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District 9: 2018 County Commission Candidate Survey Responses

Strong Schools asked individuals running for Sumner County Commission for their responses to the following questions. The responses for those that replied are below. (The primary is May 1 2018, with early voting currently underway.)

1.    How long have you lived in Sumner County?

Jerry Becker:

“My parents moved to Hendersonville when I was 2 years old, and I am currently 42. I have been a resident of the 9th District in Sumner County for 40 years. Being a lifelong resident of Hendersonville, I've seen, first-hand, the growth that Sumner County has had over the years. I want to continue to actively contribute to the future growth of this great county.”

Jordan Banks:

“My family and I have lived in Sumner County since November 2013, so 4.5 years.”

Chris Taylor:

"My wife, Lorie and I moved to Sumner County in 1995 to start our family. We have been residents since (23 years)."

2.    Do you (or did you) have children or grandchildren in Sumner County Schools?

Jerry Becker:

“Yes, I have a son finishing Ellis Middle School who will be at Hendersonville High School next year, and another son who is finishing Indian Lake Elementary who will be at Ellis Middle School next year. My wife, Stacey (Youree), and I are both products of Sumner County Schools, as well: She attended Nannie Berry Elementary and I attended Indian Lake Elementary, and we both graduated from Hendersonville High School. Stacey has served as President of the PTO at both Indian Lake Elementary and Ellis Middle School, and I am one of the Directors of the Ellis Cougar Classic fundraiser. I also volunteer my time to coach the Ellis boys’ soccer team. Stacey and I chose to raise our own family here, and we want to do our part to ensure Sumner County is an attractive option for them to raise their own families.”

Jordan Banks:

“Yes, I have two daughters attending Indian Lake Elementary.”

Chris Taylor:

"We have 3 incredible kids currently in Sumner County schools. Noah and Rachel attend Hendersonville High School and came up through Indian Lake Elementary and Ellis Middle. Our youngest Nayliana, is at Indian Lake Elementary."

3.    What is the best way to increase school security, and if additional funding was needed, how would you provide the funding?

Jerry Becker:

“Over the long run, the best way to increase school security is to strengthen the family setting at home. Nevertheless, keeping our children safe while they are at school is of utmost importance. There should be a Security Officer of some capacity, in each of our schools. From a budgeting standpoint, we are now 20 positions short of having a School Resource Officer in every school. From a funding standpoint, I think we should leverage the recently passed "School Safety Act of 2018" that appropriates state funding for retired or off-duty officers to provide security at our local schools. Beyond that, the local funding is simply a matter of priority.”

Jordan Banks:

“Sumner County has already taken many of the necessary steps to increase security, starting with more secured entrances, cameras, and modern check-in methods.  To further improve security we need to add SROs to our schools, especially in rural areas where it will take longer for police to respond to an incident.  I would strongly heed the advice of our Sheriff and other law enforcement agencies as to other suggestions for better providing a safe learning environment for our children. Per the special called County Commission meeting we need 15 more SROs and one supervisor for an additional cost of just over $1M.  The Sumner County Budget Committee stated the only way to pay for this without increasing revenue would be to effectively eliminate the requested 3% increase across other services for the 2018-2019 budget.  This would come at the expense of expected increase to other vital areas such as Emergency Services and Veterans Services, so I see adjusting the tax rate or seeking state grants as the best current funding options. I do, however, have concerns about the need to raise revenue as the 2014 rate adjustment was intended to include $0.03/$100 of assessed value expressly for funding SROs in all of the schools as indicated in the 2014 Sumner County Property Tax Timeline. I would like to reexamine the existing budgets to determine where this funding has been used in lieu of its original intent.

Chris Taylor:

"The best approach is multi-faceted and addresses the structural security, provides a reactionary response and also is proactive in prevention. Our work with the schools to provide 70 million for improvements has helped address the structural concern to a large degree. Now all schools will have secured entrances that allow the school personnel to view who wants to come into the building and through remote access, unlock the exterior door for them. The second aspect is mainly addressed through the assignment of an SRO to each school and the school having process in place. We are not there yet, but are committed to filling those remaining SRO vacancies. The preventive measure is provided by the school system itself. The best way to stop potential threats is to discover them prior to happening. The school system has done an amazing job supporting students/teachers and parents in bringing early concerns to them and working with the Sumner County Sheriffs office to deal with them."

