BMA in Brief June 10, 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.

The agenda packets provided to the Aldermen can be found by clicking here.

The full video of the meeting can be found on YouTube by clicking here.

Flood Update from Germantown Fire Department Chief John Selberg. (6:30)

6. Citizens to be Heard (15:52) There were a total of seven citizens that stepped up to speak. One spoke on sales tax, five spoke about the flood and one spoke about the flood and lack of cell coverage in the affected area.

9. Preliminary Agenda (41:40)Alderman Massey proposed moving items b. and c. to the regular agenda. Both failed and the the preliminary agenda was approved as proposed. The preliminary agenda was Approved (4-1)

10. Ordinance 2019-1 Adoption of FY2020 Budget Second Reading and Public Hearing (44:03)The Chairman of the Financial Advisory Commission (FAC) read a short statement into the record to document the work done by this group in helping to oversee the development of the FY20 budget. In the public hearing one member of the Financial Advisory Commission came forward to discuss the Germantown Country Club.  Approved (4-1)

11. Ordinance 2019-2 Year End Budget Adjustments Second Reading and Public Hearing (2:03:34) The public hearing did not have anyone from the community come forward to make statements on this item. An extensive list of adjustments was presented to account for changes during the year. The detailed list can be reviewed by in the Aldermen’s packets. When reviewing this list note that the changes is the total in the “Proposed Adjustment” column of the document. Approved (5-0)

12. Ordinance 2019-3 Real and Personal Property Taxes Second Reading and Public Hearing (2:17:23) – The public hearing did not have anyone from the community come forward to make a statement on this item. This Ordinance sets the 2020 tax rate at $1.95, no change from the FY19 rate. Approved (4-1)

13. Ordinance 2019-4 GMSD Year-End Budget Adjustments – Second Reading and Public Hearing (2:20:17) – The public hearing did not have anyone from the community come forward to make a statement on this item. A list of the pr Approved (5-0)

14. Ordinance 2019-12 Amendment to Fire Prevention Ordinance Chapter 10 First Reading (2:22:53)The ordinance to adopt a new fire code based on the 2015 international fire code. The state of TN currently uses the 2012 international fire code.  The proposed code added requirements for sprinklers on dead end streets over 750 feet.  There are also additional items to address safety of food trucks. It includes the ability for the BMA to establish a board of appeals for rulings of the Fire Marshal.  Approved (5-0)

15. Ordinance 2019-12 Amendment to Fire Prevention Ordinance Chapter 10 – Residential Sprinklers – First Reading (2:29:27) – This item supports the adoption of the 2015 fire code.  The code requires sprinklers for new homes over 5,000 square feet vs. the current requirement of 7,500 square feet. It would require sprinkler systems in zero lot line homes with distances of less than 20 feet between homes. Approved (5-0)

16.Ordinance 2019-13 – Amendment to Subdivision Ordinance Chapter 17 Section 17-56 (Streets) First Reading (2:34:32) This amendment brings the subdivision ordinance in line with the requirements laid out in the fire ordinances above.  That includes requirements for cul-de-sac diameters as well as dead end street restrictions. Approved (5-0)

BMA in Brief – March 25, 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.

6. Citizens to be Heard (7:19)There were four citizens that addressed the board. Three of them spoke in opposition to the location of a proposed cell phone tower on the campus of Dogwood Elementary. The contract for this project is not yet before the BMA but is anticipated in the next month or so as the construction is targeted for this summer while school is out. The fourth resident spoke about Senate Bill 1292 currently in the state legislature and his concerns about transparency.

The “Packets” with supporting documents provided to the Aldermen can be found by clicking here.

Agenda Amendments: The Agenda was amended with Items 10 (Alderman Liaison GAC) and Item 15 (Public to Private Street Conversion) being moved to the Consent Agenda.  Item b. (Sewer Manhole Rehabilitation) on the consent agenda was moved to the regular agenda as item 10.  Item c. (Change Order GPAC) on the consent agenda was moved to the regular agenda as item 15. Item g. (Supplement No. 1 On-Call Services) on the consent agenda was moved to the regular agenda as item 16.

