• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Board approves tentative budget for next school year

The Woodford County Board of Education approved a tentative budget for next school year at its regular meeting on Tuesday night. "It is a balanced budget, very conservative (while also) maintaining an 8.7 percent contingency," said Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith during a planning session last Monday. Because of recent board-approved changes to the district's salary schedules, personnel costs did increase to 71.78 percent of the general fund, she said. No personnel or program reductions are included in the tentative budget. Smith said the tentative budget was based on state SEEK funding for an average daily attendance of 3,690 students. The budget also anticipates no change in the local property tax rate, which she said will be reviewed prior to the board being presented with a working budget in September. IA positions The board approved a plan to restructure positions in the district's English Learners (EL) program, which provides services to students who do not speak English as their first language. Converting one-and-a-half certified EL teaching positions to three classified instructional assistant (IA) positions will allow the district to provide more support for students in the EL program when they need it, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins told board members last week. Being able to hire an IA to spend the entire day at a school - rather than having one teacher travel between two schools - allows the district to provide support when EL students need it most, according to Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm. He said every elementary school focuses on reading each morning. And with this restructuring, EL students will be assured to get support from an IA at that important time next school year, he said. The opportunity to restructure those EL positions arose with the resignation of two EL teachers. By converting those certified positions into lower-paid classified positions, the district will employ additional IAs to serve students on an ongoing basis in every school at no additional cost next year. Meal prices The board approved a 10-cent increase for elementary, middle and high school student lunches next school year. "None of us are happy about this recommendation," said Hawkins during last week's planning session. He said school districts are required to charge its students the "average cost for a (school) meal" nationally in order to participate in the federal meals program and receive reimbursements. "(So) we don't have a choice, but to recommend raising the meal prices," said Hawkins. "We are trying to minimize it as much as we can." With the 10-cent increase, the cost for a student lunch in the 2016-17 school year will rise to $2.50 at elementary schools, $2.75 at Woodford County Middle School and $2.95 at Woodford County High School. Breakfast prices will not increase. Lunch tables The board approved a recommendation to purchase new cafeteria tables at Woodford County Middle School at a cost of $29,575. The district has available capital outlay dollars to make the purchase, but board members voiced frustration last week with the recommendation because WCMS cafeteria tables were not included on the board's capital outlay priority list or presented to them as a need. Cafeteria tables with attached benches have been a need at WCMS in recent years because it's time-consuming and problematic to move the tables and 300 or so chairs for special events and activities, Hawkins told board members last week. "I don't have a problem with it," said board Vice Chair Debby Edelen of the purchase. "It's just this request has been made for two or three years, it's never showed up on our list and now it's bumping ahead of what was on a (priority needs) list we discussed last summer. That's my only issue." Edelen voted no on the motion to approve. Online access The board approved an agreement with AT&T to build mobile service hotspots, which will give home online access to students in rural areas of Woodford County, at a cost of $2,995. The district will also pay a monthly service fee of $2,032.50 for the hotspots, which Hawkins said will serve about 10 percent of the district's students. With the integration of technology for programs like Non-Traditional Instruction Days and One-to-One in Woodford County schools, a growing number of students are accessing online resources on a regular basis at home.

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