School board approves draft budget with flat tax rate
The Woodford County Board of Education unanimously approved a 2021-22 draft budget Monday with the same property tax rate as this school year. It was explained during a discussion that the board must still take action to adopt a tax rate at a hearing in August. Board Chair Dani Bradley said the board will revisit and discuss the 2021-22 budget again in May and September. Schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins cited his continued concerns about the economy in the midst of a pandemic in telling the board, “I would feel more comfortable with a flat rate.” He said a flat rate means homeowners would be taxed at the same rate as this past year (69.8 cents per $100 of assessed value). If the assessed value of a house increases, a homeowner would pay a higher school tax bill, but the rate itself would not increase if a flat rate is adopted, he explained. Superintendent search The board unanimously approved a contract with the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) to facilitate its search for a new schools superintendent. The board agreed to meet with its KSBA consultant, Don Martin, on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 6 p.m., to begin the process of choosing a successor for Hawkins, who is retiring when his contract ends in June. A search committee must be comprised of a board member, two teachers, one classified employee, one parent and one principal. If none of those members are a minority, a seventh person who is a minority must be added to the committee under state statute, Martin said. He gave the board an overview of the superintendent search process, which includes having a criteria of what the school district and community are looking for in a superintendent, and a timeline. Boards usually interview five to seven finalists who are screened by the search committee, he said. The approved contract with KSBA includes a facilitator fee of $6,000. Board attorney The board agreed to interview five applicants to be its next attorney. Thirty-minute interviews are scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 16, beginning at 4 p.m., and Thursday, Feb. 18, starting at 6 p.m. Current attorney Grant Chenoweth works for one of the law firms (Porter, Banks, Baldwin & Shaw) under consideration. He worked in a practice with his father, Bob Chenoweth, who has retired. Other law firms to be interviewed by the board are Fowler Bell; Middleton-Reutlinger; Sturgill Turner; and Freeman Mathis & Geary. Hawkins said he, Director of Staff/Student Services Garet Wells and Director of Special Education Tracey Francis, who work more closely than anyone else in the district with the board attorney, had a comfort level with Chenoweth’s new firm and Middleton-Reutlinger because they had worked with them previously. Board members agreed to submit two questions each to Hawkins via email, and Bradley encouraged him to also come up with questions for the law firm. Board communications Board member Sherri Springate said she wants board member communications with their architect, attorney, construction manager, bonding agent and others doing business with the board to be shared with every board member. Those communications typically go through the board’s chair and are forwarded to other members, Springate said. “The reason that I asked that this to be put on the agenda,” she explained, “is that hasn’t happened in the past, and so I did do an open request” for past communications. “… I want to make sure we all get the same information,” she continued. “I think we can all agree that we’re a five-member board and that we should all have the same information.” Springate told Bradley, who succeeded former board member Debby Edelen as chair, that she appreciated her sharing all communications with all board members in the past week. Board members recognition Hawkins thanked board members for their service to the community in commemoration of January’s national celebration of School Board Recognition Month. He said school districts across the country are facing unprecedented challenges in the midst of a pandemic “and board members must commit a great deal of time and effort to help” their school districts “meet that challenge.” A local tradition marking this celebration of school board members continued as the district purchased copies of the book, “I Can Do Hard Things” by Gabi Garcia. Books will be given to all four elementary school libraries and both branches of the Woodford County Public Library, he said. Prior to reading a proclamation commemorating School Board Recognition Month, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott also thanked board members for their service. “Times are not easy now, obviously, and you all are facing challenges that none of us would’ve imagined two years ago,” he said.