Friday, September 18, 2009

TOP STORY >> Budget set, cuts to be considered

Leader staff writer

The Cabot School Board on Thursday night unanimously approved a $65.6 million operating budget for 2009-2010 that is $1.6 million larger than last year’s without including the $1.8 million in additional state money for the district’s 3.9 percent growth rate.

Dr. Tony Thurman, school superintendent, explained to board members that he didn’t include the additional $1.8 million as revenue because he is trying to cut spending. Growth money is based on quarterly enrollments. If enrollment goes down, the district has to pay money back to the state, he said, so growth money is revenue that can’t be completely counted on. When it comes in, it will go into the building fund, which is not part of the operating budget, he said.

The $33 million budgeted for teachers’ salaries is up $2 million from last year and includes $1,000 raises in the base pay, that Thurman said he would give if possible. Pay increases of 30 cents an hour is included for classified staff.

Operations and maintenance is up from $6.2 million to $6.8 million, in part from opening the new junior high school. Debt payment on construction is up from $3.7 million to $4.2 million.

The budget includes a $4.8 million carryover. Local revenue is projected to increase from $17.5 million to $21 million because of the higher millage approved by voters and higher assessment. The projected carryover in June 2010 is $5.3 million.

Thurman told the board that the state wants school districts to carry over about 8 percent of their operating budgets. The projected $5.3 million is 8.06 percent.

The operating budget does not include the $19.3 million in the building fund that will pay for the construction that is ongoing across the district.

In other business, Bill Holden, head of custodial services for the district, talked about efforts to stop the spread of the H1N1 flu that Thurman said is causing absenteeism among teachers and students similar to the seasonal flu.

Holden said teachers are emphasizing hand washing. His staff uses a new sanitizer on all desks and non-alcoholic, foaming hand sanitizer stations have been placed outside cafeterias, offices and at the entrances used by children when they come in from recess.

Holden said he researched to find a non-alcohol-based product endorsed by the Center for Disease Control because the alcohol-based foams are flammable.

Thurman praised Holden saying the district had to have products to help fight the flu but vendors knew Holden would not tolerate inflated prices. He made it clear price gouging would not be allowed.

“He’s like the guy you want to take with you to buy a car,” Thurman said.

During a construction update, Thurman said the district will pay $300,000 to bring the football stadium into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act. That project will start in December.

The district has purchased the Funtastics building on Highway 321 and will remodel it for the alternative school and charter school known as the ALE and ACE (Alternative Learning Environment and Academic Center of Excellence).Thurman told the board that an auction of the equipment in the building netted about $60,000 that will be used to help pay for the remodeling.

The board unanimously approved these officers for the 2009-2010 school year: Wendel Msall, president; Ken Kincade, vice president; and Dean Martin, secretary.

The Thursday meeting was the first for new board member Corey Williams who was elected Tuesday. Williams was sworn in by District Judge Joe O’Bryan.