10. Change Order – Sewer Manhole Rehabilitation (33:06)This proposal shifts funding (in the utility fund) from work that was budgeted for cured in place pipe work to the cover 35 additional manholes in the Woodridge and Poplar Estates Subdivisions. This increases the contract from $150K to $215K. This contract is part of a cooperative and uses a bid from Cookville, TN. The work is needed to reduce infiltration of rain water into the sewer system. Rain water in the sanitary sewer can contribute to backups in homes. Passed (5-0)

11. Approval of Warrant – Thornwood Planned Development – Sign Policy (39:28)The current code applied to this area requires that each business apply for a warrant individually with the city to allow for standard signage which is similar to what is permitted in other commercial districts. Passed (4-1)

12. Ordinance 2019-7 Amendment to Subdivision Ordinance – Parkland Dedication – Second Reading & Public Hearing (1:01:39)The amendment changes the wording to address the use of the term “Parks Districts” which the city does not have. The change also allows the Parks Director to review the preliminary plans prior to going to the Parks Commission. The ordinance also addresses the need for Smart Code properties to make land or financial contributions in lieu of park land. In the public hearing, one citizen addressed the board with concerns about the lack of a time limit to spend the funds collected via these fees and spoke in support of a proposed motion to review impacts. In discussion, a motion was made to apply a process for review of the location and potential usage on a case by case basis. City does not use true impact fees, they use negotiated development contracts to account for sewer usage and road items. Questions about whether park dedication is an impact fee. Amendment passes 4-1. There was additional discussion around the change in wording from Parks and Recreation commission to Parks Director and what the impact was to the commission and how the city charter worded the establishment of the Parks and Recreation Commission. Passed (3-2)

13. Ordinance 2019-8 Amendment to Vegetation Ordinance – Tree Preservation & Planting Requirements Second Reading & Public Hearing (1:30:44) The ordinance makes two specific changes. First, it establishes the option of payment in-leiu of tree dedication. Previously, trees would have to be replaced or dedicated on public land. In some cases neither of these options are viable. The funds from these payment should be used for maintenance or replacement of public trees. The second part establishes the option of a cap to the fee. It will be at the discretion of the Design Review Commission and requires a report from an independent arborist, at the applicants expense. The public hearing did not have anyone step forward to address the board on this subject. Passed (4-1)

14. Ordinance 2019-9 Amendment to Chapter 2 Article VI, Division 2 – Purchasing Second Reading & Public Hearing (1:55:20) This Ordinance change updated the amount of approvals for items requiring bids to be in line with state approved limits. The changes will help to streamline the approval process for these services. Section 2-328, the ordinance moves the threshold for requiring competitive sealed bids from $10K to $25K. It also moves the threshold for having three competitive quotes from a range of $4,000-$9,999.99 to a range of $10,000-$24,999. Section 2-331, this change allows the city administrator or Mayor to approve change orders up to $10K vs. the current threshold of $2,500. Section 2-337 raised the limit of bids needed for disposal of assets from $2,500 to $5,000. There was significant discussion around what could be approved under and how many transactions fall into this window. When questioned about visibility of spending for the BMA, staff indicated that only budgeted items could be purchased using this process. That being the case the BMA has visibility to proposed spending in the budget process and reporting on spending made using these approvals will be provided to the BMA. The public hearing did not have anyone step forward to address the board on this subject. Passed (3-2)

15. Change Order – GPAC Grove $5,175.83 (2:40:15) The contract increased to $3,955,219.67 reflecting a 0.13% increase to project. The change is needed to address “unsuitable soils” that have to be made to build the project. An additional change order will come to a future BMA to address additional areas of the site that need work for “unsuitable soils”. Passed (4-1)

