• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

School board votes to pay $50,000 for special election

The Woodford County Board of Education voted 5 to 0 Monday to make a payment of $50,000 to Woodford Fiscal Court to cover the cost of a special election on Tuesday, June 26. Its action comes after receiving a letter from Woodford Fiscal Court on June 4 with a cost estimate of $75,250 for the special election.

The estimate was higher than an approximate cost of $50,000 discussed at Woodford Fiscal Court meetings in April and with schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins.

Before making a motion to prepay $50,000 for the special election, board member Margie Cleveland said, “…that is a reasonable expectation. I still think there will be overage on that but that is reasonable. I don’t think we’ve received justification for the cost of $75,000.”

In a letter to school board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV dated June 18, County Judge-Executive John Coyle said after a Fiscal Court work session on May 29 that “it was agreed to estimate high in order to assure all actual costs associated with the special election were covered.” County Treasurer Sabra Garmon discussed the rationale behind the $75,250 estimate Tuesday afternoon.

“From a financial background I’d rather give an estimate that’s high instead of be surprised that it’s low and then you ask me for more money,” Garmon said. She emphasized, “It’s an estimate.”

Prior to the board’s action to pay $50,000 to Woodford Fiscal Court, Hawkins said he determined the average cost of an election was $1,800 to $2,000 per precinct, and pointed out the Woodford County has 19 precincts. He also presented cost comparisons based on his own research of two previous Woodford County elections and the upcoming special election.

The cost for pick up and delivery of voting machines was not a line item for the May 2016 primary and June 2013 special elections so a cost of $1,821.61 (based on hours worked) for the May 2018 primary was provided to Hawkins and used in his comparisons.

In total, an opens records request made by Hawkins showed the cost of the May 2016 primary and June 2013 special elections – $40,056.29 and $38,618.76 – (using estimates for delivery/pickup and postage from the 2018 primary) were less than the estimated cost of the upcoming special election ($75,250), the schools superintendent told board members.

In past elections, Coyle said the county absorbed the cost of its road department employees delivering and picking up voting machines.

“But that is the cost of doing business for an election – the delivery of the machines,” said Garmon.

She said the county’s $10,000 estimate for delivery and pickup includes additional employee costs in the County Clerk’s office, which has brought in two people to cover for two regular employees who are on vacation.

The county’s estimate for the special election also included $15,000 for materials and supplies. “When we were calculating this,” said Garmon, “we did not think it would be fair for her (County Clerk Sandy Jones) to deplete or reduce her supplies for the special election and then have to turn right around in November to order more supplies. …because there’s a third election this year she may have to buy more supplies than she would normally have budgeted for had there only been two elections.”

The estimated costs for the special election were determined at a meeting on May 29 involving Coyle, Garmon, Jones and County Finance Officer Beverly Flagg on June 1, according to the letter from Coyle to Wilson.

Wilson and Hawkins were authorized by the board to talk with Coyle and County Attorney Alan George in an effort to resolve the disagreement over the estimated cost of a special election on June 26, which will give Woodford Countians an opportunity to vote “For” or “Against” a proposed property tax increase (5.5 cents per $100 of assessed value).

The facilities tax would increase the school district’s bonding/borrowing capacity and allow the board to move forward with building a new high school.

Property tax proclamation

The board unanimously approved a proclamation stating that the board “does not have statutory authority to sunset any facilities or property tax levied. With this limitation in mind, we, the board of education, do request that the board seated at the time the bonds for a new high school have been paid in full, give thoughtful consideration to the facilities tax and the facilities needs of the district and make a determination as to whether the facilities tax can be eliminated.” Those opposing the proposed 5.5 cent facilities tax have voiced concern related to the tax not having an end date.

In his monthly remarks, Hawkins said without a facilities tax that a new high school could not be considered for at least another 12 years.

“That means next year’s kindergarten students – the class of 2021 – would not see a new high school,” he said. “…Only the additional revenue generated from the facilities tax puts us in that position,” where the district has sufficient bonding/borrowing capacity to pay for a new high school.

In addressing questions from those opposed to the tax hike about why the board has built a contingency of 11.6 percent, Hawkins said those rainy day dollars would allow the board to maintain staffing and programs if significant state budget cuts had occurred during last year’s legislative session.

Southside addition

The board unanimously approved a schematic design for a cafeteria/kitchen addition at Southside Elementary School.

Asked about the timeframe for the project, architect Margie Jacobs said she hopes to present construction documents to the board at its July meeting, with construction occurring next school year.

“The intention is to build the new addition with no interruption to existing operations,” said Jacobs. One of the benefits of this project is construction will happen in an area “away from our primary learning areas,” she added.

“We can’t do these (types of additions) in eight weeks – our summers are too short,” said Jacobs. She said the wall separating the planned addition from the remainder of the cafeteria will be removed next summer after the school year ends.

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