Federal cuts hit home

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

School board members heard about federal budget cuts at their November meeting last week.

Schools director Roy Dukes announced that "due to the budget crisis in Congress" 1.5 percent had been cut from school programs nationwide. This translates into a $194,134 reduction in Marshall County's funding.

"Congress says this is how we're going to cut," Dukes said.

Federal projects supervisor Linda Williams-Lee is reworking her budget, he went on to say. In general, Williams-Lee budgeted for more than was needed, so she is "looking very, very closely" at moving money around to avoid any cuts to programs or personnel.

Dukes warned board members there was a possibility of further funding cuts next year. He mentioned Safe Schools, Coordinated School Health, and Internet Connectivity as programs that might be reduced or eliminated.

"As we receive information, I'll get it to you," Dukes promised.

Special education supervisor Lisa Ventura announced that she had made some changes to her budget.

"I had two bus drivers take insurance," Ventura said. Therefore, the insurance number in her budget has gone up by $15,000, and instruction and supplies has gone down by the same number.

"I suggest doing our budgets to include all employees who could potentially take benefits," said Kristen Gold.

Budget committee chairman Donnie Moses agreed with her, stating, "We're better served to plan for the worst."

Barbara Kennedy was also in agreement.

"We need to plan to insure them," she said. "Or we get caught taking money from another area."

In other financial business last Thursday, maintenance supervisor Sheldon Davis reported that the Siemens project of energy-saving upgrades to the schools is now finished.

"We have done all our walk-throughs," Davis said. "Everything's under warranty, and everything's good."

Siemens' bill was in two parts: $112,415 and $155,000, and board members approved payment of both.

"Does this complete the process?" Moses asked, and Davis replied that it did.

For the board's December meeting, Kennedy requested past and present utility bills, so board members could see the difference in water and electricity consumption after the Siemens upgrades.

Board members also approved the bid for structural repairs to Forrest School, and Dukes told them the work could hopefully by done during the Christmas break.

A bid to supply propane to the schools was also approved.

"It's the same old thing," complained Harvey Jones Jr. "We only got one bid!"

"I don't know how you get folks to bid," said board chairman Mike Keny.

In addition to reviewing utility bills at their Dec. 8 meeting, school board members will hand in their evaluations of Dukes. Randy Perryman, Ann Tears and Kennedy were named to a committee to process the evaluation and report on it in January.

Meanwhile, the director of schools job has been posted, and the deadline for applications is Wednesday, Jan. 4, the day before students return to school for the second half of the academic year.