BMA in Brief – February 11, 2019

To help you stay informed we will do our best to provide high level summaries for the bi-monthly Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) meetings. These summaries will be fact based with a focus on key items covered in the meetings and summaries of the votes taken. Where needed we will cover important discussions individually.Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 8.04.25 PM.png

The video recording for this meeting is not currently available via the usual Youtube links. The video can be accessed through the City web page by clicking here and scrolling down “Archived Videos”.  Simply click on February 11, 2019 meeting to watch the video. The “Consent Agenda” was modified to remove item “a.” and make it item 15 on the regular agenda. There were no “Citizens to Be Heard” submissions and no citizens spoke in any of the public hearings.

Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 8.01.11 PM.png

9. Beer Board:

a. Leadership Germantown Trivia Night – permit for the sale of beer at the annual fundraiser to be held on February 23 at the Great Hall. Passed 4-1, Alderman Massey voting “No”

b. Exxon Food Mart (1300 South Germantown Rd.) – permit for sale of off premise consumption beer. Passed 5-0

10. Consent Agenda – Passed 5-0

11. Ordinance 2019-5 – Amendment to Smart Code Site Standards 2nd reading – Wording change to allow for driveway widths of 30.  This addresses an issue in the wording and allows for curb cuts that accommodate emergency equipment. Staff will research potential wording changes for the 3rd reading to address potential issues with TDOT and curb cuts on Poplar. Passed 5-0

12. Ordinance 2019-6 Amendment to Wireless Transmission Zoning 2nd reading – Amendment addresses two issues. The first issue is around existing macro towers requiring BMA approval for routine upgrades (e.g. antenna replacement, 4G to 5G upgrades). The second part of this amendment is placing rules around the placement of “Small Cell” technology in the city. Passed 3-2 Aldermen Sanders and Massey voting “No.”

Staff comments:Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 8.32.57 PM.png

13. Telecommunications Franchise Agreement – XO Communications – Ten year franchise agreement to allow XO Communications, a Verizon subsidiary, to install fiber optic communications underground in right-of-way. Passed 5-0

14.Wireless Equipment Upgrade Verizon @ OLPH – Approval of antenna upgrades to the existing tower at OLPH. Passed 5-0

15. Shelby County Schools Facility Usage Agreement – Extension of the agreement to allow Germantown Middle and High to use Germantown Parks and Recs facilities. The agreement also allow Germantown Parks and Rec to use school basketball courts for youth leagues. Passed 5-0

Processing the Questions

Scott Sanders has hit the ground running. While we may not always agree politically, it is worth noting that he is doing things the right way so far. Covering the city has had us out and about attending commissions and other public meetings. We are used to seeing certain Aldermen at most of these events and glad to add Alderman Sanders to that list. I even noted that Alderman Sanders was in the Economic Development office meeting with City Staff while I was meeting with staff to discuss the MPO list.

In discussion about the changing structure for the city’s billing agreement with the law firm that provides legal counsel to the city it was clear that Mr. Sanders had done his homework. He had questions about the impact of the process and went to the City Administrator to address those one on one.  As a result, he spoke confidently and cast a vote reflecting what he believes is in the best interest of the citizens of Germantown. The aldermen are encouraged to do this. While the agenda packets are quite detailed it is difficult to anticipate every question that may come up given the diverse personal and professional backgrounds of the Board.

The work of governing is done in the lead up to meetings, not in the debate from the podium. We wholeheartedly believe in the value of healthy public debate. However, it is important to be prepared for those meetings. Generally, policy doesn’t just show up on an agenda a few days before a BMA meeting. Most items on the agenda have been in the works for some time and have moved through one or more of the commissions prior to being voted on in the BMA. Some are even called out in the annual budget approved at the beginning of the year. That is why staying involved is important.

In some cases, citizen volunteers and staff put hours, months and even years into developing proposals that get voted on in the BMA. Respect for those efforts means engaging early and addressing questions prior to votes.  Good timely questions actually help shape policy, especially when they are part of the development process. That level of engagement should be present with all of our Aldermen.

Staff should certainly be ready to answer questions but aldermen should be engaged in the process early and often. The Executive Sessions are open to the public and held 30 minutes prior to the BMA meetings. If you ever sit in one of these Executive sessions, you are likely to hear Aldermen ask the same questions in both meetings. They do this so that the responses will make it on the recordings for citizens that only attend the BMA or watch online. At most meetings you will see department heads sitting in the audience ready to address questions from the Board. Staff works hard to makes sure the Aldermen can make well informed decisions.

