BOE approves tax renewal resolution, budget and plans for Early Head Start Program

Published 4:07 pm Friday, September 15, 2017

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

Thursday night, the Lowndes County Board of Education took steps to put the 25-year “renewal” of 7 total mills of ad valorem taxes for the school system on the Dec. 12 Special Senate Election ballot.

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The board also approved a $22 million fiscal year 2018 budget, a plan for two separate Head Start Programs in the county (Head Start and Early Head Start), a Five-Year Capital Plan that includes the construction of a new metal Head Start Central Office building in Hayneville and approved a personnel report and salary schedules for FY 2018, including a 1 percent cost of living pay increase for Head Start personnel.

Following the regular order of business at Thursday night’s meeting held at Central Elementary School, Lowndes County School Board Attorney Hank Sanders and Lowndes County School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd recommended the board approve a resolution to put a vote on the renewal of a 3-mill District Tax (part of 7 mills total of ad valorem tax renewal) for the school system on the Dec. 12 Special General Election ballot to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Sanders said the request to renew two of the taxes (a 1-mill tax and a 3-mill tax) are done by petitions, which have already been presented to the Lowndes County Commission. However, he said, the board had to approve a resolution to request the 3-mill District Tax to be placed on the ballot for renewal.

He also said notice has to run in The Lowndes Signal for four consecutive weeks about the vote on the tax renewal.

Sanders said a minimum of 200 signatures were required on the petitions for the vote on two of the tax renewals, but more than 500 signatures were received.

Sanders said if approved, the renewal will go into effect until 2043 with the last tax collected in 2044.

According to Sanders, adding the tax renewal on the Dec. 12 ballot would not cost the county any expense. “Otherwise, you get a special election,” Sanders said, “and the commission would have to pay for that special election.”

School Board Vice President Steve Foster pointed out that the renewal represents “almost half of our local funding, 7 out of 15 total mills.” And School Board member Robert Grant said, “We need our local funding badly.”

At last Tuesday’s Lowndes County Commission meeting, Boyd also stressed, “It’s nothing new… It’s very, very much needed. And without this tax our school system would be crippled.”

The tax renewal resolution was unanimously approved.

Lowndes BOE Chief Financial Officer Yolanda Reid also conducted a budget hearing at the meeting showing total revenues for FY 2018 of $20,872,490 and total expenses of $22,278,086.

She said additional state and federal allocations are pending and that “pending expenses reflect current allocations.”

She also reported that school improvement funds and rural and low incomes funds have not been awarded by the state at this point.

Boyd said the district has spent its money “wisely” and that he appreciated the work of central office administrators, principals and teachers. He said the school system has had excellent audits and he looked forward to another excellent audit.

He also said Reid has done an “outstanding job.”

The board went on to unanimously approve the FY 2018 budget.

Boyd presented the board with a plan to reduce the number of students in the school system’s Head Start Program without losing Head Start funds.

He said Lowndes’ Head Start budget is $2.1 million for 280 students. However, he said, the school system only has 180 students enrolled in the program.

He said the plan is to build a new building on the current Head Start headquarters site in Hayneville, which will not only serve as the central office for Head Start but will house two Early Head Start classes.

Boyd said there would also be an Early Head Start classroom at Fort Deposit Elementary and an Early Head Start classroom at Central Elementary.

He explained that in addition to the regular Head Start Program as it currently exists in Lowndes County, “This will be a whole new Head Start Program.” However, he said, Samita L. Jeter will serve as directors for both the Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

Boyd said if Lowndes County does not implement a plan it, will lose Head Start funding.

He said in the first year, the school system will use the funds that would otherwise be taken from it (due enrollment) to build a new Head Start Center at its current Headquarters site in Hayneville.

Boyd said in January of 2020, the school system will hire Early Head Start staff and will open the Early Head Start Program in the fall of 2020.

Boyd said, “If we are able to implement this plan, it means we will not lose a single penny, nor will we have to layoff anyone.” He said if they (Head Start) cuts the school system’s funds, “We will have to reduce our staff, and we really don’t want to have to do that.”

Boyd said Early Head Start child funding is actually twice that of the regular program. He said the funding for a regular Head Start child is $6,700 while the funding for an Early Head Start child is “13,000” per year.

Boyd said as a result the school system could keep its current numbers but have a “viable program.”

He also said there are studies that show the sooner one can work with a child, the child becomes smarter and more productive.

Boyd said to remodel the old Health Department building owned by the school system will cost about the same as to build a new building. He also said to use new modular buildings would mean facing the same problems that already exist at the site such as a leaking roof.

He said, “If we are able to go with a new construction project, we will be able to bid it out and hopefully get some local vendors.” And he said a licensed general contractor could get local workers on the project, as well.

Boyd said he hoped that a dialysis company might come into the old Health Department building or the school system could sell it or lease it to someone else. He also said he mentioned it to the Lowndes County Improvement Association that is looking to bring a rural hospital into the county.

Boyd said the school system now owns 90 percent of the property where the current Head Start is located since it was donated to the school system by the Lowndes County Commission. But he said there is enough room to build what is needed on the land the school system owns. He said the new building will be metal but will have a brick veneer front and will look “really, really nice.”

Following his report the board approved the under enrollment plan for Head Start, the Five-Year Capital Plan, including the new metal building for Head Start, the FY 2018 budget, FY 2018 Head Start Salary Schedule with 1 percent cost of living increase in it that was announced by Region IV Head Start, FY 2018 salary schedule for the school system with no changes except bud drivers will be paid the same for extra duty routes as their regular routes, July 2017 financial statements, revenue and expense reports, etc. and personnel report.

Among other items, the board approved the readmission of a Calhoun School student who was expelled for bad behavior retroactive to Aug. 16.

Boyd reported the current school system enrolment is 1,432 students, a decrease of 65 students from last year.

He said he expects the school system not to have to make up the day lost due Hurricane Irma.

The board went into executive session to discuss the general reputation and character of individuals, as well as legal matters requiring strategy, but no decisions were made.