BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (October 1) — During Thursday night’s meeting of the Weakley County School Board at the Board of Education Conference Room, several budget resolutions and transfers for fiscal year 2020-2021 were approved, which allocate additional funds received from sales tax revenue and COVID relief.
A budget amendment transferring $16,000 out of the “travel” line item for Career Technical Education moves these funds into “building improvements.” This money is earmarked to help pay for the construction of a greenhouse at Greenfield School. Director of Weakley County Schools Randy Frazier explained Greenfield School raised funds for the project for the past year or two in honor of former long-time agriculture instructor Bill Voorhies. “The transfer is made possible, because there won’t be as much travel this year as originally anticipated, due to COVID-19 safety precautions,” Frazier said. “We hope to have the greenhouse completed by next spring.” The transfer was approved by the Finance, Ways and Means Committee and will be considered by the Weakley County Commission when it meets November 16.
A General Purpose School Fund resolution incorporates an additional $50,000 into the budget, which increases total revenue from $4,000,000 to $4,050,000. Director of Weakley County Schools Randy Frazier explained local option sales tax revenues were more than the County Commission projected and these funds are being placed in the undesignated fund balance, which now totals $6,559,289. This brings the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget into compliance with state regulations regarding “maintenance of effort,” which requires budgeted local revenues for the current fiscal year be equal to or greater than the budgeted local revenues for the prior fiscal year.
“We had to submit our budget to the state early this summer,” Frazier said. “The County Commission gave me a projected sales tax revenue for us of $4 million. The state rejected it, because it didn’t meet our maintenance of effort required for local school funding. It was sent back to us, and since revenues in the county were better than we thought they would be, we had to add $50,000 in sales tax from the county to meet our maintenance of effort.”
The resolution was approved by the Weakley County Commission September 21, 2020.
A General Purpose School Fund resolution authorizing adjustments to the Safe Schools Fund budgets a $96,479 increase in funding, which increases total revenue from $54,811 to $151,290. “We don’t ever know what our actual revenue is going to be until we get started in the fall, so we based our budget on what we received last year,” Frazier said.
A School Federal Projects Fund budget amendment allocates federal dollars received through the CARES Act to mitigate the cost to schools associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. It carries over funding in Federal Projects programs from FY 2019-2020 to FY 2020-2021. The Federal Projects Fund involves only federal monies and no local tax dollars. “We never know what our revenue is going to be every year until late September,” Frazier said. “Everything has increased significantly, except for two small decreases in IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) for pre-school.” He noted the amended budget also reflects increases in salaries and longevity pay for certified teachers.
Frazier said the Weakley County Commission agreed to give School Department employees Christmas bonuses.
Board Member Martin Hamlin asked if the increase in substitute pay approved during the September meeting had netted more applications. According to Frazier, the shortage of substitute teachers improved in the past month, with several more applications being submitted. There has not been an excessive amount of absenteeism. Hamlin suggested the board consider an increase in payments to bus drivers, if recruitment continues to be problematic. It was agreed to take up the issue at a future meeting.
“Out of 3,300 students and 500 employees in our buildings, there are currently five students and three staff members that have tested positive for COVID-19,” Frazier said. “We currently have 80 students and three staff members in quarantine.” He added, the total numbered quarantined were 80 students and three staff, which is a significant improvement over August when there were 19 positive cases and 203 individuals in quarantine.
Because of the threat of the coronavirus, cross-country relay events are going to be held on different dates, instead of having a huge number of students in close proximity competing on a single day. Frazier stated the races could possibly be conducted one school at a time.
In other business, the board approved hiring Ally Spain as a volunteer softball coach at Gleason School.
Several sports-related field trips were approved. However, Frazier cautioned these trips are contingent on the teams advancing and the competitions not being cancelled due to COVID-19. Frazier stated he hopes the COVID threat will lessen before it’s time for upcoming conventions and other trips to take place, especially overnight trips. He stated the BETA convention is rescheduled for February.
Frazier reported he is making a change in the Monitored Distance Education program. He noted, students who wish to participate in the virtual option in the future must provide a medical rationale before he will consider approving their requests.
In announcements, chairman Steve Vantrease expressed the board’s sympathy to Eric Wilson over the death of his grandfather; Robin Baker over the loss of her husband; and Rachel Fowler whose grandfather died.
Vantrease said, “October is National Principal’s Month and they are very much appreciated for the excellent job they’re doing.” He added their efforts have been “above and beyond” during the pandemic.
The next meeting of the Weakley County School Board is 5 p.m., Thursday, November 5, at the Weakley County Board of Education Conference Room.