Major Part Of The Problem - And Response (2)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I was pleased to see that the teachers will be getting a much-deserved raise. It was, however, to no one’s surprise that one of the people that voted against this was Rhonda Thurman. 

Her same teacher-hate rhetoric has really grown old while she sits upon her throne and complains that a school in her district needs bathrooms so therefore she could not vote in favor of this. I would like to ask did that school need bathrooms when it was her voice leading the charge to dismiss the past two school superintendents? Mrs. Thurman voted to give them hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay for a job they would no longer be doing. How about when the board voted to let the “part time” board members get the same benefits as only “full time” employees are entitled to get? Let us not forget that now board members are allowed to draw a departure payment for their service once they are voted out of office or decide to resign from their position. 

It is amazing that Mrs. Thurman can accept those types of monies and benefits but has no problem in wasting the taxpayers’ money paying people to leave their position prematurely while constantly fighting against anything for the teachers. It will be a great day for the children and parents of Hamilton County when Mrs. Thurman takes her need for seeking attention off into the sunset and we can have a board member that will actually try and become a solution instead of a constant instigator and major part of the problem.

Michael Dean Layne

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I do not know what Michael Dean Layne teaches (if in fact, Mr. Layne even exists), but I hope it is not math. He is comparing a 3 percent salary increase for HCDE employees, which will cost taxpayers an additional $6.6 million every year, to buyouts for two superintendent contracts. One of those buyouts was a golden parachute for Dr. Register, which I did not vote for, the other a buyout of Dr. Scales’ contract that I would vote for again. Comparing one-time buyouts costing hundreds of thousands to a $6.6 million salary increase is a little ridiculous. (For the record, I voted against the “departure payment” for school board members twice.)

The part of the new salary increase I have a problem with is the $1.1 million that is being taken out of the school’s undesignated fund balance.  Using one-time money for reoccurring expenses means we start off next year’s budget with a $1.1 million deficit. I have seen the school board get themselves into many financial messes using fund balance this way. I said I would never vote to use fund balance for reoccurring expenses, and I meant it. I do not do it at my home or in my business and I will not do it with taxpayer dollars.

 There are a few more bits of information Mr. Layne may not be aware of. One is that HCDE will have to pay at least $364,000 in insurance fees out of our general budget next year for the “privilege” of being a part of Obamacare. There are also many other fees and fines pertaining to the “affordable care act” that may be due, we just don’t know yet because the law is still being written. Does Mr. Layne know that almost all of the growth money HCDE receives goes to pay for increases in the HCDE health plan that the state refers to as, not a Cadillac plan, but a Rolls Royce plan?

Does Mr. Layne know that HCDE had to pay an additional $4.3 million to the state in 2011 to shore up the teachers’ retirement plan (TCRS) that lost money during the last market downturn? Only government employees have this luxury. People in the private sector just lose their money.

The County Commission Issues bonds for school construction. Does Mr. Layne know that at one time schools were built out of fund balance? Money was accumulated in the fund balance, and when there was enough for a school, construction would begin. Now instead of using fund balance for things like construction or many of our major repair needs (one-time expenses), we are using it for bonuses and salary increases.

The thing that really fired me up at the school board meeting is when we were told how much additional money we had accumulated in the undesignated fund balance and some acted like there was no other choice but to give it to HCDE employees. If we have so much money in fund balance that it is “burning a hole in our pockets”, why not do something for the students? If other board members do not have any needs in their districts that would benefit students, I certainly have many in District 1. Priority one for me is an addition to Sale Creek to house the middle school that is now entirely in portables and additional restrooms for Sale Creek High School. Soddy-Daisy High School desperately needs a new track. It has been about 15 years since the SD track team has been able to use their track for meets. SD High also needs new AC ductwork in their commons area and the windows at the top tinted so the heat will not be so intense. Then, for safety reasons, Daisy Elementary needs an entrance off Sequoyah Road into their school so parents do not have to drive through the high school parking lot to get to the elementary school. These are just a few things that would benefit both parents and students in District 1.

I can think of so many other uses for fund balance. Why not divide a few million up between schools and give parents a break on class fees? Why not buy a few million dollars worth of copy paper, ink, facial tissue, hand sanitizer, markers, ink pens, pencils or flash cards?

I am sorry Mr. Layne sees me as a “teacher-hater”. I do not hate teachers nor do I hate any of the other hard-working taxpayers in Hamilton County. So, why does Mr. Layne consider me a teacher-hater just because I want to treat taxpayer money the same way I do my own and vote against bad accounting practices?

 I was elected to represent the taxpayers in District 1, not the teachers’ union. The teachers have their union representatives. They also have a lot of the members of the negotiating team as union members. There are six board members who are either retired HCDE employees or married to teachers (Jonathan Welch is married to a teacher and voted against the increase). Who, then, is left to represent taxpayers and their children?

Mr. Layne says, “It will be a great day for the children and parents of Hamilton County when Mrs. Thurman takes her need for seeking attention off into the sunset.” First, I did not need to “seek” this attention, Mr. Layne was kind enough to seek it for me. Second, I think Mr. Layne needs to hear just a few of the comments I received from parents both before and after my vote: “Ask teachers when was the last time any of them had to take a pay cut like everyone in my office had to do just to keep our jobs.” “Ask teachers if they get step increases in their salary. If so, for them to say they have not had a pay increase is disingenuous.” “Ask teachers if their employer has stopped contributing to their retirement accounts like mine just did.” ”Ask teachers when was the last time they had to worry about being laid off because their company was moving to another state.”  “Tell teachers that getting off work a month at Christmas, two weeks at Easter, a week in the fall, two months in the summer and every time a flake of snow falls, is worth a lot.” ”Teachers say they have not had a raise in three years. Tell them I have not had a job for three years.” With comments like these, I know not all parents will be glad when I take my need for attention “off into the sunset”.

 Mr. Layne says I am “constantly fighting against anything for the teachers.” This is not true. I just want things to be fair. I want all taxpayers be able to see and enjoy the fruits of their labor, not just HCDE employees and those with new schools in VW land on the other side of the river. 

If Mr. Layne will let their true identity be known and give me a call, I will explain to them why it is no small matter for a school with 564 students to have only two bathrooms for the girls and two for the boys.    

Rhonda Thurman                                                                                                                                          

“Part-time” School Board

District 1

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Rhonda Thurman's district is not where I live but I have been an avid supporter of this school board member ever since I have read and heard her passionate reasons and feelings about the board, our local school system, our tax dollars and how the dollars are spent.  

I have never known a person to be more knowledgeable about the issues.  I wouldn't want to take her on without doing my homework.... because she does.  You go, girl. 

Jim Holcomb
Harrison



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