5-0 votes shouldn’t happen all the time. They should happen most of the time and not because people are blindly agreeing. They should happen because our leaders are engaged and have had their concerns addressed earlier in the process and the result is something that reflects their input and what is best for our community.

BMA in Brief – January 28, 2019

To help you stay informed we will do our best to provide high level summaries for the bi-monthly Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) meetings. These summaries will be fact based with a focus on key items covered in the meetings and summaries of the votes taken. Where needed we will cover important discussions individually.Screen Shot 2019-01-27 at 9.18.11 PM.png

You can watch the entire meeting here. We have noted approximate times for each items for your convenience.

Mayor Palazzolo announced the National Council for Safety and Security in Washington, D.C. rated Germantown as the number one rated safest city in Tennessee. (begins approximately 21:00)

Recap of votes

9. Beer Board – On-premises consumption for Whitlows 7642 Poplar Pike – Approved 4-0 as Alderman Massey recused himself. (Begins approximately 21:45)

10. Consent agenda – Approved 5-0 with the GPAC Theater Seating moved to regular agenda as item 12 and Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Calendar moved from the regular agenda to Consent as item 10.d. (Begins approximately 27:09)

11. Appointment of Boards and Commissions Patrick Lawton, city administrator, explained when the BMA met in December to fill the board and commissions, both the Great Hall Commission and Historic Commission were not complete at that time; therefore, these positions are being brought before the board tonight. (Begins approximately 29:00)

a. Great Hall – Two members, Melanie Oest and John Wagner have reapplied. Alderman Massey is the liaison. He nominated the following: Susanne Riley-Catering, John Wagner-Corporate Business, John Peyton-Marketing, Tony Green-Operations, Lauren Boutwell-Retail, Russ Holland-Sales, and Melanie Oest-Hospitality.

Alderman Rocky Janda made a motion to amend the nominations to John Wagner, Lauren Boutwell, Russ Holland and Melanie Oest.

The amended motion passed 3-2.

b. Historic – There are three vacancies and two who have reapplied-Dale Hicks and Karen Rice. Alderman Massey is the liaison. He nominated the following: Sidney Khun, Marlene Strube and Sara Freeman.

Alderman Owens made a motion to amend the nomination to David Jackson, Dale Hicks, and Karen Rice.

The amendment passed 3-2.

12. Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Calendar – Presentation of the calendar as approved by the Financial Advisory Commission on 1/22/19 – Moved to Consent Agenda.

Item 12 became the GPAC Theater Seating. This item was included in the FY19 budget ($65k) and is the first phase of replacing the 25 year old seats in GPAC. An additional $40k is earmarked for phase 2 in the FY20 budget. Approved 4-1 (begins approximately 51:00)

13. City Attorney Agreement – Changing the current agreement with Burch, Porter & Johnson from a monthly retainer to billable hours.  Presentation by staff indicated that this methodology will allow the city to more accurately allocate costs between departments and potentially reduce costs.  Passed 4-1 (begins approximately 1:04:11)

Screen Shot 2019-01-27 at 9.32.06 PM.png

Tuition Discussion Tabled

During the work session on January 15, 2019, the Germantown Board of Education reviewed a presentation from the Superintendent Jason Manuel regarding the impact of requiring tuition in the school year 2019-20. The board discussed the many questions that have arisen and concluded that more study was needed. Therefore, the policy change was tabled.

Graphic of Current Transfer Students by School

It was revealed during discussion that the policy change was not brought by the superintendent but by Chairman Rebecca Luter at the request of Board Member Amy Eoff.

Concerns about the timing and pending open enrollment as well as the recruitment for students in the academies lead to the agreement to delay until September when they can review new enrollment numbers based on population at the new school, Forest Hill Elementary and new transfer policy. The analysis presented at this meeting by Jason Manuel was by his own admission incomplete and lacked a full understanding of programmatic impacts.

Lines 11 through 16 as seen in the graphic below were removed from the proposed changes and it was noted that returns the policy to the original wording.

BMA in Brief – January 14, 2019

To help you stay informed we will do our best to provide high level summaries for the bi-monthly Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) meetings. These summaries will be fact based with a focus on key items covered in the meetings and summaries of the votes taken. Where needed we will cover important discussions individually.

Mayor Mike Palazzolo welcomed new City Attorney Mac McCarroll and new Alderman Scott Sanders to the board.
agenda1-14.JPG

During the Executive Session, changes were made to the agenda. Beer Board item 9.a. was pulled by request of the applicant. On Consent Agenda, two items were pulled from Consent. 10.d will become item 11 and 10.e will become item 19.

