• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Pension issues discussed during audit review

An audit report of the school district’s finances provided the Woodford County Board of Education with information on the state’s pension liability for teaching and non-teaching retirement plans in the district.

According to the audit report, the state’s total pension liability for Woodford County schools is currently $154.84 million for teaching (certified) positions and $11 million for non-certified positions.

Gov. Matt Bevin has unveiled a pension reform plan to address the state’s multi-billion-dollar unfunded pension liability for public employees. Educators are among those who have voiced opposition to his proposal in part because of a provision that would move employees to 401(k)-style retirement plans.

If Bevin does call a special legislative session of Kentucky’s General Assembly, the board gave its approval to cancel a school day so teachers and other employees in the district can voice their concerns about pension issues to lawmakers in Frankfort.

The makeup date – if school does get cancelled – could be tacked onto the end of the year. However, board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV and Vice Chair Debby Edelen said they do not support that option.

In the end, the board did vote to cancel classes if a special session does get called so school employees can voice their concerns, but board members also agreed to delay amending the calendar until a later date.

Edelen said her vote in opposition to canceling a school day should not be interpreted as a vote against teachers.

“Obviously,” she explained, “I support them. I support our staff,” but she could not support canceling an instructional day knowing a makeup day may be added to the end of the school calendar.

“There’s a lot of assault on public education right now,” said Edelen, “from governments – large and small. And there’s going to be a lot of days we’re all going to all want to leave and go to Frankfort or Washington (D.C.) or whatever and try to protect (public education). And we just can’t set that precedent. We have to be with the kids in the schools. And with our families, make things good for them too.”

A clean audit

Thomas Sparks, of Summers, McCrary & Sparks certified public accountants, described the district’s audit as clean – one without any evidence of fraud or misappropriation of any asset. “That’s the best opinion that an auditor can make on a set of financial statements,” he said. Hawkins said Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith, her finance staff and school bookkeepers do “an extremely-thorough job,” which was shown in this audit report.

When comparing the most recent fiscal years, Sparks said the district has repaid debt and increased its net financial position by $1.7 million, which he described as “a very good sign of financial strength…” The audit report also showed that the district’s revenue in lieu of taxes (from Woodford Reserve for its bourbon warehouse facilities) increased from $62,914 in 2016 to $132,201 in the last fiscal year. Smith said that revenue has already grown to over $300,000 this fiscal year “so yes, it will increase.”

Community Stadium

The board agreed to invite its attorney, Bob Chenoweth, to next Monday night’s regular meeting so he can provide more information on inter-local cooperation agreements, which may offer an avenue for the school district to become a partial owner of Community Stadium.

“I’m sure there are obstacles to it that he (Chenoweth) will know about that we haven’t thought about,” board member Margie Cleveland told other board members.

Hawkins said Chenoweth worked in the Attorney General’s office when legal language related to inter-local cooperation agreements was discussed. “So he does have a pretty good knowledge of those (agreements). And so I think it would be good for him to just kind of walk us through what information that he can share with us so that we can be as well-informed as possible,” Hawkins added.

Residents in the community have raised concerns about building new athletic fields as a part of a new high school (a project being considered by the board) and not continuing to use existing county-owned facilities, including Community Stadium, for high school football, soccer and other athletic programs.

If the district had an ownership stake in the Community Stadium property, Cleveland told The Sun last month that the board could spend money on making repairs to the facility.

Southside canopies

The board unanimously approved a revised project application form and an $112,155 bid for the installation of bus walkway covers at Southside Elementary School. The bid from Churchill McGee, LLC was under budget by $49,727 and includes canopy extensions from the school to the area where students get onto their buses.

Capital outlay dollars have been set aside to pay for the project, which has a total cost of $131,039.

Industry Day II

Teachers at Woodford County High School recently visited two local manufacturing facilities to gain a better understanding of the quality-job opportunities that will be available to their students, according to Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm. He said the district continues to explore internship opportunities for WCHS students – possibly as early as next school year – through partnerships with local industry. Opportunities in culinary workplaces are another possible avenue for internships in the coming years, he added. Financial report

The district began the month of October with a total cash balance of $6.068 million and ended the month with $5.273 million, according to Smith’s financial report.

The school food service ended October with a balance of $116,902.13 after reporting revenues of $76,550.98 and expenditures of $164,555.18. In addressing board member Karen Brock’s question about why expenditures were so much higher than revenues, Smith cited start-up food costs in late-September and early-October.

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