Agreement with Jackson National Life Insurance-The City has reached an agreement as to their part in the regional center for Jackson National Life Insurance Company. The cost of the infrastructure development total cost will be $884,000 with the City contributing $200,000, the State contributing $300,000, and the balance will be paid by the company. The terms of the agreement with the county will involve in lea of taxes of $492.000. The economic benefit of 750 jobs for the region will far surpass the contributions of any of the parties.
Monthly Sales Tax. The local sales tax remittance from the State for November showed an increase of 14.8% when compared to last year. For budget purposes, the City is ahead of budget by over $90,000 dollars at this point. This figure represents collections for the month of September.
City Flood Damage- Franklin has submitted requests for reimbursement to the Federal Government for over $620 thousand dollars of May 2010 related flood damage to City property.
Blue Bag Update-Since inception of this program fifteen weeks ago on July 12, 2010, participation rates continue to climb to a new high of 55.37% of households with an 11.41% diversion rate.
Water and Sewer Fees-The State of Tennessee requires rates and fees charged for water and sewer be enough to cover the cost of the service. Yearly, the City has a consultant review our rates and makes recommendations of necessary changes. Currently, the City of Franklin under-recovers about $1 million dollars in water operations and about $3 million dollars in waste water operations. Based upon this information, a plan has been developed to return to full recovery over a five year period. This will require rate increases on services to all customers. Customers inside the City will a $3.85 increase in their combined bills for the average user. The new rates passed by a 7 to 1 margin on the November 23, 2010 Board meeting.
Integrated Water Resource Plan-The Board of Mayor and Alderman passed a resolution to contract with CDM for a long range water plan for the City. The plan when completed will present the best options going forward in regards to water, wastewater, and storm water for the next thirty year. Phase II of the plan will take twelve to fifteen months to complete and will determine the best alternatives for the City based on measured results and modeling and will determine the steps necessary for permitting, initial engineering, and financial modeling for the best alternatives. The plan has a price tag of just under $1.5 million dollars.
Outdoor Warning Siren System-There are many operations of the City that we take for granted except when we need them most. One such operation is the siren system that warns of tornados and bad weather. The fire department manages this system which has emergency back- up features that enable both Brentwood and Williamson County’s system to control our system in case of failure. Monthly we hear the testing of the sirens making sure that the batteries and noise components are working properly. Over the next three years, the fire department hopes to deploying sirens in new locations to try and ensure complete coverage of the City. The areas slated to get these improvements are Westhaven, Cool Springs East, The Factory, Franklin Road at Moore’s Lane, Avalon at Wilson Pike, Battle Ground Academy, Goose Creek area, and Murfreesboro Road.
Preferred Parking Program for Green Vehicles-The 2009 Sustainable Community Action Plan had as a goal to develop a preferred parking program for green vehicles. The Sustainability Commission recently presented their proposal to create a pilot program for vehicles that get 34 mpg or better to have priority parking and designated twenty three spots as such. Twelve are located within the parking garages and the balance is located in other areas of the downtown area. The Board’s work session reviewed this resolution and will have it on a voting agenda in the future. The program would be an honor system program with signage but no penalties. It is important for many reasons to start making a statement that Franklin supports this type of program. Not only does it make a statement to other communities but it also fits with the electric vehicle project that the City is involved with and also the need to have clean area since we are part of an area of attainment.
Education-Franklin and Williamson County boast some of the best K-12 schools in our State and regularly receive that recognition by achievements and also evidenced by people moving into our community and corporate relocations for that very purpose. Studies have proven that a person’s long term earning potential is proportional to the level of education achieved.
Unfortunately, Tennessee has had a poor overall ranking for education but this is about to change. Currently, for every one hundred ninth graders, 67% will graduate in four years. 43% will go directly to college the fall following graduation. 29% will return for their second year of college and only 19% will achieve a degree within six years. Fifty-four percent (54%) of jobs in the southeast will require a college degree and only a third will require a high school diploma.
On the national level, America has gone from being first in the world in postsecondary completion rates to tenth. College competition rates in America have been flat since the 1970’s according to the Gates Foundation. Our system of higher education has not changed significantly for many years. The professor of the past could easily fit into the classroom of today whereas a physician of the past would not fit into the current high tech medical system.
After some sweeping legislation this year, Tennessee is suddenly viewed as a superstar among education states. The actions I am referring to are the “race to the top” $500 million dollar funding from the federal government to be applied to K-12 education and the other is the “complete college act” which will reorganize our higher education system. The federal emphasis on community colleges has also played into the equation where locally the Williamson Campus of Columbia State is applying for a portion of the $84 million in the state budget earmarked for community colleges and is outside of the normal Board of Regents funding process. Simply said, more will be expected of students and institutions and their funding will depend on their results.
The complete College Tennessee Act passed in 2010 provides for a number of key provisions:
- All high school students are to meet the same higher academic standards.
- Increase the number of graduates of post secondary institutions (210,000 by 2025)
- State funding will be tied to graduation rates
- Duplicated degree offerings will be dropped
- Community colleges will be operated as a single system
- Remedial education will no longer be offered at four year institutions
- All institutions will have aggressive cost saving measures
- Institutions will develop mission goals around regional economic development needs
The role of the community colleges in the American education system is currently under transformation. In particular, they are going to assume greater roles in the education process and will become the center of the strategy to improve higher education. They will be more nimble and responsive to the needs of the local community. They will play greater roles in work force development for local businesses and will have to do it in a more economical fashion while maintaining high retention rates and increasing graduation rates. There will be more interaction and response to local companies and businesses.
Other pressures have caused this increasing emphasis on community colleges according to a recent conversation with a former college educator. These emerging factors have been around for years but have recently become more sharply focused. Factors such as the following are a few of the driving forces:
- Lack of employment opportunities for recent college graduates has lead to serious reflection about the real value of a four year education.
- Personal debt of graduates has led the public questioning of the value of higher education.
- Some higher education professionals have taken the position that society is pressuring too many young people to seek a four-year degree no matter their qualifications.
- The increasing competency and relevance of our nation’s community college segment.
Our Williamson Campus of Columbia State is positioning itself for these roles and challenges. Already they have excelled with some of the highest retention and graduation rates of other state institutions. Their nurse board pass rates are among the highest in the state. Their request for $30 million dollars to create a new campus with its associated 15% match will be addressed over the ensuing months. Higher education will continue to grow in importance for our county in the coming years and is reflected in Thomas Jefferson’s words, “A functioning democracy requires an educated citizenry.