School district asks city to help make ends meet

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2001

The Brookhaven School District will need a little more money toend this year and will ask city fathers for more in local propertytax revenue next year, trustees decided Tuesday.

Due to a tax revenue collection shortage, trustees approvedseeking a $265,000 shortfall loan to finish out the current fiscalyear. School officials said it was not a result of funding cuts orspending plans.

“It was just a shortage in collections that were turned over tous,” said Superintendent Dr. Sam Bounds.

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The loan will be paid back over a three-year period. Boardattorney Bob Allen said the city will set the tax levy in order topay the note.

“We’ll notify them what we’ve done, and they’ll set whatevermillage is necessary,” Allen explained.

District Financial Director Sandy Earnest said the shortfallindicated that assessed valuation was not what city officialsthought or that people did not pay their taxes.

Allen said property tax collections fluctuate from year to year,with some years seeing collected taxes exceed the requested amountand other years seeing collections come up a bit short. Whencollections exceed the district request, as they did in 1998, theextra revenue has to be escrowed for use the next year.

“It’s not an exact science,” Earnest added.

Also, in part because of the loan, the school board approvedrequesting $5.8 million in local property taxes next year. Earnestsaid that was about $451,000 more than was presented at a Junepublic hearing on next year’s budget.

Part of that, Earnest said, was $176,000 in taxes on newproperty in the district. She said $105,000 of the additionalamount was needed to pay the note on the shortfall loan.

Earnest indicated that higher property values should offset therequested increase and not require a millage increase.

“It’ll probably be covered by that,” Earnest said.

In other matters, trustees approved a number of personneldecisions, including Earnest’s resignation. She is returning to herhometown to be financial director for the Clinton SchoolDistrict.

Earnest has been in Brookhaven for 11 years. Bounds said she was”the best business manager I’ve worked with in my 31 years in sevenschool districts and two states.”

Project Superintendent Robert Freeman gave trustees an update onprogress of the Brookhaven High School renovation and expansionproject. He said the project is behind in some areas and ahead inothers.

“With everything coming together in next 30 days, I hope to becatch up and be where we’re supposed to be,” Freeman said.

With rain days, Freeman said the targeted completion date is nowNov. 29.

“We have had several months that were unusually wet,” Freemansaid.

Freeman hopes to be able to begin landscaping work in August.School officials planned to contact architect Michael Barrancoabout the status of the landscaping master plan.

“That’s going to be the next critical push,” Freeman said.

School officials are also considering changes to the district’sReduction In Force (RIF) policy. The policy uses a points system,based on seniority, experience and education, to determine whichteachers will be released when staff cuts are needed.

Bounds said the district’s current RIF policy has been in placesince 1986 and has served the district well.

“We can always make it better,” he said.

Trustees touched on teacher-related issues such as seniority,district loyalty, national certification and the ability to teachin multiple areas. Allen said any policy would be a compromisebetween competing interests, but he said policy points should beobjective and in the best interests of children.

Trustees reached no conclusions Tuesday, but planned to considerchanges prior to their August meeting.

“It’s a tough issue, but we’re trying to get the best policy wecan,” Bounds said.