RIDGEWAY — Funding and stewardship were the main topics of the Tuesday Fairfield County School Board meeting at Geiger Elementary.
Flexibility in spending options as well as timeliness to secure state funds were among the topics voted upon.
Director of Finance for Fairfield County Schools Kevin Robinson recommended the district transfer $207,000 of Education Improvement Act school building funds to instead pay teachers salaries. The building funds are set to expire in December 2012. The funds currently could only be used for renovation, repair, or capital improvements of academic facilities.
If the EIA funds are placed into salaries then money allocated for salaries can be spent for another purpose. Robinson said the deadline to receive funds is Dec. 31 and a decision is required by early December at the latest. If not the district would lose those funds.
“This gives us latitude to use the money in a myriad of ways. I think it would be a prudent course of action,” said Fairfield County School District Superintendent J.R.Green.
Board member Annie McDaniel expressed concern about the district and board being good stewards of that money. Green assured her that the board would be informed of the purposes for the EIA funds.
MBAJ architectural firm out of Charlotte was chosen from among the candidates for the construction of a new career center. Among the firm’s education projects are the Highland School of Technology and South Pointe High School. The board ratified this choice 6-1 with board member Bobby Cunningham opposing.
Brent Jeffcoat with Pope Ziegler gave a presentation on financing for the career center building project. Currently the district has $9-10 million of bonded debt capacity with $1.2 million of that being used annually for capital improvements, a practice which needs to continue according to Robinson.
Jeffcoat said $25 million was the figure that had been used when planning for the new facility.
“There are ways you could stretch resources a little but not three times as much,” he said.
If the district proceeds without a referendum, the millage rate would be raised to around 70 mils. Jeffcoat said he spoke to Phil Hinely about fee-in-lieu of tax funds coming available from the nuclear plant expansion but that those funds would not be available until 2019.
If a bonded referendum came before voters, then that process would result in a tax increase of about 16 mils instead, an option Jeffcoat advised. He also recommended that the board and district look long term and think of other capital improvements they could include in a bond referendum that would impact the area for the next 15-20 years with the knowledge that funding from the nuclear plant would help soften the blow of added expenditures when it began coming in 2019.
Using sales tax to fund bonding for schools is not a viable option currently because two years ago the general assembly limited that ability to Horry and Charleston Counties with their hospitality tax revenue. Jeffcoat noted that sales tax would be paid on materials being used for plant construction. Jeffcoat advised prudent action so the board can take advantage of current low interest rates at a savings to the taxpayer.
McDaniel said that in 2006 when operational millage was removed that the board chose not to move forward on the project because they wanted to give struggling property owners tax relief instead. However, she emphasized the need for career training so that young people from Fairfield County can compete for jobs in today’s marketplace.
The board then went into executive session to discuss legal and personnel matters. No action was taken in the session.
In other news:
• School fundraisers were unanimously approved for 2012-13.
• Green gave an update on the Fairfield Central High senior class trip. He said the class felt that participation would suffer if the trip were not school sponsored, so the trip will be sponsored this year. Next year that policy may change.
• In August, educational software by company IKE was recommended to be used as a new assessment tool in the district. Green recommended the board suspend the the policy of the IKE test score counting for a specific portion of a student’s grade for the 2012-13 school year.laudia Edwards noted that the same measure was taken in 2010 when a new assessment tool was introduced.
“We want to ensure the results are valid and reliable and conduct a firm evaluation of the product before taking it to (that next) level,” Green said.
The assessment instead will count as a regular test grade. Letters will be sent to parents to inform them of the change.
• Green recognized Jackie Wallace, coordinator of public information, for her work on the new district monthly newsletter, which is printed at the career center. Green also encouraged people to visit the district’s revamped website at www.fairfield.k12.sc.us.
• Green also thanked the Shaw group for its efforts to support the Fairfield Central High School Extraordinary Kings mentoring program. Shaw provides incentives for its employees to participate. The Extraordinary Kings program served 25 freshman last year and this year Green’s goal is to serve double that number of students with a make up of 25 sophomores and 25 freshmen. The program is aimed to develop young males to grow up to be productive members of society. More mentors are needed, and they need not all be men, though men are strongly encouraged to get involved, according to Green.
• Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Claudia Edwards provided board members with a five-year strategic plan for the district gifted and talented program. Beth Reid commended the staff for preparing the 49 page document, calling it a comprehensive outstanding effort.
The meeting also included a popular slide show look around the district, featuring its students, faculty and staff. The next school board meeting is 6 p.m. on Nov. 20 at the Fairfield Magnet School for Math and Science.