School board plans to pass final budget

Friday, July 22, 2011

School board members plan to review and pass the final version of their budget at a special-called meeting on Aug. 1.

Every board member except Barbara Kennedy was at the budget committee's meeting Tuesday night, with assistant director Dr. Larry Miller filling in for Roy Dukes, who is on vacation.

Discussion resulted in cuts of nearly $400,000, and use of Fund Balance was reduced to under $1 million.

Board members questioned Dukes' organizational chart for Central Office, and wondered if any cuts could be made.

"Before we cut teachers, we've got to make sure we're efficient at Central Office," said Harvey Jones Jr.

"Efficient is the key word," agreed Kristen Gold. "The proposed org chart brings us close to the original org chart (in cost). We've shaken things up, but not saved money."

Miller explained he didn't see how Central Office could run with any fewer people.

"We have people stretched to the limit," he said. "There are people staying late every night.

"I'm stretching," Miller continued. "I'm taking on more and more responsibilities: human resources, public relations, staffing, principals. There are more demands from state and federal every day.

"I see the stress and the strain," he concluded. "I could draw up an org chart where we have 7 or 8 more people."

Miller agreed that perhaps half a person could be moved from Federal Projects, since it now has less money and less to do, but said this didn't address the real issue.

"Can we re-organize and condense?" Miller asked, answering himself, "I don't think so."

As an example of increased demands from the state impacting Central Office, Miller cited the fact that the supervisors of elementary and secondary instruction will be going out to the schools to help with the new, mandatory teacher evaluations. Thus they really do need the half-time assistant Dukes' new org chart proposes for them to keep office work going in their absence.

The other half of that assistant, if the org chart is approved, will belong to Dr. Patsey Thomas, supervisor of attendance and testing, who is now also taking care of the school system's calendars.

Budget committee chairman Donnie Moses asked Budget Director Sheila Cook-Jones to make the agreed-on changes and communicate with board members by e-mail before the Aug. 1 meeting.

Dukes will be requested to re-examine the org chart, and also take a second look at the amount budgeted for professional development.

One addition to the budget will be for the Tennessee School Boards Association's eMeeting program.

"We passed eMeetings and signed an agreement with TSBA," said chairman Mike Keny. "Now they've invoiced us the $1,500 start-up fee. Do we want to proceed?"

"We voted to go ahead with it," said Curt Denton.

"Right," said Keny. "The minutes say to include it in the budget. Shall we pay the bill?"

"Wait until we've passed our budget with the county commission," counseled Jones.

"They're not out anything," added Moses, pointing out that no training or other work had been done on eMeetings for Marshall County.