BOE approves budget with 4 percent pay raise, gets clean audit

Published 4:56 am Saturday, September 10, 2016

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By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

The Lowndes County Board of Education approved a $23.9 million fiscal year 2017 budget Thursday night that includes a 4 percent pay raise for all employees except school board members. And the board received a clean audit report from representatives of the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts.

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School Superintendent Daniel Boyd also announced that an audit of the Head Start Snack Program will not result in any citations.

The board’s Sept. 8 meeting was held at the Central High School Library and began with an FY 2017 budget hearing.

Boyd said the salary increase for school board employees is less than the cost of living index since the last time the employees received a raise, some three years ago. However, he said, “It is appreciated by all the employees.”

The pay raise three years ago was a 2 percent increase, and the last raise before that came in 2007.

The budget, which includes total revenues of $23,934,842 and expenses of $23,818,881, is less than $1 million more than last year’s budget of $22,952,683.

Of interest in transportation, the budget includes 37 bus drivers, a supervisor, a secretary, a mechanic and a mechanic helper. And there is a plan to buy two buses.

Also, in the budget, there is a plan to purchase material for a maintenance shop.

Total revenues include $11,277,915 in state funding, $5,678,122 in federal funding, $5,945,153 in local funding and $1,033,652 in other revenue.

Teresa Dekle, audit manager from the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts reported to the board on an audit of the school system for the period of Oct. 1, 2014 – Sept. 30, 2015.

She said, “We issued an unmodified opinion of the board’s financial statements,” which she said meant “the financial statements were presented fairly in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.”

She said, “We also noted no matters to indicate that the board did not comply in all material respects with applicable laws and regulations.”

She said in addition, the audit tested the Title I program and Teacher Incentive Fund and there were no problems listed for those programs, as well.”

Board member Steve Foster questioned the term “unmodified” used in place of “unqualified.”

Dekle explained that was a change in terminology. And in answer to Boyd, she said in plain language it means, “You did a fantastic job.”

She also said there were no problems with two Lowndes County public schools, which were also looked at in the audit.

In other matters, the board approved a resolution in memory of Margie Brutton, who Boyd called a “very special person” and who served the school system for 34 years as a bus driver and cook for the Calhoun School.

Boyd announced a Lowndes County Transition Expo will be held Oct. 5 at Central High sponsored by the Special Education Department under the leadership of Dr. Renata Hollins.

He said the target audience will be special education students and their parents to explore offerings after high school.

Boyd said the new lights at the Central High football field were erected in time for the Calhoun/Central football game and are expected to last 25 years or 10,000 hours.

He said, “We are real proud of these new LED lights that will last a long time.”

Boyd also said Jackson-Steele and Fort Deposit Elementary schools have received new cafeteria tables.

He announced the Episcopal Church Diocese of Alabama has given the school board a donation of $1,089.25. He said $1,000 remaining from last year along with the money received this year will be used for $1,000 scholarships at Central and Calhoun at the end of this year.

Boyd said the back to school rally Aug. 20 saw some $3,500 in gifts and prizes given away, as well as free hot dogs, hamburgers and water.

He said the school system enrollment was down 67 students after the first five days of school, but after 20 days, there was an increase in enrollment by 17 students.
Boyd attributed the drop at the beginning of school to the earlier start of school.

In response to Board President Ben Davis as to what to do to get the students to school in those first five days, Boyd said announcements should be made at churches, every principal should place the start date on the school marquees,  fliers should be placed in stores, and once school starts, principals and secretaries should call the parents of students.  The start date will be Aug. 4.

Boyd also announced that following the school system’s bus inspection of 49 buses, only four were found to have major deficiencies, which he said is below the state average of 10 percent. He called that a “huge accomplishment.”

The board approved action items including contracts, agreements, a bid extension for beverages with Coca-Cola Bottling Company, a capital five-year plan, 2016-2017 salary schedules, the July 2016 financial statement, profit and loss detail report and check detail report for the Lowndes County Head Start Program, the revenue and expenditures report, financial statement and payroll register for July 2016 based on reconciled bank statements and the personnel report.

The next school board meeting will be held Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Central Office.