4.    Why should someone vote for you? What unique strengths would you bring to the commission?

Jerry Becker:

“Nothing can substitute for the Experience I have gained over the last 4 years on the County Commission. I have served on the Budget Committee and Legislative Committee, and have been the Chairman of both the General Operations Committee and the Financial Management Committee. From an educational and work experience standpoint, with my Industrial Engineering degree, I have a continuous improvement mindset and process improvement skillset. If you live in the 9th District, I would greatly appreciate Your vote. If you don't live in the 9th District, I would greatly appreciate Your support by telling all of your 9th District family and friends to cast their vote for me.”

Jordan Banks:

“My willingness to serve others, my tireless energy to advocate for my neighbors, and my fresh outlook are three of the main reasons someone should consider voting for me.  I am relatively new to this county, but I have lived and worked in other areas of the country that have experienced similar growing pains to Sumner County.  I believe this perspective coupled with my unique professional experience of managing large budgets on a daily basis, working with a diverse team to accomplish a huge goal, and being hyper focused on technical details are why I am a strong candidate for County Commissioner.”

Chris Taylor:

"I have been committed to supporting the school system and working for what’s best for the county over the past 4 years and intend to continue to do so. I have been on and lead the budget, finance and emergency services committees. I believe that we have to continually seek the counsel of others and find experts in the areas we are evaluating/legislating. Proverbs 12:15"

5.    What’s the best way to address long-term population growth in Sumner County?

 Jerry Becker:

“As our county's population continues to grow, the more vital it will be to have proper planning and vision for how the school system and necessary infrastructure will be able to accommodate that growth. This type of forward planning needs to be a collaborative effort between the county government, the city governments, the school board, and the business communities. Without doing so, the vision will always be short-sighted. A great example of forward planning in my time on the Commission is the purchase of property off of Long Hollow Pike for a new campus for an elementary, middle, and high school.”

Jordan Banks:

“We must invest in our existing communities rather than continue to sprawl into rural areas.  A good example of this is the revitalization of the Kroger Marketplace shopping center in Hendersonville. We also need to focus on future mixed-use planning to encourage walk-able communities with transit options.  This will allow our businesses and economy to grow, bringing in new families without the corresponding additional traffic and stress on our infrastructure and roadways. Finally we need to bring higher paying jobs to Sumner County.  This will lead us to having fewer Nashville commuters and mitigate the daily rush hours.

Chris Taylor:

"We have to involve all aspects of government for Sumner County, because every element impacts it. We have to involve a funding source for county services that is  tied to new construction/development by the various municipalities. And their needs to be a unified plan for infrastructure development and maintenance. In addition the county has to address the current zoning codes which desperately need to be updated."

6.    Regarding funding education, are any options “on” or “off the table” to meet budgetary needs? Why?

Jerry Becker:

“I believe that the foundation of great growth is the education system. We must provide our school system with an appropriate level of funding in order to properly educate and train our children. When we cut corners on our children's education, we are impeding the future growth of our community. On a broader scale, our county spending must continue to be more controlled and more responsible. I am very pleased with the progress we have made over the last 4 years in this area. Non-emergent large expenditures should not be approved outside of the normal budgeting cycle. We must continue to hold our county departments accountable for staying within their approved budgeted amounts. More responsible and controlled expenses will allow us to keep our property taxes at a low level, and we must continue to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s money.”

Jordan Banks:

“No options would be necessarily “off the table” to meet budgetary needs.  We must be constantly vigilant against waste and misallocation of funds, but there are also instances when the only option is to bring in additional revenue.”

Chris Taylor:

"When it was needed I worked on the tax increase and voted for it. With the current fiscal health of the county and the excellent leadership for the school system we have already purchased land and are actively planning for a brand new K-12 school complex.  With additional revenue sources (TIF money, increases in current revenue streams projected forward, etc) we will be able to meet operating cost as the new schools are opened."

7.    Do you agree or disagree that Sumner County School teachers are compensated appropriately? Why?

Jerry Becker:

“As with any industry, there are certain organizations that can pay lower salaries because they have better benefits and/or amenities than their competition. Similarly, I think Sumner County provides some amenities that other counties are not able to provide. However, our teacher and staff salary structures are not at a level where we are able to keep all of the best teachers and staff in our county. There should be no reason any of our higher quality teachers or staff should want to leave Sumner County for ‘greener pastures.’”