16. Supplement 1 – FY19 On-Call Professional Services Agreement – Traffic Engineering (2:55:00)This is an increase to the contract from $50k to $70k or a 40% increase. The workload for budgeted items has been lower than planned however, several unbudgeted projects have resulted in the need for additional funds. Those include an in-depth study on Wolf River school traffic, striping plan for additional road work and preparation of TIP applications for state and federal funding. This firm provides traffic engineering and signal maintenance services for the city. Passed (4-1)

Sneak Peek at Thornwood

IMG_6776.jpgThe Thornwood open house offered a glimpse into the sense of community that a mixed use development can generate. Food trucks and live music added to the festive atmosphere as curious residents and potential tenants toured the model units open to the community.

IMG_6762.jpgThere were four apartments open for viewing in the “Residence” building. The model floor plans included two each of their one bedroom and two bedroom units. The building is still very much under construction and scheduled to be completed in March from what one volunteer told me. While the demo units had flooring installed, the main hallways were still under construction and likely will not have their final touches until all the units are complete.

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The finishes were high end with solid surface counters, stainless steel appliances and walk in showers. Each unit had an open floor plan with clear views between the kitchen and living areas. All of the units featured laundry, the larger units had full size washer and dryers. One of the two bedroom units features a “sun room”, a great place for avid readers to relax with some natural light.

The units in the “Market Row Lofts” were larger and had higher end finishes. These units were not quite finished, lacking counter tops and sinks but you could tell the cabinets and fixtures in place were even higher than those of the “Residence.” The large windows brought in lots of natural light. My wife and I were amazed at how quiet the units were given the traffic right outside the windows. There were two units open for inspection. These units are directly above the retail space on Neshoba and Germantown Road.

IMG_6773.jpgThe “Loft” units included two bedrooms and laundry rooms. One had an office space off the entry. Both featured large closets and good storage space.

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It will be nice to see when these units are complete with all their finishes. We met a couple touring the facility that plans to move into the residence in March. They have a unit reserved on the 4th floor which should offer great views of the area.  They will have the convenience of this prime location. They are walking distance to GPAC (and the new Grove), GAC and all the great programming that goes on in Municipal Park.  This retired couple is looking forward to the convenience offered by the combination of uses and location of Thornwood.

WheIMG_6778.jpgn you are in the middle of this development you don’t feel like A major high way is on the other side of the buildings. This is an exciting addition to our community.  I hope we see some good programming that makes use of the green space in the middle of this area. While it is not huge (.34 acres), it is a great spot for some more intimate performances.

The added benefit to our community comes in the form of tax dollars. This commercial real estate is tax at a 40% assessment vs. the 25% assessment on residential. All totaled the estimated revenues from this 12 acres of land (or 0.002% of the total area of Germantown) are projected at $1.5m annually. For perspective, that’s enough to service the debt on our new school every year, buy a new fire truck or pave 3-4 miles of roads.

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“Warn your neighbors and friends?”

Jeff Brown continues to champion a narrative that schools are going to be overcrowded despite the clear data that states otherwise. I have been out of town for two weeks out west celebrating my 10 year anniversary with my wife and then spending a week elk hunting with my Father. When I got home I was made aware of comments by Alderman Massey on one of Dr. Brown’s posts. See below.

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He gives no factual basis for stating it is flawed data. Just because the outcome of professional analysis doesn’t support your personal theory doesn’t mean it is wrong.

Betsy Landers’ treasurer happens to be my Father. Betsy is a friend from church. So, as you can see, the roots of whatever conspiracy he is insinuating have a real shady basis (I am rolling my eyes as I write this). The problem is that Alderman Massey implies that everything is a conspiracy. If you are friends, neighbors, members of a commission or club or just support the same person you are clearly part of a conspiracy in his mind.

Alderman Massey uses his platform to question people, so now I am going to use my platform to provide the truth.

His comments insinuate that my father and sister are of questionable character and that the public should be warned. This conversation could be about any of the people listed above. Alderman Massey impugns the character of anyone that disagrees with him. That includes many good people who he believes have no valid opinions because in his eyes they support the mayor. He doesn’t attack the ideas; he attacks people.

