Tuesday, June 07, 2011

7 JUN 11: The TAP Runs Dry

The first big cut came Monday night, in Columbus's season of tight budgets. The bad news for teenage mothers is that their education plans for next term must change. But the good news is that diapers still can be taken to the curb twice a week before school.

The Muscogee County School Board voted 6-2 in a special work session to close the Teenage Parenting Center on 11th Avenue. I'm not sure why the abbreviation for this center became TAP. After all, Columbus never has had a Tournament Players Club golf course.

Superintendent Susan Andrews says the suggestion to close TAP came down to economics. She explained the center requires the largest amount of school district money for the smallest number of students. I'm guessing second place on this list goes to the high school tennis teams.

The school district plans to move teenage mothers and pregnant girls back into regular schools. But one teenager warned WTVM some mothers may decide to drop out, with no on-site day care center to care for their children. You may find those moms at library computers today, e-mailing MTV to appear on a reality show.

Yet statistics presented to the school board reveal only 63 percent of the seniors in TAP completed all their graduation requirements this past term. More than one-third fell short, even with the special attention -- and now the students will need even better math skills, to figure out day care costs.

Superintendent Susan Andrews estimates the closing of TAP will save enough money to add two instructional days to the 2011-12 school calendar. OK - but those days had better not come right before holiday weekends, or the whole idea might go to waste.

Early comments I read online Monday night showed some people supported the closing of TAP, as a way of focusing school priorities. But others said the vote shows a lack of compassion toward some of the neediest students. Hopefully those "others" will charge very low babysitting rates come August.

The Muscogee County school budget for fiscal 2012 is complicated by this summer's expected big wave of base realignment. About one million dollars is set aside for BRAC. Hmmmm - maybe the teen mothers should e-mail Fort Knox, and urge the families there to move to Harris or Russell Counties.

A line-by-line budget for Muscogee County schools is NOT available online, the way the proposed Columbus city budget is. But a summary in slideshow form mentions other cuts, including an end to funding for the Partners in Education program. The superintendent could have frozen PIE, but instead it's complete down the garbage disposal.

A final vote on the fiscal 2012 budget will come in two weeks. Perhaps a last-minute private bailout for the Teenage Parenting Center will show up by then, as it did several years ago. If not, sex education courses throughout the school district next term could have surprise guest speakers.

Meanwhile, the city of Columbus is releasing a proposed property tax increase today. A one-year reduction required by state law is over - and as a result, some neighborhoods could see their millage rate jump 112 percent. Not even Wal-Mart slaps people in the face like this, after a "rollback" ends.

The amount of property tax millage increase depends on the "Urban Services District" where you live. Hopefully you know which district is yours. The millage rates seem to change around the north and south edge of Columbus - for instance, to benefit people who dare to live near the Talbot County line.

BLOG UPDATE: "I frankly don't remember...." That's what Columbus Councilor Gary Allen said Monday, when we read him some of the accusations sent by civil rights activist C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon. This new dispute involving the Muscogee County Marshal's Office needs a good newsy name - and I hope "TitleMax" won't sue me for trademark infringement.

Councilor Gary Allen did not recall how he addressed Captain Curtis Lockette at a meeting in May. Allen told me any reference to Lockette as "Mister" was NOT meant to be "defaming or.... to disparage him in a negative way." But before our phone conversation was over, Allen did turn Lockette from a Mister into a "Deputy Captain."

Gary Allen agrees that his point of contention in May was Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson's decision to go outside "Council protocol," by asking a Marshal's officer to respond to a cost analysis by Tollie Strode. Allen added he didn't recall former Mayor Jim Wetherington doing such a thing. I'm not sure that warrants a recall petition drive....

"I've been called Mr. Allen. I've been called Gary," the Councilor added - saying the titles people use in addressing him is no big personal issue. If an older person who admired J.R. Allen calls him "Sonny Boy," that might be a bit different.

Gary Allen called up this blog on his computer while we were on the phone. Then he called Monday's e-mail "typical of Brother Love." I should note the Councilor never once referred to him as "Mister Love."

(Allen added he's concluded Brother Love doesn't seem to like him very much. Maybe it's Nate Sanderson's turn to arrange a private negotiation session, which will lead to a nice Government Center news conference.)

So what about that other issue -- the future of the Muscogee County Marshal's Office? Councilor Gary Allen told me the big question right now is finding "the proper venue" for doing an assessment of possible consolidation. The Marshal and Sheriff seem to think the best venue would be the city landfill.

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E-MAIL UPDATE: Let's see if the InBox stirred up any more whirlwinds Monday. We mentioned the Uptown Columbus tour of loft housing - and that brought this....

Seem's to me if they wanted to showcase the downtown area amenities they would have had that open house from midnight to 3:00 AM just to give prospective buyers the full picture.

Hmmmm -- I guess that would be a better time to test how soundproof the walls are.

Others are simply concerned about the June heat wave....

I heard on the weather channel since all weather evaluation equipment is contained in a shed the temperature is not true..Add 10 to 15 degrees if you are in the sun..WHEW...I measured the temp in the sun and it was 111.In the shade the temp was 100..Then I melted...

Admittedly the hot weather is tough to take. But I thank my niece and new mom Dr. Heather, for discovering one advantage of the blistering sunshine. She reports brown diaper stains disappear quickly.

If you want to join the conversation, look for the link below. In the meantime, here's a check of other Monday headlines:

+ The Muscogee County School Board considered adjustments to the Student Behavior Code. One apparent change would bar children from listening to MP-3 players while riding school buses. Save those "lip dub" practice sessions for the school hallways, please.

+ Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson's tour of Germany took her to a section of Berlin which has been turned into an "urban farm." Uh-oh - after what I've heard on the news, I hope the mayor didn't touch any of the sprouts.

+ Jury selection began in the federal corruption trial of Victoryland owner Milton McGregor. If your office has a "pool" going to guess how many days the trial will last, you're probably rooting for McGregor to be acquitted.

+ Instant Message to WTVM meteorologist April Gonzales: Congratulations! You showed more personality on your first day than Scott Pelley did anchoring his first major network newscast. He'll put to sleep all the viewers you're waking up.

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