School Board passes budget

Friday, July 26, 2013

By Karen Hall

Editor

In a special called meeting Tuesday, school board members unanimously approved a budget for the 2013-2014 school year, and passed it on for consideration by the county commission's budget committee Thursday.

"I feel pretty good about it," said Budget Director Janet Wiles. "BEP (Basic Education Program) going up $2 million over two years is a big help."

Wiles pointed out the school system had received an extra $25,000 from the state, and will also be getting about $60,000 for their portion of the liquor-by-the-drink tax.

The schools should have gotten a portion of this tax every year since 2000, but have not received it.

"The city was getting it all, and they were supposed to be paying us," explained Schools Director Jackie Abernathy. "MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service) caught it. We're not the only county where this has happened -- it just fell through the cracks. We're tickled to death. It's growing steadily; it should be $9,000 or $10,000 per year."

"We've had a lot of good news lately," said Wiles.

"Fund balance is over 8 percent," added budget committee chairman Donnie Moses. "That's great."

Abernathy praised the work of attendance operators at all the schools, who have "worked diligently to get credit for every kid we've got." This is important because state and federal money the system receives is based on the number of children attending school.

Harvey Jones Jr. clarified the budget is not asking the county for any more money, and Moses confirmed this.

The only remaining budgetary question was raises for support staff, and Moses said the school system would match whatever raises the county decides to give its own support staff.

"You can pass the budget contingent on what they do," Abernathy said, and the vote in favor of passing the budget was a unanimous 8-0. (Chairman Mike Keny was absent due to the ill health of his father.)

In other business at the special called meeting, school board members unanimously voted to appoint Orion Building Corporation of Brentwood as construction manager for the school building program. There were two other bids for the job, one considerably higher than Orion's, and another that did not meet the requirements. Orion's most recent project here has been the courthouse renovation. Representatives from Orion were in the audience, and, in response to a question later in the meeting, said the new intermediate school in Chapel Hill could be "complete two years from now."

Abernathy reported she signed an emergency contract Saturday in order to have a crew at Westhills Elementary School Monday to repair a crack that appeared overnight in the wall of room 32. She said the teacher went in to the room last week and found a crack in the outer wall big enough to put her hand into.

"Because it was an emergency we did not have to bid it out," Abernathy said, and board members unanimously voted to approve her action.

Struggles with the sewer problem at Cornersville High School continue, the director reported.

She handed board members a list of recommendations for fixing the problem from Water and Wastewater Director Kenneth Carr.

"It's a mess," said Abernathy. "I was shocked. But Kenneth is willing and ready to help" get it fixed by Aug. 12, the first full day of school.

In addition to stormwater from the roof gutters getting into the sewer system, groundwater is leaking into the manholes.

"This is costing them a lot of money too, with all that water going through their sewer system," Abernathy said. She also reported that county commissioner Mickey King will do the necessary digging free of charge.

"Is this just a temporary patch?" asked Jones.

"No sir," said Abernathy. "I told him we want it fixed and fixed right. Our maintenance men are working night and day, so there will be some overtime pay involved."

The director is doing her best to be proactive about the maintenance of school buildings. She intends to put roof and gym floor repairs on a regular schedule. Principals have been instructed to use maintenance tickets for any problem in their schools in order to generate a paper trail.