So yes, warn your “neighbors and friends” that a man who is a nationally respected financial professional is supporting the election of School Board candidate Betsy Landers. A man with integrity, my father, founded a company which pioneered fee-only financial planning in the Mid-South. Making sure that his company’s goal aligned with clients as opposed to selling the highest commission product. Yes, warn people that a man that helped establish Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis and raised his kids to work on weekends putting siding on houses in Rossville is supporting a candidate.

He is so nefarious he is receiving the lifetime achievement award from the Estate Planning Council of Memphis and has been a leader in the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. On our drive home from the elk hunt, he spent an hour on the phone coaching a Missionary in Costa Rica whom he helps. I could go on and on about his work with Rotary International and many other community and mission organizations. Most of all, he is a man of faith; the basis of his integrity. I am proud to be his son. I can’t tell you how many people stop me to tell me what a good man he is.

He raised his daughter, who lost that election Mr. Massey mentioned, to give back to her community. Service that continues even after that loss, with thousands of volunteer hours in our schools. Not service for recognition, but service for love of our schools and the children of this community. He raised his daughter to have values that turn tragedy into hope for others. She and her husband gave the ultimate gift of her late son’s organs following his untimely death at age 2.  She became an advocate for organ donation and took a role as a member of the Advisory Board for Mid South Transplant Foundation and the National Kidney Foundation.

Me, I am just lucky to call these people family. I am proud, too. So yes, I am on my soapbox but if you want to warn people about my family please go ahead and show them this blog.

I have only known Alys for a couple of years and honestly, I thank you for that Dean. Had you not blocked me, we would have probably would not have crossed paths. Your mission to suppress open conversation about issues brought us together. Alys and I stand by what we write. We have a common goal to covey the truth and provide context to a political environment that has become way too convoluted with spin and lies.

Your instinct to brand people as the “Mayor’s Supporters” is a detriment to you. You should learn that we all bring value and perspective to the conversation. Instead, you choose to ignore people who don’t align with your view. Either way, this election falls out, you will need to work with the citizens you look down upon. The issues facing this city require that we work together for the common good. Perhaps when you realize this, we can work together.

Note: It appears this post has since been deleted. Clearly Dr. Brown wants to maintain the perception of distance between him and Alderman Massey. I don’t blame him but how separate are they when they have both so strongly tied themselves to Candidate Barzizza?

 

Will Apartments Overcrowd GMSD Schools?

Recently, the issue came up as to whether GMSD has adequately planned for growth in the event of a full build-out in the city of Germantown. Specifically, will new apartments overcrowd our schools?

Parents and the community members can rest assured that GMSD officials are continuously reviewing data and monitoring student enrollment. They have identified our district’s needs based on Germantown’s projected growth and expected demographic changes. Armed with this information, GMSD has implemented the necessary capital improvement plans to meet our needs as a growing district.

Take a look below for more specific information.

Q & A with Superintendent Manuel:

What’s the current enrollment at GMSD schools?

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What is the difference between programmatic and optimal capacities?

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What are the capacity issues for our schools?

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What is being done to alleviate K-5 overcrowding?

Check out this link to see GMSD’s newest school being built.

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Will all portables be removed in the near future from GMSD campuses?

“Yes. We will be removing all portables once the new school is built and school numbers will be able to accommodate optimal staffing.”

See the link from GMSD’s website

 

What space will be available for growth when the new elementary school opens? 

“You can see the total amount of space available once we open [the new elementary school]. Please look at the attached link below. It shows our forecasts for total build out in the city.”

See the link from GMSD

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In the event of a total city build-out, could GMSD still accommodate all students?

“Even if the city was completely built out. We would have capacity at k-5. See chart below.”

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What about middle school students, what are your plans for them?

“We do not have any capacity at the middle school level and need a wing and additional gym at Houston Middle school.”