9. Beer Board – Poplar Food Mart #1 approved for off-premise use and Rock N Roll Sushi approved for on-premise use.

10. Consent Agenda -approved as amended.

11. Professional Services Agreement Supplement No.2 – Final Closeout Right-of-Way Appraisals – Wolf River Boulevard/Germantown Rd. Intersection Improvements Project – Approved 4-1

12. Change Order No. 2 – Forest Hill-Irene Road Improvements – Requested increase of $37,631.33 (total project is $6.15M) for increased cost estimates for fiber optic lines needed for traffic signal connectivity and coordination and culvert replacement under the road near the school site. Original plan was to add on to the existing culvert however there were cracks and open joints that necessitated the full replacement of the culvert. – Approved 5-0

13. Election of Vice Mayor – Mary Anne Gibson selected 5-0

14. Grant – Leadership Germantown – Request for approval of budgeted grant of $13,600 for Leadership Germantown – Approved 4-1

15. Purchase – Fire Engine – Request for $859,539 to purchase a new custom fire engine.  The purchase will allow F139 (Engine 93) to be placed in reserve.  F139 is 28 years old and typical life span for this type of equipment is 15 years front line and 5 years reserve. Approved 5-0

16. Resolution 19R03 – Banking and Signature Cards. Approved 5-0

17. Ordinance 2019-5 – Amendment to Zoning Ordinance Chapter 23 – SmartCode: Site Standards 1st Reading – The proposed change clarifies language in the code about the width of curb cuts.  This change is needed to insure fire equipment can safely access properties. Approved 5-0

18. Ordinance 2019-6 – Amendment to Zoning Ordinance Chapter 23 – Wireless Transmission Facility 1st Reading – Change in wording to allow for stream lined approval of equipment upgrades on existing facilities and establishment of policies and procedures for placement of small cell wireless facilities in public right-of-ways as a result of changes to state law. This item generated discussion on how state law may allow many small cell towers all over the City of Germantown. Approved 4-1

19. Professional Services Agreement Supplement No. 4 – Wolf River Boulevard/Germantown Rd. Intersection Improvements Project. Approved 4-1

 

GMSD Tuition: Good Idea?

I have seen a lot of comments along the lines of “Pay your fair share” in the brief but intense discussion about the proposal to charge tuition for GMSD. Sounds like a reasonable argument to me. But when you go beyond the surface of that statement it quickly gets a lot more complicated. That is why I am asking for the Board of Education to postpone a vote on this subject until we see a solid analysis of the potential impact.

Let me show you where my questions arise. Contrary to popular belief, the City of Germantown does not provide the majority of funding for the district. In the FY19 budget, only 4.2% of GMSD’s revenues were projected to be from the City of Germantown. Nearly 90% of funding comes from the State and County sources. Did you know that those funding pools are based on student enrollment, to the tune of around $8,500 per student? Every transfer student into the district brings those funds with them.

First and foremost, GMSD is for the education of Germantown Students. Don’t confuse any of my discussions of school finance or transfers to be anything else. My concern is that we offer the best district for our community and to do that we need to make decisions that are financially responsible. We are talking about specific schools where we have some excess capacity. We should never allow transfer population to drive need for an additional facility.

The proposal I have seen is for tuition not to exceed $1,000 per family. Admittedly, I have not had time to do the level of research I would like in order to write about something like this, but given the vote is Tuesday I feel a need to share my concerns. If we charge $1,000 per student, more than 8 students have to sign up to pay that tuition to make up for the lost state and county funding of just one student leaving the system. In other words if more than 12% of transfers opt not to pay the fee and leave GMSD, the district loses money. If you charge a lower tuition fee that number just gets worse. At a $400 tuition level, only 5% can leave before the financial impact is negative.

This math looIMG_7495.jpgks break even at best to me and detrimental at worst. The upside potential is marginal and more analysis is needed to determine if it is worth the risk of losing the State and County revenues associated with these students. We potentially put programs like our Leadership, Fine Arts and Honors academies at risk. From what I am told there are over 200 transfer students in these programs at HHS. If the families of these students are unwilling or unable to pay tuition how will it impact these programs? The students in these academies are also high achieving and required to meet higher academic standards to transfer in.

Is this a good decision? I don’t know. We need more analysis on the financial and programmatic impacts of this proposal. Please join me in asking the board to hold off on approving this until we see a real analysis of all of the potential impacts of approving this proposal.

