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Slow economy, student declines figured in

Slow economy, student declines figured in
By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
After months of preparation, the Obion County School System’s budgets for the next fiscal year have gained board approval.
The Obion County School Board voted to approve the General Purpose School Fund and Central Cafeteria Fund budgets for 2012-13 during its session Monday night at Obion County Central High School.
Obion County Director of Schools David Huss, who has been working on budgets since February, said the budgets were prepared “to further school board goals, the district’s mission and our district’s beliefs.”
He said in preparing next year’s budgets, the school system was faced with a continued slowed economy, as well as declining enrollments, while revenue from local, state and federal governments “remained stagnant at best.” Nonetheless, he said he has prepared what he believes are “fiscally sound” budgets.
For the General Purpose School Fund budget, Huss said academics was “first and foremost,” with the main goals of maintaining reasonable and affordable pupil-teacher ratios. The budget also focuses on student and teacher success, he said.
Within the current budget year, six instructional positions, two bus driver positions and 11⁄2 bookkeeping positions were eliminated.
He noted several items of interest in next year’s budgets, including the budget for the General Purpose School Fund being prepared with a tax rate of $1.18 and the General Purpose School Fund receiving $500,000 in TVA State Revenue Sharing funds.
The budget lists total expenditures of $27.7 million, according to Huss.
A 21⁄2 percent state cost of living and a 2 percent local cost of living adjustment are budgeted for all instructional positions, with the total increase for instructional positions being slightly less than 21⁄2 percent. A 2 percent cost of living adjustment is budgeted for all support positions.
Huss explained the budget process is driven by the number of students and the first several pages of the 137-page budget document provide a detailed analysis of average daily membership over the past several years.
The budget notes non-recurring expenditures are being taken from fund balance, not from recurring revenue. It also does not contain any additional teaching positions, although there is one position not yet filled; diesel fuel and gasoline are budgeted at 110 percent of the latest quote prices; and utilities are budgeted  with a 63⁄4 percent increase over the prior year.
Several capital outlay projects for the year are also listed in the budget.
It is anticipated the Obion County Commission will act on the budgets at its August session later this month.
In other action during Monday night’s meeting, which was opened with prayer led by chairman Brian Rainey, the school board:
• Heard an update on a 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant from South Fulton Elementary School guidance counselor Nikki Netherland, who highlighted aspects of an after-school program that has been in place at her school for a number of years due to grant funding.
Through SFES’ 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant, there have been improvements in test scores and an increase in parent involvement through activities that have included an after-school program, a summer program, special classes for students, clubs, dramas, music, art, field trips, parent classes, before-school care, nutritional snacks, camps and community service activities.
Ms. Netherland said Huss has been very supportive of the effort and the board learned there is a possibility of being able to obtain grant funding for a similar program countywide to include all schools.
• Voiced support for the award-winning 20-member South Fulton High School cheerleading squad, which has received a bid to national competition and is raising funds to attend NCA competition Jan. 11-14, 2013, in Dallas. The board voted to commit $3,500 to the effort from the Student Activities Fund, contingent upon approval of the budget.
• Approved a recommendation from the Athletic Advisory Committee to combine Black Oak with Ridgemont this year only for football and softball, a result of Black Oak’s not having enough students on its own to play either sport.
Huss said transportation arrangements have been made for football practice, while softball practices are at a neutral location at OCCHS on weekends. Board member Fritz Fussell, the board’s representative on the Athletic Advisory Committee, said coaches spoke with parents and they are willing for the combined effort to happen this year. He said a permanent decision will have to be made in the future in order to be fair to students and to schools with low numbers.
• Was updated on a problem with cracks in some floors and walls at Hillcrest Elementary, a problem brought to light at the end of June. Huss said school officials are waiting on a structural engineer’s report and they have talked about a contingency plan if classes need to be moved out of one wing while repairs are made. There is a possibility the problem was created by settlement of the building, but it has also been noted there was a significant seismic event June 27 in neighboring Lake County.
• Learned OCCHS is now a testing site for the ACT test, which will be a tremendous asset to local students who previously traveled outside the area to take the exam.
• Approved the lowest and best bid from Best One Tire for the purchase of school bus tires.
• Approved a consent agenda that included a monthly personnel report, financial reports, report of assignment of board-owned vehicles and technology equipment declared surplus.
The personnel report listed the resignations of OCCHS teacher Jennifer Cox, Ridgemont teachers Amy Burcham and Katherine Raines-Threlkeld, Lake Road teacher Josh McKinnis, Hillcrest teacher Marilyn Gilliam and Black Oak custodian Johnny Newsom; a leave of absence for Lake Road teacher Emily Cross; the retirements of Hillcrest teacher Denise Barnett and South Fulton Elementary teacher Joyce Perry; and the hirings of Lake Road teachers Brittany Simmons and Natalie Seals, Ridgemont teachers Mary Spivey and Lynn Jones, South Fulton Middle/High School teacher/coach Jason Rodehaver, OCCHS teacher Dawn Robertson and Black Oak teacher Kayce Jones.
Substitute teachers added to the list were Bethany Patterson, Josephine Keightley and Josh McKinnis.
• Was reminded Monday is the first full day of classes in the Obion County School System and the Tennessee School Boards Association’s fall district meeting will be held Sept. 25 at Gibson County High School.
Board member Susan Williams was absent from Monday night’s meeting. Among those in the audience was incoming board member Scott Northam, who won election to the District 7 seat in last week’s county general election and will start serving his term in September. Mrs. Williams, who held the District 7 seat, was not able to seek re-election due to recent redistricting.
Published in The Messenger 8.7.12

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