 

These numbers are all based on a demography report, are you sure it is accurate?

“The demographer was very accurate in his forecasts for all schools. In the first year after his study, he projected within 5 students in the k-5 grade band. The second year after his study, we had 57 students less than projected because the district reduced the number of transfer students we accepted.”

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Looking for more info? Check out this link from GMSD.

Barzizza, Brown, & Sanders Supporter Violates GMSD Policies with Sign in the Carpool Line

Farmington Elementary School parents were no doubt surprised to see a campaign supporter of mayoral candidate John Barzizza, Aldermen candidates Jeff Brown and Scott Sanders in the Monday afternoon carpool line. As parents waited to pick up their children from school, they were met by a woman carrying a large yellow protest sign that read, “No More Apartments. Vote Barzizza, Brown, Sanders.”

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While there is a time and a place to voice your political opinion and support your choice of candidate, it just isn’t appropriate to trespass onto Farmington School property to protest apartments and campaign for John Barzizza, Jeff Brown, and Scott Sanders. We have to draw the line here. This type of political activity goes too far and threatens the very safety of our children.

Having someone wave a large sign in the carpool line distracts drivers at a time when they need to be watching out for children, not political signs. It disrupts the school campus and causes alarm especially in this world of school shootings where we are all very concerned about who has access to our children. No parent wants a disgruntled person to trespass onto their child’s school campus and protest a political issue or push a candidate’s campaign agenda. We never know when such things could draw other protesters, spiral out of control, or even become violent.

GMSD has implemented school policies to regulate campaign activities on school property. Candidates and their supporters are not allowed to bring any political sign onto school campuses except poll workers may hold signs on Election Day. And a candidate’s promotional materials are likewise prohibited from being placed on school premises. That means that candidates for Germantown Alderman may not place their campaign brochures on the cars parked at Houston High School during the season’s first home game or for that matter, any other school campus.

It’s sad to see out of control politics affecting the safety and well being of our schools. We hope GMSD resolves this issue soon and sends a strong message to political candidates that we will not tolerate such disruption to our children’s education.

The Truth Behind Overcrowding at GMSD Schools

Getting our own municipal schools in Germantown wasn’t easy. Voters in each of the suburban towns and cities approved referendums on forming municipal school districts in August 2012. But the results were voided months later in a decision by U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays and the Tennessee state legislature responded in 2013 by passing a new law that lifted the statewide ban on the creation of such school districts. With the new law, aldermen in each of the six towns set a new election date for the same ballot questions.

After these legal battles and two votes of the citizens, the Germantown Municipal School District (GMSD) opened its doors in 2014. Since then, the district has grown, and the city has benefited from these excellent schools. Overall, the district has grown 638 (15%) resident students in its first four years according to the District’s 2017 Facilities Plan.

Achievements

During those four years, the District has achieved quite a lot.

  • Houston High School has the highest public high school district ACT average in the state for the third consecutive year
  • GMSD was named a District of Distinction in 2017 for work on Exceptional Student Education Transitional Experience
  • Houston Middle School counselors were recognized with the RAMP recognition from ASCA this year (the only middle school in Tennessee to meet qualifications for the counseling program award)
  • Memphis Business Journal recognized Houston High as both the Most Challenging High School and the #1 Best Public High School
  • Each year, Houston High sets new records for students in the HHS 30+ ACT club

Because of these accolades, GMSD has become a school district of choice for many young families as evidenced by how quickly sold signs replace for sale signs in Germantown. Since 2013, the average number of days on the market for Germantown homes has decreased 65% from 113 to just 40, according to statistics from the City of Germantown.

Capacity

As a result, many are concerned about overcrowding at our schools and wonder what the GMSD administration is doing about it. You may even see or hear some candidates campaigning on this topic.

In the Spring of 2017, the district hired a professional demographer to project enrollment for the district over the next ten years. If you want to read the entire study, it can be found here.

