Bartlett ‘State of the City’: School budgeting, housing growth ahead
Bartlett mayor Keith McDonald said last Tuesday that 2014 is already proving to be a “mathematical year,” with all the number-crunching necessary to help the new city school district and also manage the city’s own balance sheets.
Success is worth the effort, and he sees supporting both the city and its new school district as a true team sport.
“Education is a sword worth dying on,” he said. “It will mean so much to our community to have our own municipal schools.”
McDonald spoke on Jan. 14 at the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon, delivering his “State of the City” address. A crowd of 118 people attended.
The city’s budget is due by the end of June, he said, it will need to include funds to carry the school district during a critical financial period until federal funds arrive. McDonald explained that federal funds are based on enrollment numbers and the needs of the enrolled students, and previous years’ numbers don’t exist for the new district. It is likely to take 45-60 days after school starts for federal funding to be calculated and become available. Teachers’ salaries and the district’s other expenses will need to be paid from the day the school district opens its doors.
The city is working on refining its estimate of that “bridge” loan to the city school district from the city’s reserve funds. This cost is in addition to the city’s own contribution to the school budget, an estimated $1.7 million, based on state law requiring cities to invest in their municipal school districts (a minimum amount equal to 15 cents on the property tax rate).
The estimations are difficult because enrollment may not be predictable for the first year or two, depending on open enrollment policy decisions and how successful area schools are at recruiting.
“There is going to be a lot of recruiting going on,” McDonald said.
He explained that some seniors and possibly some juniors will want to stay at Bolton High School instead of transferring to Bartlett High School to complete their high school education, and he understands that. It means that the pool of Bartlett students may be smaller than initially estimated for the first year or two.
During his BACC speech, McDonald also discussed upcoming travels to Nashville to “play defense” on annexation (protecting the city’s expenditures) and pension funding requirements that assume the employee will stay in the system until retirement. Bartlett is one of 30-40 cities in Tennessee who manage their own pension plan outside the state’s program, and the city’s pension plan funding is almost at 100 percent.
Bartlett didn’t fund at 100 percent for three years, but it funded at 108 percent the previous year, McDonald said. Last year, funding reached 100 percent after the books closed.
“So we are OK – in fact, we’re in really good shape – but that’s something we are going to have to deal with,” McDonald said. “… In terms of bookkeeping, it’s a hot topic, and something we’ll be dealing with the next year.”
He said he appreciated all the attendees at the luncheon, and their success is necessary for the city’s health. He also let business owners know that the city of Bartlett helps those who pull their civic weight and serve as good corporate partners. “We do a lot of business with a lot of people, and we want to do business with you too, but you need to be a good Bartlett corporate citizen if you’re expecting us to do business with you.”
McDonald expects to see economic improvements in 2014. He predicted that Bartlett’s existing home values will climb in 2014 and new housing development will reach “in the 300s” within the city limits or the annexation reserve. This estimate more than doubles the 2013 year-end figuresMemphis Area Home Sales Report, which showed just 122 new home sales, according to the December Memphis Area Home Sales Report.
“There are great things coming,” he said.
Other BACC Announcements
- BPACC discount: Ron Jewell with Bartlett Performing Arts and Conference Center (BPACC) said there is a special chamber member discount for two of their upcoming shows, Andy Chiles on March 8 and Chris Mann on March 29. To get tickets for only $15 (a $10 savings), ticket buyers just need to request the discount and say the secret word “chamber.” He advised purchasers to hurry because tickets are limited.
- Honoree announced: Sharon Fryman with Immanuel Lutheran School was introduced as the 2014 Ambassador President and the recipient of the 2013 December Ambassador of the Month Award.