The Cheatham County School Board likely will review and further modify its facilities payment policy at its next scheduled meeting on Thursday, Sept. 5.
At its work session last Thursday, board chairman John Louallen placed the policy — which was amended in July — on the Sept. 5 agenda, encouraged other board members to make a motion to amend the policy again at that time and said he plans to make a motion to amend it.
The school board’s revised policy this summer covered payments that non-school sponsored groups must make to the school district to host events at a school.
“What we decided was A, the policy will be enforced, and B, defined who will pay and who will not pay,” Louallen said.
That decision could affect Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Christmas Anonymous event and the Cheatham County Kids Autism Awareness event, as well as sports leagues like Cheatham County Youth Basketball, by potentially requiring them to pay a higher fee — or any fee — to cover utilities when they use the school.
A possible amendment of the policy is to exempt from payment events that are not school sponsored but directly affect students.
About 20 people — many of them affiliated with the basketball league — attended Thursday’s workshop to discuss the revised policy with the board members. Many of the board members said they are struggling with paying the bills while not reducing opportunities for kids in the county.
“I don’t want to be thought of as not a good community partner,” Director of Schools Dr. Cathy Beck said. “We are really between a rock and a hard place here. I am torn between being fiscally responsible and benefitting our kids.”
A review of last year’s expenses by district Chief Operations Officer Dr. Tara Watson showed that the district owed at least $189,000 more for use of electricity during non-school events than it collected. Watson said that no fees were collected from many groups which used school facilities last year.
Beck said that Cheatham County Mayor Kerry McCarver told her that he plans to ask for a one-time payment of $30,000 be moved from the county’s Parks and Recreation Department budget to the school district to help pay the shortfall.
Basketball league changes
During the workshop, Cheatham County Youth Basketball Vice President Mike Pryor said that the league is shortening its season by having each team play twice on Saturdays to reduce the number of days it uses county gyms.
Pryor said that each of the six school teams in the league will be making an additional $3,000 payment to the district this year to help further cover utility costs for an $18,000 payment. In return, the league requested that the district charge it only for games and not practice time during the week. Pryor said that the league also will be increasing its registration fees and its game admission cost. He said he has told the teams to be prepared to hold fundraisers, if necessary, to make the $3,000 payment.
“If we have people willing to help get kids off the streets, we ought to fund it,” said Dan Reigel, who said he has been coaching in the basketball league for 35 years. “They will fund a jail cell for a child, but how about funding a facility to save them instead?”
Bus garage update
The board received a 35-minute update about its planned bus maintenance facility which left three of the six board members saying they were in “sticker shock” over the price tag that could go as high as $4 million.
That figure seemed to be nearly split between the cost of the building and the cost of preparing the site, which is near Sycamore High School with a planned entrance on Sweethome Road. The plans that the board members reviewed last Thursday included a bus washing area, fuel station, maintenance bays, a driver training area and administrative offices. The plan also includes storage area for up to 100 buses.
“We can’t afford this,” Louallen said. “We would be wasting our time proceeding forward at this price.”
The board members agreed to schedule a workshop to discuss the bus garage proposal.
Director of Transportation Cal Blacker said the camera system in use on the county school buses are “obsolete” and that most of them could not be repaired when they break.
He recommended to the board that it purchase a four-camera system for each of the buses. One camera would cover the driver and door areas, two would provide wide-angle views of each side (including inside the seating area) and another wide-angle one at the back of the bus pointing forward.
Blacker also said that a safety grant request is being prepared for a tracking system which gives the location of each student when they are on the bus.