Board discusses high school options moving forward
Woodford County Board of Education members Monday discussed the need to begin exploring options in terms of making upgrades to the existing high school or building a new high school – possibly in phases.
“We really need to talk about it and get it going,” said board Vice Chair Debby Edelen, “or we’re going to find ourselves not doing anything. And maybe that’ll be the answer, but I think we need to at least investigate” our options.
She suggested the board may want to invite an architectural firm to provide a professional opinion about possible options moving forward.
Board member Margie Cleveland noted that based on the opinion of the district’s fiscal agent and a board decision to restrict dollars to the building fund, the district may only be four or five years away from being able to borrow money to build a new high school.
“I think we’re probably looking at probably more than four or five years considering the increasing cost” of construction, said Edelen.
“There are other school districts that have used the phase-in approach,” added board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV. “… You have money available to begin the process…”
The discussion about exploring the pros and cons of those options comes after a June special election, when a proposed facilities tax to pay for a new high school was defeated.
Edelen said the board needs to discuss its options to improve the educational experiences of high school students over the next several years. At the direction of Wilson, the board will continue this discussion at its regular meeting next Monday at Woodford County High School.
An audit of the Woodford County Board of Education’s 2018 financial statements showed the school district had no issues with internal controls and was in compliance with federal programs, according to Harold Kremer of the Barnes Dennig accounting firm.
A graph presented to school board members during Kremer’s audit report showed stability when comparing the district’s revenues to its expenses during the past four years.
“The expenses are always less than the revenues, and they’re fairly consistent. That tells me the district is responding to increases and decreases in revenue. … It’s a good trend,” Kremer said.
A school district’s pension and other post-employment benefit liabilities are a part of its annual financial audit.
As a result, those unfunded liabilities (totaling about $14.6 million for Woodford County schools) were included in the report. Those liabilities would only be owed if the state retirement system goes under, Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith told board members.
The operating budget in the district as reported in the general fund showed a balance of just under $8 million. “That’s a nice pat on the back for the district as well,” said Kremer. He pointed out that the district’s assets and fund balance both climbed from 2016 to 2018.
“It shows that we’re in a very strong financial position and that we have managed our funds well, and that’s what we will continue to focus on,” said schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins.
Barnes Dennig, which does financial audits for several school districts in Kentucky, was hired this year so “fresh eyes” could review the school district’s finances, board member Sherri Springate noted.
The board agreed to delay action on approving a lease agreement for 209 North Main Street, which will house the school district’s adult education and migrant programs. The delay was necessary in order to clarify language that the only indoor plumbing in this rented space is limited to a sink, which the district will be required to maintain and/or make repairs under the lease agreement.
If approved by the board at its regular meeting next Monday, the lease for this space in the Thoroughbred Square building will commence on Nov. 15, 2018, with an expiration date of June 30, 2022. The school district or landlord (Olde Post Office, LLC) has the option to terminate the lease at the end of each fiscal year (June 30) after giving the other party a 120-day advance written notice.
The lease states the monthly base rent is $1,854.42 for the first year, $1,891.51 in year two and $1,929.34 in year three of the agreement. Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm informed the board that it’ll take about $3,000 to furnish the space, “but we’ve really needed that anyway … so that’s not because of the space.”
At some point, Brehm said the district would like to install a removable wall to divide the second-floor space into two classrooms. “We haven’t priced that yet,” he added. “Again, we don’t need that immediately. That’s something that we just eventually have to do.”
Brehm previously informed the board about growth in the adult education program, which currently serves 50 students a week. Adult education is currently housed at Safe Harbor Academy in the evenings, with limited available space for daytime classes.
The board approved first reading of a policy change that will allow the school district to begin accepting online payments for student fees.
A second reading is scheduled at its regular meeting next Monday. New members
The newly-elected members of the Woodford County Board of Education, who will begin four-year terms in January, were not present at Monday’s meeting.
Longtime board member Margie Cleveland, who did not seek reelection to continue representing Dist. 2, noted the absence of Allison Richardson (Dist. 2) and Dani Bradley (Dist. 5) at the end of the meeting.
“I’m just sorry we don’t have … the new board members here for the meeting,” Cleveland said. Karen Brock, who was not reelected to continue representing Dist. 2, was present.