PHOTO: Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson delivers his annual “State of the County” address at the Factory at Franklin on Wednesday, July 25, 2018./Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson’s “State of the County” address Wednesday made two things clear.
One, the county is thriving economically. And two, there are significant challenges that come with that, especially to schools.
Held inside the Factory at Franklin on Wednesday afternoon, the address was the Anderson’s 16th.
Anderson’s daughter Laura Howard introduced her father, listing off his accolades and history in Williamson County, after Williamson, Inc. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Matt Largen opened the event.
Franklin, Largen said, was recently named the number seven city in the country for STEM jobs.
Those kind of jobs, which garner an average of $100,000 salaries, “are exactly the kind of jobs that are projected to grow in the future, as our economy moves from a service sector to an innovation or creative economy,” he said.
Hoping for a return on investment from strong schools is one economic driver; another is the tourism industry.
In a preview of the event aired by WSMV News 4, Visit Franklin, TN President and CEO Ellie Westman Chin said the convention and visitors bureau has set a goal of 2 million visitors by the year 2020.
Here’s a breakdown of the topics Anderson touched on in his 25-minute presentation
With school shootings and violent crimes carrying the news cycle lately, Anderson said he is often asked, “What are we doing here in Williamson County to ensure that these incidents and travesties do not occur?”
Funding for first responders has always been a top priority, with $4.2 million of the $22.1 million safety budget going towards school resource officers (SROs).
In a March 2013 meeting, funding was first created for 32 SRO positions within Williamson County Schools.
Today, there are 68 SROs across the school district; two in each high school, and one in every middle and elementary school in the county.
The law enforcement budget has increased as the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department has taken on increasing roles in the community, like combating the opioid crisis; 27 people died of opioid overdoses last year in the county.
The results of an 18-month justice study have been submitted to a consultant, with a master plan expected to be released soon.
“Space for our juvenile justice system is an issue and must be addressed,” Anderson said. “The current location is not ideal and juvenile housing will be required to be separate from the adult detention facilities.”
Additionally, a new circuit court judge has been approved for the 21st judicial district in the past legislative session, which county leaders hope will provide some relief to the overburdened justice system that includes Williamson County.
Williamson County Schools
Of the county’s $568 million budget, the largest percentage goes towards funding schools, a total of $371 million.
The budget includes a 12.8 percent increase in the recently adopted budget.
Accounting for debt, nearly 75 percent of the county’s budget goes towards schools, Anderson said (without debt, that number is 65 percent).
With three new schools set to open for the new school year, Anderson said finding new teachers and new revenue sources for continued education efforts is necessary.
Constructed in the 1990s, the current Williamson County Animal Center is busting at the seams with animals, which has taken a toll on old infrastructure.
After the county purchased land for a new center, the current one at Claude Yates Drive near Mack Hatcher Parkway will soon bid adieu to its furry friends.
With new director Ondrea Johnson, the new center will be off Old Charlotte Pike, near Del Rio Lane, and the county plans to break ground next spring.
During the month of June, Anderson said the center took in 300 cats and kittens, maximizing all their space, and causing them to adopt a deferred intake model until some of the felines could be adopted out.
The Williamson County Election commission will be moving to a complex off Downs Blvd. Public safety building.
Peacock Hill Nature Park
Anderson made note of the donation of 245 acres of land from the Ogilvie family to the Land Trust for Tennnessee for the creation of Peacock Hill Nature Park.
Located in the College Grove area, the land was previously part of the family’s “Peacock Hill” bed and breakfast.
The park will have catch and release fishing, hiking and walking trails, horseback riding and biking, and eventually, a solar powered park office similar to the one at Timberland Park.
Williamson County by the numbers
$568 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget
$666 million in total debt
$45 billion in appraised property value
$546,166 average price of a new home
$2.15 property tax rate
22.9 percent population increase from 2010 to 2017
2.7 percent unemployment, in comparison with the state’s 3.7 percent rate
245 acres preserved through the Land Trust of Tennessee
$1.5 million visitors in 2017
$427.25 tourism dollars spent in 2016