BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (September 17) — The Weakley County Finance, Ways and Means Committee approved several amendments to the 2020-21 Fiscal Year budget during Thursday morning’s meeting in Dresden involving grant money provided through the CARES Act.
Two of the resolutions deal with the General Purpose School Fund. One focuses on Special Education. Weakley County Director of Schools Randy Frazier said, “We received a $75,000 transition grant to hire someone to help prepare our special-needs children to go to trade school, where they can acquire the skills necessary to get a job.” He explained another grant is already approved for next year and may be extended a third year.
Frazier stated, using existing funds, the resolution transfers money where needed to hire an extra part-time speech teacher.
A budget transfer totaling $15,000 is earmarked to cover the traveling expenses incurred by parents who transport their children to the West Tennessee School for the Deaf.
Another General Purpose School Fund resolution budgets $50,000 in additional revenue. Frazier explained local option sales tax revenue was more than projected and these funds are being placed in the undesignated fund balance. This brings the budget into compliance with state regulations regarding maintenance of effort.
A Weakley County Highway Fund resolution budgets $1,000 in additional tax revenue received by the Weakley County Trustee’s office.
A resolution transferring $450 out of the Weakley County Library’s undesignated fund balance to pay for additional supplies and materials relating to COVID was approved.
A COVID-related grant totaling $1,500, awarded to the Weakley County Election Commission, will be used to cover additional expenses incurred because of the pandemic. “He’s contracted out some training videos for the election workers, explaining additional duties they must perform, due to COVID,” Finance Director John Liggett said.
Weakley County Trustee Marci Floyd asked to use COVID grant funding to purchase two laptop computers, which have the same capabilities as their office computers. She explained, in the event someone in the Trustee’s office gets COVID, the laptops allow the staff to work from home, so they can keep the county’s bank account in order and receive tax revenue. Otherwise, the county can’t function.
The committee heard from Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum concerning a Dresden Senior Citizens Center trip originally planned for New York. He noted the trip is cancelled, due to COVID restrictions that include a travel ban, closing Broadway Street and other attractions the seniors had planned to visit. “They would basically have sat in their motel rooms with nowhere to go,” Bynum said. “They have the option of getting a refund or rescheduling and going on a trip to another location in the same price range.” He stated, since the money is prepaid through a county entity, Weakley County would refund their money. If all of the seniors decide to get a refund, the total amount is $41,152.
“I think, moving forward, the county has no business being a travel agency,” Commissioner Roger Donaldson said.
“Other than this trip, this will be our last trip,” Bynum said.
The county mayor also gave an update on the progress of renovations at the Weakley County Courthouse. “The HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) equipment is in place, but there is still painting to be done. It’s a world of difference.”
He stated workers removed the old ceiling tile and replaced it with sheetrock. Additionally, all lighting has been replaced with LED lighting in all county buildings
Bynum announced the drop-off bin, now in operation during the day, is being extended to include nighttime drop-offs. It will be permanent, so people can drop-off their property tax payments at night.
Bynum remarked he believes the salaries of school resource officers (SROs) performing COVID checks as visitors enter the front door of the courthouse should be a reimbursable expense.
Grant funding is based on $15 per capita for a total of approximately $500,000.
The expense fund allows for expenses between March 1 and December 31. Every expense must have a narrative, which explains how it is related to COVID. All of these narratives must be submitted by November 1.
Bynum stated the number of COVID-19 cases in Weakley County diminished in recent days, which he attributes to the use of facemasks, social distancing, regular hand washing and staying at home when sick.
Frazier stated the number of COVID-19 cases have been greatly reduced within the school system, which he believes is due to stringent enforcement of precautions against becoming infected. “We’re one of the few systems in our area that hasn’t completely shut down and gone to virtual learning,” Frazier said. “It’s because of the work of our principals and teachers, and cooperation of our families with students.”