Jordan Banks:

“I disagree with this statement.  It is shameful that we are in the top 5% of counties with regards to wealth, but we are in the bottom 38% of TN school systems in teacher pay.  We should not keep asking teachers to do more for less and expect them to do so simply because they truly love teaching.”

Chris Taylor:

"I have always felt our teachers and school staff are underpaid. I am proud that during the past 4 years the schools have given raises each year and we expect to continue to do so. In addition they have been able to correct severe pay imbalances for various classified employees and will continue for those still lacking."

8.    Do you agree or disagree that Sumner County School staff are compensated appropriately? Why?

Jerry Becker:

“See answer for #7 above.”

Jordan Banks:

“Again, I disagree with this statement.  The recent increase for substitutes is a good first step, but we need to do more.  The minimum livable wage in our area is $14.28 an hour for a home with two working adults and two children.  (http://livingwage.mit.edu/metros/34980) If Sumner County is focused on families, we must provide ample income to encourage them to come here.  These jobs are not summer or after school jobs, and they should not be treated as such.”

Chris Taylor:

"See above."

9.    Do Sumner County schools have adequate facilities to meet the educational needs of students? Why?

Jerry Becker:

“We have made tremendous strides over the past 4 years while I have been in office to upgrade our facilities. There should have been no reason for schools to have faulty roofs, leaky windows, long-term use of portables, etc., but those issues have been addressed during my 1st term. In the 9th District, alone, there has been a recent expansion at Hendersonville High School, a brand new roof installed at Indian Lake Elementary, eight (8) new classrooms constructed at Nannie Berry Elementary, and Ellis Middle School is currently undergoing a complete HVAC replacement. I am extremely proud of the improvements we have made over the past 4 years. Our facilities need to be better maintained, going forward, so that there is not a huge spike in need like there was recently.”

Jordan Banks:

“I believe we have come a long way in the past four years, eliminating most of the portable classrooms and making other building improvements, but we still have more to do and it’s not all about the size of the buildings.  We also need to provide adequate supplies and technological advances in all of our classrooms, regardless of the PTO’s ability to fill in the gaps.  Our county is continuing to grow, and our facilities must stay ahead of that growth.”

Chris Taylor:

"Currently we are good. We have dramatically reduced the number of portables, there are improvements in technology and the budget for it. We have invested 70 million dollars into our school facilities. But there is always room for improvement and I don’t believe you can ever get to a point where you stop trying to make them better."

10. What are the three greatest needs, if any, do you see in our schools? How can the Sumner County Commission help address those needs?

Jerry Becker:

1.    Safety

2.    Technology

3.    Overcrowding

“Since I touched on Safety in one of my responses above, I will speak to Technology here. Although I see it first-hand in my IT role at my company, I think everyone knows how quickly Technology is evolving. In March 2017, Sumner County Schools received an $8 Million endowment from William Brown. Mr. Brown's will established the "William and Martha Brown Education Technology Trust" and specified that the interest and dividends earned from the Trust must be used annually to assist Sumner County Schools with Technology. The value of the Brown family's extreme generosity will be felt by our Sumner County students for generations to come. Beyond Technology in the classroom, I was instrumental in leading the charge to hire a full-time IT Director for Sumner County. Our IT systems and infrastructure were very fragmented, and our IT Director has come in and immediately made much needed improvements.”

Jordan Banks:

1.    Increase Teacher Pay

2.    Reduce focus on standardized testing

3.    Funding disparity between schools with engaged PTOs and those with less active PTOs

“When my family moved to Sumner County the FIRST thing we looked for was the quality of schools in the area.  If we want to continue encouraging families to come here, we need strong schools, and for that we need to continue to attract and retain the best teachers.  We are a prosperous county, and our teachers should not be 54th out of 95 counties in compensation for the extraordinary work they do. While County Commission cannot directly address this need, we can advocate for increases in teacher salaries to the Sumner Board of Education.  I absolutely plan to do that as a commissioner.”

Chris Taylor:

1. School populations

2. Retaining our excellent employees

3. Facilities

"With the explosive growth the county is having we have to insure our schools aren’t individually past capacity. Growth is very specific right now, expanding apartment complexes in Gallatin; subdivisions in the unincorporated areas of the county etc."