School official: BEP funds not for construction

School official: BEP funds not for construction

By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter

By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
As it turns out, the $487,000 in BEP funds the Tennessee Department of Education recently allocated to the Obion County School Board cannot be used for construction purposes.
The school board is proposing an ambitious construction program that includes 12 new classrooms — four each at Hillcrest, Lake Road and South Fulton elementary schools — for its pre-kindergarten program. It is estimated each new classroom would cost $87,000 to construct.
The $487,000 can be used for teacher salaries and classroom supplies and other needs.
This and more were topics of vigorous discussion at a recent meeting of the Obion County Budget Committee, chaired by county commissioner Danny Jowers.
“We heard from the school board and we heard from 11 commissioners, seven of whom are on the budget committee,” he said.
In essence, the committee turned the tables on the school board.
“The budget committee did not agree for the county to spend anything out of its debt service for this construction,” Jowers said. “We sent it back to them with a funding plan. We told them we would be more than happy to borrow the money, we told them how much the payments would probably be and how many years the note would run. We’d be more than happy to borrow the money and fund it for them, but they are going to have to pay for it.
“The plan we sent was for vocational classrooms and agri-center (at OCCHS) and the 12 classrooms. We figured up a payment of $283,000 a year over a 12-year period. They would use $2 million out of their fund balance and we would borrow about $2.5 million.”
But Obion County assistant director of schools James Faulkner said no decision one way or the other has been made by the school board.
“The $487,000 from the state were BEP funds. They’ve already been added to our current budget. It’s gone already,” Faulkner said. “Funding for the total project — extra vocational classrooms at OCCHS and building a few extra classrooms at South Fulton High School for vocational-tech classes and the renovation of the Career Technology Center — has not been approved. It’s on hold.
“As far as the 12 extra classrooms for the three elementary schools, the board and (director of schools) David Huss are continuing to pursue funding for the project. That funding, if approved, will most likely come from our fund balance. The school board has to approve it first, then it’ll go to the county commission for review and approval or disapproval.”
A Nov. 30 letter from Huss to Jowers states construction of 12 new classrooms for the pre-K program would cost between $1.5 and $1.75 million; an Agriculture Complex (OCCHS Vocational School) would cost about $2.86 million; and renovation of the Career Technical Center, about $1 million. An estimate for vocational classroom/lab at South Fulton High School is not available.
“Taking all high cost estimates from the above totals, I anticipate total construction/renovation costs to be about $5,910,000,” Huss states in the letter.
Huss could not be reached for comment on this story.
Published in The Messenger 12.19.07

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