a different school. Parents at SMS were offered a chance to transfer to White House Heritage or to East Robertson.
Transportation would be provided for as long as SMS was on the improvement list.
Many of the students are in process of taking TCAP writing assessment tests in the next week or two. And school officials advise to check your child’s scores for a better understanding of the testing.
“The best indication of how your child is doing is the TCAP test results,” said Whitlow.
I am going to post the overall numbers when I retrieve them.
As a new member of the RCC, and particularly as an Education Committee Member I am listening this year. What I have been able to observe is the “more money” solutions may not be working within our schools, particularly within my district: schools found within the City of Springfield.
What I will find interesting is the offer children have to transfer schools.
In my humble opinion (watch out because this lawyer-speak for me taking an unpopular opinion) the sectionalism of this County will always prove to be a big reason in which all of our schools will be held back.  For I would be willing to bet some folks outside of the schools referenced in this article would generally care far less about those schools. It is unfortunate that this opinion is prevalent, for the care and concern for solely one weighs down all.

RCC: Revised Resolution Process

We received this Memorandum last week: “Format for Resolutions”
I thought I would share here for a little insight into the inner-workings of the process and also in the event that someone out there, or some entity out there would propose a resolution for the RCC to consider.
January 26, 2011
To All Departments:
As of September 1, 2010, the County Clerks office became responsible for all reports, resolutions and information for the County Commissioners’ packets.  We want to make sure we keep everyone informed and updated, so this memo is to make sure all departments are on the same page. All completed reports and resolutions should be submitted to the County Clerks Office before on the 2nd Monday of each month. The School Board will have until the 2nd Tuesday at noon, due to the School Board meeting schedule.  Please email reports, resolutions, and all documents for the Commission to:  and to or fax to 615-384-2218.  Reports and resolutions submitted after the deadline stated above will be in the next month’s packet.
FORMAT FOR RESOLUTIONS:  All proposed resolutions (does not include Planning & Zoning) should first go to the appropriate committee chairperson.  The chairperson should then email proposed resolutions to Clyde Richert (, Mayor Bradley ( and Susan K. Atchley (  Once resolutions are accepted by Clyde Richert, he will then acquire resolution numbers from the County Clerk’s office.  We hope this will make the process much easier for all involved, and please remember this process is on a timeline.
Packets will be available on the Robertson County web-site ( no later than 4:30 PM on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. 
Thank you for your help in this matter.
Susan K. Atchley
Robertson County Clerk

TCCA: Education Workshop Explained

The TCCA is offering this seminar: “K-12 Funding & Reform.”
This class is designed to inform county commissioners about how education funding in Tennessee is structured while also providing an overview of major developments in education reform currently being implemented in our school systems. The funding portion of the class will give officials a general understanding of the Basic Education Program formula which is used to determine state and local funding for K-12 school systems in Tennessee. The funding portion of the class will focus on how an individual system’s share of education funding is determined, including the calculation of local fiscal capacity, and describe the funding requirements that state law places on local funding bodies. The reform portion of the class will review recent developments in Tennessee related to k-12 education reform, including changes in school standards and assessments through the Tennessee Diploma Project, the impact of Race to the Top Grants, the First to the Top program, changes in teacher assessments and other possible reforms. The intent is to help county officials understand new changes that are currently being implemented and how they will impact the overall performance, operation and evaluation of their local school system. Dinner will be provided at 6:00 p.m. with the session offered from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Attendance is free for county officials.
Considering the news being bantered about education reform. This should prove topical and timely.

TCCA: Education Workshops

I am planning to attend a workshop in Franklin later in the month of March:
So far, the four evening education workshops for county commissioners have a total of 168 people registered. It's a great problem to have, but the Knox County meeting has maxed out at 75 and can take no more registrations.

These classes will be very informative for county commissioners and relate to one of the most important and complicated aspects of county government services and budgeting. I'm very excited and encouraged that there has been such a strong response to the classes.

RCC: The Week of February 7, 2011

Here are the scheduled meetings for the week of February 7, 2011.
Date & Committee/Board                           Time                                      Location
Monday - February 7
Building & Grounds                                         5:00 P.M.                             County Office Building                                                                  
Tuesday - February 8
Airport                                                              8:00 A.M.                             Airport
Joint Meeting:
Law Enforcement &
Workhouse Board                                             5:00 P.M.                             County Jail
Solid Waste                                                       6:00 P.M.                             County Office Building
Fire                                                                    6:00 P.M.                             County Office Building
Wednesday - February 9
Thursday - February 10
Joint Meeting:
Budget & Legislative                                        5:00 P.M.                             Finance Office
EMS                                                                   6:00 P.M.                             Finance Office                  
Friday - February 11