published Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Bradley County weighs animal control, school technology

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — In the month before Bradley County's budgeting process for fiscal year 2013-14 begins, a school system technology update and a renegotiation of the county's animal control contract with the city already have been requested.

Earlier this week, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said the renegotiation of the contract with Cleveland Animal Control is in progress.

"I'm working on the contract with [City Manager] Janice Casteel, and I hope to have a recommendation ready by April 1," Davis said.

In February, the County Commission voted to renegotiate the contract after receiving the annual notice from Animal Control on its proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. The department charges the county according to the proportion of response calls and animal pickups made outside the city limits. Last year, the county accounted for 60 percent of its work.

According to Animal Control's proposed budget for 2013-14, the county will pay $324,633 of the division's $541,352 costs.

Several commissioners said the county needs to take a closer look at how its animal control money is spent.

City leaders discussed the contract at a recent Cleveland City Council meeting.

"It sounds like the county has had a pretty good deal," Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said.

If Bradley County does not renegotiate or renew its contract with Animal Control, Casteel said, she expects the number of illegal animal drop-offs outside the animal shelter will increase.

In the last year, the Cleveland Animal Shelter has made aggressive efforts to increase pet adoptions and move toward a "no-kill" policy. Last month, the kill rate was about 10 percent of the animals processed at the shelter, Casteel said.

On the education front, Bradley County Schools has requested a recurring $750,000 technology refresh.

Officials said the funding would go toward updating old computers throughout the school system.

"In some cases we've got computers that are 10 years old, and the life expectancy of most computers is about five years," county schools Director Johnny McDaniel said in a recent meeting with the Bradley County Education Committee.

Not only do computers and related systems need to be replaced because they fail, but new teaching software will not function on some older machines, according to a February report submitted to county leaders by Bradley County Schools.

Another issue is a state mandate for school districts to provide online testing by 2014, education officials said.

The Technology Refresh Plan originally was presented to the County Commission in 2011. Failing to receive extra funding, the school board elected to use $350,000 of its capital outlay money to implement a partial technology update last year, according to the board.

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