Additional thoughts on Financial Impacts:

For years I have professionally worked on costing and pricing. If you think back to those high school economics classes, you will remember conversations about fixed and variable costs. For the school district the fixed costs are buildings, administration, utilities and support functions that don’t vary materially based on student population.

The variable costs for the district are basically teachers salaries and other forms of direct student support. My quick analysis (like I said I would like more time to review this) shows that the district’s expenses are roughly 60/40 variable to fixed. The budgeted cost for “Regular Instruction” is $84k per teacher for salaries, wages and benefits. So, just ten transfer students cover the cost of a teacher and while class size varies based on grade, our lowest targeted optimal class size is 18 students for Kindergarten.

If 90% of our funding is tied to student enrollment and we know 60% of our cost is variable, that means each student who transfers in makes a positive contribution to the fixed costs of running our system. These are the funds that help make our academies and extra curricular programs available. Losing these students potentially shifts financial burden to the City of Germantown and your property taxes. If these are decisions we want to make as a community, then we just need to be sure we understand the impact before we cast a vote.

I am concerned that we don’t have the research to understand potential unintended consequences of this decision.

Want to Get Fit? Germantown has Choices!

It’s a running joke on social media that Germantown has too many pizza places. So it’s a good thing we have almost, if not more fitness choices.

Let’s take a look at the variety of fitness studio options in Germantown to meet any fitness level or price range.

ATC Fitness has locations all over the mid-south. In addition to the two Germantown locations, there are 14 in Tennessee, as far away as Jackson, and four in Mississippi with one as far away as Tupelo. ATC is open 24 hours and has a full complement of equipment both for cardio and weight training.

CycleBar offers a unique, high-energy, cycling experience for riders of all ages and fitness levels.

CrossFit SOPO Germantown offers a core strength & conditioning program that delivers “fitness that is by design, broad, general, and inclusive.”

The Exercise Coach is the latest fitness center to open in Germantown. They bill themselves as the “Smartest 20-Minute Workout In The World™.” The concept uses Exerbotics Connected Fitness technology. This tech-enabled training method uses scientifically customized strength and interval training. The technology adapts to abilities of any individual and is proven to be more effective than long-duration workout techniques.

F45 has not officially opened but will be coming soon. Originating from Australia, the concept combines elements of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Circuit Training, and Functional Training.

Germantown Athletic Center (GAC) is owned by the City of Germantown and provides a wide variety of services to its members. The GAC boasts an 8,500 square feet fitness area with state of the art equipment, certified fitness trainers, a three court gym, three courts for racquetball, indoor walking track, group fitness classes, a cycling room, a 40 meter indoor pool, dry saunas, locker rooms with separate areas for men, women and families, a cafe and an outdoor pool with a splash park. During January, you can join for $20.19 (regularly $99). For more information, (901) 757-7370.

HOTWORX is a virtually instructed exercise program using infrared heat. They offer either a 30-minute isometric workout or 15-min High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session.

Iron Tribe Fitness blends one-on-one coaching with group fitness to deliver results. Iron Tribe’s 45-minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) group classes are paired with one-on-one personal coaching.

Jazzercise has offered dance-based group fitness classes since 1969. The Germantown location is headed by long-time local instructor, Marion Dalton.

The Little Gym Even your kiddos can get fit in Germantown. Bring them to The Little Gym and let them run off some energy with their creative physical activities.

Orangetheory Fitness offers high intensity interval training classes designed to get your heart rate in the “orange” zone for a more effective and lasting workout.

The Owings Life Enrichment Center at Germantown United Methodist Church offers a variety of classes and has a full service gym and walking track. It is open to non-church members for a fee and has limited nursery hours.

Pike Yoga offers group classes and personal training. Their philosophy, “Attitude. Matitude. Gratitude.” comes from their practice of yoga.

Pure Barre classes offer a low-impact, full body workout concentrating on the areas women struggle with the most: hips, thighs, seat, abdominals and arms. Men are welcome too, if you want to improve your “Pure Barre shelf.”

Sumits Yoga classes are designed for all levels, beginner through advanced. Each yoga session aims to strengthen the core, increase flexibility and restore balance—all while you sweat out toxins, increase your blood flow and flush fat.

UFC Gym uses an approach that fuses mixed martial arts with state-of-the-art equipment and traditional fitness. They offer group fitness classes, private coaching, personal and group training, plus youth programs.

If you can’t afford a group class or center, no need to sit on your couch. Germantown has a variety of parks, nature areas and a Greenway ready for your exploration.