School board chair defends turf decision

Posted 5/11/17

To The Editor:

I am writing to reply to the “Letter to the Editor” by Mr. Kendrick published on Sunday, May 7, concerning the purchase of turf for the Cleveland High School football field. My …

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School board chair defends turf decision

Posted

To The Editor:

I am writing to reply to the “Letter to the Editor” by Mr. Kendrick published on Sunday, May 7, concerning the purchase of turf for the Cleveland High School football field. My intent is not to be argumentative, but just to supply you with some facts that the Cleveland Board of Education had when they made this decision.

I would like to clarify that the school board did not ask the city of Cleveland for any money to finance this project. If the city raises taxes, additional revenue raised will be spent as prioritized by the City Council. None of any tax increases will be spent on turf at Cleveland High School.

You asked why this wasn't spent on teacher raises. The city school board did vote to give 3 percent increases to all city schools staff, not just teachers. We value what our staffs do every day and they deserve any raise they receive. However, money for raises must come from general operating expenses because they are reoccurring. Obviously, we are not going to reduce everyone's pay the next year after a raise, so those amounts will occur again the next year. That money cannot come from a one-time source of funding.

School boards in Tennessee are required to maintain a 3 percent (of our budget) dollar amount in what we call a Fund Balance. That money is for one-time emergency building or capital repairs such as HVAC, buses, roofs, etc. To spend below 3 percent we must have permission from the state of Tennessee.

Our school board has always maintained a very conservative approach to spending our Fund Balance. We ask that 5 percent be maintained, or more. The money comes from dollars not spent at the end of a budget year. So slowly our Fund Balance grows.

We are using money from this Fund Balance to replace the roof at Cleveland Middle school which is ending its warranty age. We did half last summer and we just approved bids for the other half which will be completed this summer. We will also use Fund Balance to pay for the turf.

We have a very documented buildings maintenance plan that includes roofing, bus replacement, painting, flooring and carpeting, just to name a few. Please visit any of our buildings. I think you will be impressed with the quality. With over 1 million square feet of buildings to maintain, our board — along with advice from our maintenance director and superintendent — revisits our building needs on an annual basis.

I don't wish to patronize you or any citizen, but I believe disseminating good information is one of my jobs as an elected school board member.

So now I will tell you about the turf decision. We were invited to have installed at Cleveland High School the highest NFL quality turf field this summer. The cost would normally be prohibitive. But Greenfields, the company producing and installing the turf (located in Dayton) made us a one-time offer to install their top-line product at their lowest cost and allow us to divide the payment into three years, interest free.

Why you ask? They would like to fly potential customers (NFL, universities, high schools) into the Cleveland Regional Jetport and let them see the field while visiting their plant. This is a huge win for the city of Cleveland and Cleveland City Schools.

More pluses for the turf: Band competitions can now use the field without worrying about damaging the field for football games. Bands can raise their operating expenses that way and band competitions also fill hotel rooms and restaurants. Physical education classes can use the field every day, again without worry of damaging the grass. We can host football jamborees and raise sales tax revenue in our city, rather than going to Chattanooga or Dalton [Ga]. Soccer and other sports teams can use the field.

Currently, the cost of maintaining the grass field comes from the athletic department at CHS. It runs well over $16,000 per year, not even counting over 400 hours of "sweat equity" from our coaches who do the work for free. They all teach during the day and do this job on their own time. All this, and it still must be used only for football games in order to maintain a safe playing surface. I would much rather our athletic department spend the money on our student athletes and their safety — better equipment, etc.

Six out of eight city high schools in 5A/6A have artificial turf. We are certainly not leading the pack. But I believe the turf's time has come for us in Cleveland City Schools thanks to Greenfields.

I invite you to drive by and watch the incredible work being done at Benny Monroe Stadium. This will benefit our students and community for years to come.

Thank you for caring enough to raise your questions. If you disagree with our rationale, I guess you can still opt for tar and feathering!

— Dawn R. Robinson

Chairman,

Cleveland Board of Education

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