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Board OKs new budget for schools

The Lincoln County School Board met Tuesday night in a specialmeeting to approve the 2004-2005 budget and address otherissues.

“There have been no changes since our public hearing,” saidBusiness Manager Cheryl Shelby.

At a public hearing on June 21, five citizens attended andexpressed their support of the district while questioning somebudget items. After the meeting, they said they were satisfied thedistrict was doing all it could given the state’s Department ofEducation budget cuts and unfunded mandates, such as a teacher payraise.

The 2004-2005 budget calls for a tax raise of 1.4 mills, whichwill increase the district’s budget $19 million budget byapproximately $84,000.

“All we asked for this year was what the legislature did notfund for the teacher mandated pay raise,” Shelby said.

Internal budget cuts and redistribution of some funds coveredother shortfalls, she said.

Nearly $3 million of the budget comes from local taxes, whilethe state contributes $11 million and the federal governmentapproximately $121,000. However, another $5 million in federalfunding is received for specific programs, such as Title I, andmust be spent on those programs.

Within the budget, more than $11 million, 77 percent of thebudget, is spent on salaries and benefits, Shelby said, adding thatthe average among state school districts was 75-80 percent.

In other matters, the board approved a recommendation bySuperintendent Terry Brister to lease 1,500 square feet of theformer Kees Motor Company building in downtown Brookhaven for $750per month and move the Technology Department and Child NutritionDepartment from the Central Office to the new space. The lease isfor one year.

Storage for spare parts and equipment for the TechnologyDepartment eats up a lot of space at the Central Office, Bristersaid, and moving them to another location would give them more roomthere. The Child Nutrition Department was added later to takeadvantage of the situation.

“There’s nothing small enough for just (the TechnologyDepartment) to rent, so we’re adding Child Nutrition Services,” hesaid. “This is just a quick fix for right now. We don’t have a lotof room here, and they have a lot of materials to store.”

The superintendent added that, depending on future budgets, hehopes to add a second person to the Technology Department once thedistant learning and other technology-based programs are added. Itwould not happen this year, however.

Eventually, he said, he would like to look at expanding theCentral Office building, but that would be several years in thefuture.

At previous meetings, the board had discussed moving the twodepartments into the Families First building once that programexpires in September. The district had been supporting thatprogram, but state funding has been cut.

However, Brister said, recent developments have made themquestion how viable moving the departments there would be.

The district has been leasing the building and the owners haveexpressed a desire to sell it, he said.

In leasing the former Kees Motor Company, they avoid thepotential problem of moving into the Families First location andthen having to move again when the building is sold, Bristersaid.

The board also approved a recommendation to tear down the oldGreen Building on the West Lincoln Attendance Center campus. Thebuilding had provided office space until this year, when the newoffice building was completed through the $3.9 million bondissue.

Brister said the wooden building was rotting, and the districtwas better off tearing it down then trying to repair it.