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County budget talks to reach finale, commission approves distillery

As the county budget season creeps closer and closer to its finale this summer, County Mayor Rogers Anderson breathes a sigh of relief as county revenues flow in at the end of the current fiscal year.

“The county budgets will be presented to you with no tax increase,” County Mayor Rogers Anderson told the commission at its regular monthly meeting June 10.

“Due to revenues coming in including tax money for schools and privilege taxes, the whole revenue stream as well as conservative budgeting by departments contributed to taxes not being increased,” Anderson said.

Last year, the WCS school budget engulfed about two-thirds of the county’s entire budget, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office came in second as one of the largest funded departments. This year Williamson County Schools presents a $260 million budget, not quite two-thirds of the county's approximately $434,850,000 budget this year. The full commission holds the final say concerning the amount that WCS will be allotted for the 2013-14 school year.

Commissioners will cast a final vote for all county department budgets at the County Commission meeting Monday, July 8 at 9 a.m. in the auditorium of the Williamson County Government Administrative Complex.

Non-budget discussions
Leiper’s Fork to get a new distillery, Brightstone expands campus for developmentally disabled adults, scholarships earned by students jump, as does the tax-appraised value of Williamson County properties, which is now $8.5 billion.

“The property value reaching $8.5 billion is a significant milestone in Williamson County,” Anderson said. “It’s a credit to all people in Williamson County.”

Williamson follows four other counties in the state – Davidson, Shelby, Knox and Hamilton – in overall property value.

Whiskey in Leiper’s Fork
The commission approved a zoning ordinance during a public hearing session that will allow Leiper’s Creek Distillery to be built in Leiper’s Fork in a rural preservation district.

The distillery’s scale is small compared to other major distilleries in the nation, which focuses on “quality and not quantity.”

“We will produce $25,000 gallons a year,” Lee Kennedy, the applicant, said. “Jack Daniels’ produces 65,000 gallons a day. I would take us two-and-a-half years to make what they make in a day.”

“I am proud of the standards that this resolution will set in the craft distillery industry [which is growing around the nation] as well as promote thriving heritage tourism,” Kennedy said.

“If it’s half as successful as Arrington Vineyards, it will be a smashing success,” Commissioner Steve Smith, District 12, said.

BrightStone expands
Thunderous applause swept the approximately 230-seat auditorium when the commission unanimously approved amendments to a zoning ordinance during a public hearing session that will allow BrightStone to build a facility much like a college campus to meet the needs of developmentally disabled adults.

“This amendment will make it possible to serve our population in one place [intellectually and residentially]. We will meet Williamson County standards and state regulations and rules,” Dick Wells, said who serves as chairman of the board at BrightStone.

BrightStone supporters comprised about half of the seats in the auditorium, all wearing red shirts labeled with the institution’s logo. “About 4,000 to 5,000 people support our organization,” Wells told the commission. “We are grateful for your consideration.”

Schools Report
The 2012-13 graduating class landed a whopping $112 million in scholarship offers this year, Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney reported to the commission. About $60 million in scholarship offers were accepted by seniors.

“I haven’t been able to find a district in the state that has beat us in that number,” Looney said. “We have about a 44 percent return in taxpayer dollars. About 44 cents to every tax dollar was returned to WCS students.”

Conversation quickly turned to the controversial textbook review process when Commissioner Kathy Danner, District 4, voiced some confusion over where the textbook complaint originated concerning the Advanced Placement textbook, “A Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography, 10th Edition.”

“Isn’t the review process supposed to originate from the school where the complaint came from?” Danner asked Looney. Some questions have surfaced because the complainant, Laurie Cardoza-Moore, is a parent at Centennial High School.

“I am telling you that the complaint was filed at Franklin High School,” Looney said.

“Thank you for getting that on the record,” Danner responded.

Looney reported that the five-member textbook review committee, whose names have not been released by Williamson County Schools, are still in the process of reading and studying the textbook in question as outlined in district policy.

The committee consists of an “appropriate director” to serve as chairperson,” the president of the PTA/PTO or other parent organization, the principal of a county school serving the [affected] same grade levels, a Board of Education member, and a representative of the Williamson County Education Association.

Looney said that committee members will be revealed when the committee meets with the complainant – the next step in the textbook review process.

“It’s like a trial. You have to protect the ‘jury’ so that they will not be influenced or harassed by comments or phone calls, etc. in order to maintain the integrity of the review process,” Looney said.

Posted on: 6/11/2013


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