Total district enrollment is forecasted to increase by 286 students, or 4.9%, between 2016-17 and 2021-22. Total enrollment is forecasted to decline by 108 students, or -1.8%, from 2021-22 to 2026-27.

But what does this mean for our current schools’ capacity? Many are concerned that the schools are overcrowded, and students are suffering as a result. Let’s take a look at capacity.

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Screen Shot 2018-08-21 at 8.21.01 PM.pngMaximum capacity is defined as the number of students that can be accommodated within a classroom. The utilization rate determines how efficiently the student population and programs operate within the available classroom space. Utilization rates are at or above 90 percent at each school. The district strives for enrollment at each school to be below the maximum capacity allowed by state standards and as such has defined optimal capacity as 2 students per teacher below the state maximums.

To achieve an optimal capacity, the district committed to various options to balance enrollment among the elementary and middle schools. Utilization rates currently above the desired thresholds and are being addressed temporarily through the use of modular classrooms at Dogwood and Farmington. This is a legacy solution inherited from Shelby County Schools. Removing portables has been a high priority item for GMSD as evidenced by the investments at Riverdale which facilitated the removal of portables there.

However, as seen in the maps above, the opening of the new Forest Hill Elementary School in 2019 will provide relief to Dogwood, Farmington, and Riverdale Elementary. Rezoning students at Dogwood, Farmington, and Riverdale will relieve capacity issues at these schools, allow the removal of modular classrooms that have been added to Dogwood and Farmington, and allow the district to explore staffing at a more optimal capacity for teacher to student ratio.

GMSD is watching closely the growth at the middle school level as well. With support from the City, they are preparing to fund a $5 million expansion at Houston Middle School as soon as fiscal year 2020. The absolute need will be determined once GMSD has carefully reviewed growth projections, the results of revising the school transfer policy and the effects of zoning changes planned for the 2019-2020 school year.

Support from the City of Germantown

In fiscal year 2019, the City of Germantown’s general fund budget allocates $6.9 million to directly support GMSD. This includes $2.5 million in maintenance of effort funding required by the state.

What is maintenance of effort? If you remember our previous post The Truth About School Funding and Sales Taxes, we explain the term “Maintenance of Effort” (“MOE”) generally refers to a requirement placed upon many federally funded grant programs that the State Education Agency (SEA) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) or school districts, demonstrate that the level of State and local funding remains constant from year to year.(1)

Our public schools are mostly funded by revenue generated primarily from state sales tax and county property tax. Each county in Tennessee is required to operate and contribute funding for a public system of education. In order for a municipality to operate its own separate and independent district, the municipality must provide SUPPLEMENTAL funding. It is up to the municipal governing body to determine the amount and source of supplemental funding. We should all thank the administrators who crafted the wording of the resolution because they understood this and thus worded the referendum accordingly.

This is why the fiscal policy of tying school funding to a variable revenue source is dangerous. When sales tax revenues drop the only other source to pay that obligation is your property taxes. In a recession, not only would you have the negative impact of a down economy, the city would be in a position to be forced to raise your property taxes to meet the MOE requirements.

Additionally, the City of Germantown provides an additional $4.4 million to cover costs related to student safety and continuing the improvement of our school facilities.

More specifically:

  • $1 million for replacement of the failing boiler system at Riverdale School with an additional $1.5 million included in the fiscal year 2020 budget to complete the work
  • $1.36 million in debt service payments for the new elementary school currently under construction
  • $560,000 for school resource officers and crossing guards at each school
  • $500,000 for safety and security improvements at each school
  • $440,000 in debt service payments for the Riverdale addition
  • $355,000 court-mandated annual payment to Shelby County Schools
  • $200,000 each year for the next five years to help fund Houston Arts and Athletics Foundation field house construction and auditorium renovation projects at Houston High School.

As we head toward the November election, remember that your city government and the GMSD School Board actually has been planning for overcrowding in our schools and for any scenario growth in our city may throw at us.

Reference

(1)   Maintenance of Effort: The Basics