2012-05-24 / Front Page

SF Proposes No Increase In Taxes

Reduces band director to half-time
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER

While district taxpayers will undoubtedly be delighted at the Southern Fulton School Board’s proposal to keep the real estate tax rate at its current level, some may be equally dismayed at its decision to reduce expenses by making several employees halftime and furloughing several more.

On a motion by board members Patrick Bard and Allen Morton, the board agreed last Tuesday evening to set the tentative budget for the upcoming 2012-13 school year at a total of $11,132,281. In comparison, the budget for the current school year was recorded at $10,311,589, according to district Superintendent Kendra Trail.

Board member Dale Sigel voted against the proposed budget during the 6-1 roll-call vote. Fellow members Timothy Hull and Sam Souders were unable to attend the May 15 monthly meeting.

In a follow-up motion by Morton and Bard, the board unanimously agreed the real estate tax rate should tentatively remain at its current rate of 23.3612 mills. Also suggested to remain unaltered are $5 per-capita taxes through Section 679 and Act 511. Earned income and real estate transfer taxes may stay at their level of 1 percent, and penalties are listed at the maximum of 10 percent.

In helping hold the bottom line, the board made some difficult decisions last week, including the demotion of band director Benjamin Arnold to half-time status by eliminating study hall duty and junior high block classes. The least senior individual in the music department, Arnold came to the district in 2008.

In accepting the recommendation of the superintendent, the motion approved by the board on a 5-2 roll-call vote indicates the demotion was made “in order to promote a more effective and efficient educational system and to conform with budgetary constraints and declining enrollment in the high school band.” Board member Timothy Mellott noted “sufficient evidence” was given to support the recommendation.

Information regarding the annual number of band participants spanning the last 10 years was unavailable. However, Superintendent Trail reported that during the 2007-08 school year 24 students participated in the band. In 2008-09 as well as 2009- 10 that number dropped by 50 percent. In 2010-11 and 2011-12 participation was listed at 19 and 15, respectively, Trail said.

In regard to whether additional monitoring will be done for other classes where participation is deemed low, she went on to say she believed the board and administration will continue “looking closely at numbers during each year in preparation for budgeting purposes.”

Arnold is slated to divide his duties between the elementary and high school facilities. The decision to cut his duties in half is expected to save the district between $20,000 and $25,000. It has not yet been determined whether he will continue to receive benefits under half-time status, Trail said.

David Smith and Danny Crouse were the lone board members to vote against Arnold’s demotion.

Moving onto the cafeteria department, the board unanimously agreed to eliminate or furlough part-time cafeteria employees Mary Harding and Bobbie Jo Peck effective with the 2012-13 school year. Trail stated as the two women were only parttime employees they did not receive any benefits, but their furlough should results in savings of around $12,500.

In addition, full-time cafeteria employee Deneen Fogal saw her status reduced to part-time, which Trail said would save approximately $24,000 in salary and benefits. Fogal’s employment status is slated to change effective the beginning of the next school year. Sigel voted against the matter.

Both motions regarding cafeteria employees were also made on the recommendation of the superintendent to “promote a more effective and efficient educational system and to conform with standards of reorganization.”

In other personnel-related matters addressed by the board, Dr. Joe Wolfe was brought on as school dentist at a rate of 80 cents per student.

Both Robin Binder Heath and Andrews and Beard were given a nod of approval to serve as school solicitors. Heath’s fee for 2012-13 is $115 per hour for general legal services and negotiations and $130 hourly for litigation services. Meanwhile, the firm of Andrews and Beard is slated to receive an hourly rate of $125 for general services and $155 per hour for special counsel/negotiator services.

Following the recommendation of the superintendent, athletic director and high school principal, Terry Bard was named the newest girls varsity basketball coach. Bard’s salary was set at $4,002. The motion to hire board was accepted on a 5-2 vote with Crouse and Sigel dissenting.

With Bard assuming the head coach job, his prior position as girls junior varsity basketball coach will be advertised as vacant.

Jeremy Clingerman was hired as elementary boys basketball coach as per the professional staff contract. Meanwhile, Anita Hollenshead was appointed to the position of assistant play advisor with a salary of $1,082 as per the professional staff contract.

The board regretfully accepted a letter of resignation from school psychologist Lauryn Carnes, who will be stepping down on June 30 at the conclusion of her current 190-day contract.

The Fulton County Area Vocational Technical School budget in the amount of $835,149 for the upcoming school year was unanimously approved as presented to the board.

In continuing its talks about needed facility upgrades, the board penned a contract with Reynolds Energy Services for the completion of an energy audit agreement. Several representatives from Reynolds as well as Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates were on hand to continue what has been a two-year-long discussion on renovation and construction. The group touched on possible areas of improvement at the high school such as HVAC, windows, ceilings, light fixtures and areas needing to meet ADA requirements. The board then went on to give Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates the goahead to proceed with PlanCon A.

In addition, the board had a very brief discussion with solicitor Heath on the acceptance of a special van/vehicle contract with Snyder Bus Lines LLC beginning July 1. The contract was approved 6-1 with Morton dissenting

Justin Mellott, student representative to the school board, was recognized for his commitment in serving the student body by high school Principal Meredith Hendershot. Mellott stated upon graduating he intends to major in physical therapy at Mt. Aloysius.

Students Naomi Cejka, Timothy Griffin, Robert Dickenson and Corey Landers were presented with certificates by special education supervisor Diane Younker for their ongoing efforts at helping out at the elementary school. The group was instrumental in completing an array of duties such as cleaning and putting away tables; sweeping and mopping floors; delivering mail; making copies; and recycling. Younker described them as trustworthy, conscientious and motivated.

Concerned parent Bill Peck questioned the board and administration during public comment on the school’s policy regarding monitoring student athletes after games and practices. Peck said on one particular occasion he was late picking up his daughter from softball practice and there was no one around. Peck also went on to question the school’s policy on cellphone use by teachers during instructional hours.

The board held multiple executive sessions throughout the evening and spoke in private with band director Arnold as well as representatives from Phantom Fireworks. Following the final executive session to discuss negotiations, the board tabled taking action on the collective bargaining agreement with the Southern Fulton Education Association. Trail noted the teacher’s union has not voted as of yet on the agreement, which would run retroactive July 1, 2010, and end June 30, 2015.

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