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January 29, 2014

School board discusses budget, calendar

Members split on leadership

STEARNS —  The McCreary County Board of Education fielded a relatively light agenda last Thursday.

    As is customary for the first meeting of the new year, the board elected officers, established voting and seating order, and set regular meeting times.

    None of those items changed, although the board again split on its leadership. Members voted 3-1 to formally elect Nelda Gilreath as their chairperson. Having inherited the position last February after Stewart Jones resigned from the board, Gilreath was nominated by vice chair Roxanne Shook with a second from Larry Davis.

    Shook was retained as vice chair in much the same manner, with Gilreath nominating her.

    Though she did not nominate an alternative, member Debbie Gibson hesitantly voted no on each motion.

    “It’s nothing personal,” Gibson said during the Gilreath vote. “I just feel that things I wanted on the agenda have been swept away.”

    Member Brandon Kidd, who had joined Gibson in challenging the leadership last year, did not attend Thursday’s meeting.

    Gilreath expressed her appreciation to be kept as chair, and Superintendent Arthur D. Wright congratulated both her and Shook in addition to presenting each board member with certificates as part of School Board Member Recognition Month.

    As the board began to consider regular business, Accounting Manager Kristi Sizemore presented the board with the first draft of the 2014-15 budget. Though required to be approved by January 31, Sizemore noted that the Kentucky Department of Education had yet to provide the district with certain fund projections (such as SEEK) needed to provide a truly accurate picture of the coming year.

    Sizemore noted that the agency may be waiting for the General Assembly to approve the two-year state budget. While Governor Steve Beshear has proposed to provide $189 million for K-12 ($71 million the first year and $118 million the second), that figure may not stand when the actual budget is approved (which could come as late as April 15). Sizemore further noted that the district has seen a $1.6 million reduction in its General Fund over the last five years due to SEEK freezes and dropping enrollment.

    “The only thing we can do is reach out to our legislators,” she advised.

    Sizemore added that tax monies provide the second largest source of revenue for the district. While board members last year approved a compensating rate to keep the same amount of revenue, Sizemore suggested that a four-percent increase (requiring a public hearing) may need to be considered “if the state doesn’t come through.”

    Board members unanimously approved the draft before hearing from Director of Pupil Personnel Schyler Jones, who presented the 2014-15 calendars for McCreary County Schools and Pine Knot Career Institute. As approved, opening day for local students would be August 14.

    Jones noted that this year’s last day is still very much in the air as the district continues to miss school for snow and frigid temperatures (13 as of Tuesday).

Gibson asked if “blizzard packets” could be distributed and counted as class time, while Gilreath asked about extending the school day.

    Supt. Wright noted that the program allowing for “blizzard packets” is only available to districts who have missed more than 30 days over a period of several years, though local officials will be watching to see if the criteria changes.

    Jones added that extending the school day is not an option at the moment but may come into play if the Education Commissioner makes provisions to accommodate for this year’s exceptionally cold weather.

    In other news, the board recognized Crabtree-Wilson Insurance Agency Buddy Wilson, who asked about insurance purchasing for the upcoming school year as well as guidance regarding groups seeking to use school property. The district requires a $1 million certificate of liability, which typically costs a $250-300 premium.

    The next board meeting will be February 27 at 6 p.m.

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Brandi S. Stephens

Brandi S. Stephens

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