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County Schools approve budget
Resource officer positions removed

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Henry County School Board on Monday approved, among other things, cutting the addition of three school resource officers to reflect level county funding for fiscal year 2013-14.

The school board approved, by a vote of 5-1, a $71,273,600 total operating budget for FY 2013-14, which includes $266,343 less county funding than the school board had requested. Ridgeway District school board member Francis Zehr voted no, and Blackberry District school board member Rudy Law did not attend the special meeting.

At budget hearings April 15, the Henry County Board of Supervisors decided not to restore any of the funding that was cut from the school board’s request (or cut from any other department or agency’s request) for fiscal 2013-14 because, county officials said, money would have to be taken from another department if it was added to the schools’ budget.

The county budget proposed by County Administrator Tim Hall left local funding for the school division at $16,577,895, the same as this fiscal year. The county school board had requested a total of $16,844,238 in county funds, an increase of about $266,343, or 1.61 percent.

On Monday, the county school board approved Superintendent Jared Cotton’s recommendation to make up the $266,343 not funded by the county by eliminating the addition of three school resource officers ($152,825) — “much to our dismay”; and eliminating the addition of a clerical position to assist in the budget/finance and human resources areas ($55,193). Those two items total $208,018, and the rest will be made up through projected savings in the utilities budget, Cotton said. He added, however, that it’s difficult to project utility costs and savings.

Cotton recommended and the board approved not cutting from the FY 2013-14 budget the addition of an elementary teacher because of a projected increase in enrollment ($57,509); the addition of an administrative intern to serve Carver Elementary School, the division’s largest elementary school ($57,236); insurance increase for some part-time staff because of the Affordable Care Act ($48,090); the addition of a special population bus driver ($24,016); and the addition of a special population bus aide ($20,609). Those items total $207,460.

The special population bus driver and bus driver aide will not be hired unless needed. But if the money is not budgeted, and the need arises for a special population bus driver and bus driver aide, the school division will have to take the money from somewhere else in operations to pay for them because it is a mandated service, Cotton has said.

Saying safety of students and educators is his top priority, Zehr suggested shifting funds around in the budget to provide one or two school resource officers. For example, he suggested instead of hiring a full-time administrative intern for Carver Elementary, doing that on a part-time basis. He proposed doing that by using some educators from Magna Vista and Bassett high schools who want to go into administration, whereby they would work part of the day at their schools and part of the day at Carver.

Cotton expressed concerns about possible lack of consistency in the performance of duties at Carver and the possibility the educators from Magna Vista and Bassett might not have administrative endorsements.

The proposal developed by the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and the school division was to hire three school resource officers to serve the division’s 10 elementary schools.

Having one school resource officer “running back and forth (between 10 schools), I don’t think would be effective,” said Iriswood District school board member Curtis Millner Sr. “I think three is the minimum. Two is a stretch ... .”

Also, the school division does not yet know what the impact of sequestration (mandatory federal spending cuts) will be, Collinsville District school board member Kathy Rogers pointed out. She said the school board needed to adopt a 2013-14 budget. She added that if unexpected money becomes available during 2013-14, the division could consider adding school resource officers, but at this point that looks unlikely.

There are always places where small amounts of money can be found during the course of the fiscal year, said Joe DeVault, board chairman and school board member-at-large. But for an expenditure as large as the addition of school resource officers, the school division needs help from the community, he said.

“We (the school division) can’t continue to siphon funds from instruction and teacher salaries and pay (to put into school security). The community needs to help us on this,” DeVault said.


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