School board presents proposed budget

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Marshall County School Board voted to present its 2009-2010 budget to the county commission's education committee this week.

Discussion of items in the school board's draft budget was cut short by chairwoman Ann Tears, who called for a vote on the motion to send it on.

"Is that all the discussion we're going to have on a $36 million dollar budget?" asked board member Craig Michael.

"I'm not prepared to vote," said board member Curt Denton. "I'm not on the budget committee, so this is the first I've seen of it. I'd like to look it over for a couple of days."

Nevertheless, Tears called for the vote and the motion carried, with Denton, Michael, and Dee Dee Owens voting "no."

Budget committee chairwoman Kristen Gold was proud of all the work her group had put in to the draft budget, and summarized the good points as follows:

* no one lost his or her job due to budgetary constraints

* the budget includes funding for an alternative school, and for an assistant principal at Chapel Hill Elementary School

* the school system is not asking for any additional money from the county.

The budget does include stimulus money, and also capital outlay funds.

"We're really $420,000 in the hole," Michael said.

He also questioned the amount in the budget set aside for professional development, which is up from $13,000 in 2007-2008 to $60,000 in 2009-2010.

"I really believe in professional development for our teachers," said director of schools Stan Curtis. "In our in-service opportunities, over 100 teachers taught what they had learned in professional development."

"The board specifically added it to last year's budget," added Gold.

"I think it's a poor time to spend $60,000," Michael argued. "I can't help but comment."

Added to the draft budget at Thursday's meeting was an increase in pay for the supervisor of transportation. This came as a consequence of the board voting that the bus garage should be a supervised all year round.

Michael Frey, the new supervisor of transportation, was a tenured teacher at Westhills Elementary, working on a 10-month contract. Now Frey has to be paid for an additional two months, at the same rate as he was being paid as a teacher. The school board heard advice from their lawyer, Chuck Cagle, who said, "You've got to honor that salary - you've got to pay for those two months."

Cagle confirmed that Frey retains his tenure rights if he returns to the classroom in the future. He also confirmed that, as supervisor of transportation, Frey is not included in the Marshall County Education Association's negotiated contract: it only applies to people occupying positions for which a teaching license is required.

"It's unprecedented in this county," said MCEA negotiator Louis Scheuchenzuber the next week. "It's causing a lot of turmoil."

The school board is trying to cut costs in another area, the school resource officer for Lewisburg Middle School.

"I suggest we throw them a number," school board member Mike Keny said, mentioning a figure of $30,000 as a cap for what the school system pays the City of Lewisburg for an SRO at LMS. It was agreed that Curtis and Linda Williams-Lee would take that offer to the city.

"Could we get an SRO from the county at a lower price?" asked board member Todd Tietgens.

"Is this feasible, Larry?" Denton asked Larry McKnight, chairman of the education committee.

"It would have to go before law enforcement and budget," McKnight said.

"It's hard not to look at the county," remarked Michael. "If the county provided it (the SRO at LMS), we'd save money and consolidate vendors; but if this will put the city in a bind, it would be good to offer a compromise."

The grant that pays part of the county SROs' salaries is only available for high schools, Curtis clarified.