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School funds OK'd
Council votes for full funding

Friday, May 3, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Martinsville schools will get all of the city funds they sought for the coming fiscal year.

Martinsville City Council on Thursday voted 3-2 to give the schools their requested allocation of $6,360,531. The city’s proposed budget for fiscal 2014, which will start July 1, included $6,013,985 for the schools.

The extra $346,546 will “get the schools back in compliance with the (state) Standards of Quality and provide (additional) employees that are very much needed,” Mayor Kim Adkins said after the council meeting.

Councilman Danny Turner and Vice Mayor Gene Teague voted against the motion, made by Adkins and seconded by Councilman Mark Stroud.

Turner made a substitute motion, which died for lack of a second, that the schools receive $175,000 extra. He said he thought the schools could “get some positive results” with that amount.

The schools have proposed restoring six teaching positions cut in recent years due to budget constraints.

According to Superintendent Pam Heath, the schools must be able to meet state requirements that all courses are taught by teachers licensed to teach those subjects. The schools have not met that requirement for several years because they have not been able to recruit teachers with the proper credentials.

Teague indicated he thinks the $346,546 will not be enough to ensure the schools meet the requirement.

He said he thinks the $6,013,985 budgeted for the schools was appropriate and to give them about $600,000 more than the $5.7 million they received for the current fiscal year would be “overkill” that citizens would not favor.

Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge said she thinks the schools’ funding request was “based on what they need” and the council must trust them.

Heath, who did not attend the meeting, could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

A motion made by Turner and seconded by Hodge to reduce the city’s allocation to the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) to $100,000 failed because the majority of council was opposed.

The proposed budget includes $279,500 for the EDC, the same amount it received for the current fiscal year.

“I’m just not satisfied” with the EDC’s efforts to recruit businesses and industries to the community, Turner said.

Hodge said she also is not satisfied, although she voiced concern that reducing the allocation would hurt the organization.

Teague noted that more than half of the EDC’s annual budget is funded by The Harvest Foundation and the Chamber’s Partnership for Economic Growth (C-PEG), a Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce affiliate, and the city’s contribution is less than the county’s based on population.

“Nobody’s happy with the results we’re getting” from the EDC, Teague said, “but what’s the other option?”

To attract companies that will create jobs that lower local unemployment rates, “we’ve got to do economic development,” he said.

He suggested that the council schedule a work session with the EDC to discuss concerns about the organization’s performance.

But to reduce the EDC’s funding now would be wrong, he said, because the council has no real performance measures in place for the organization.

Furthermore, “the economy is on the verge of coming back,” Teague said, indicating that the EDC might have more success in the future.

The EDC is “doing more things, covering more ground” than any previous local economic development entity ever did in terms of making Martinsville known to the business world, Stroud said.

Turner made a motion for the council to withdraw $1.7 million that the city has invested in the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre, a joint county-city project planned south of Ridgeway near the North Carolina line.

He withdrew the motion after Teague told him that Martinsville is legally obligated to the commitment.

The industrial park project is stalled because it has not received a required U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit.

Turner also made a motion to eliminate $3,850 budgeted for the Southside Business Technology Center because he perceived some of the work it does is for profit. His motion died for lack of a second.

Two other motions he made died for the same reason. One was to eliminate a proposed assistant city manager position. The other was to do away with a proposed assistant finance director/budget analyst position.

City Manager Leon Towarnicki has said he thinks there is enough work for a full-time assistant manager to handle.

An auditor has expressed concern that the city finance department is overworked.

Hodge made a motion to eliminate funds in the proposed budget to extend Team Cole & Associates’ management of the Martinsville Mustangs baseball team for another year. That motion, too, was not seconded.

The city is paying Team Cole $50,000 to manage the city-sponsored team this year. The fiscal 2014 budget proposal includes $45,000 for Team Cole, but city officials said the firm may renew its contract for $40,000.

Hodge said she thinks the money would be better spent on “youth participation sports” rather than on “spectator sports.”

The Mustangs never have made a profit. Under Team Cole’s management, “we’re on the path” to improve the baseball team’s finances, Teague said.

He mentioned that the city’s loss for sponsoring the team one year was about double what Team Cole is proposed to be paid in 2014.

A substitute motion made by Turner to offer the firm $25,000 to extend its contract was not seconded.

 

 
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