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Budget on BOE’s mind

Money concerns—some positive, some negative—were the central theme of the Decatur County Board of Education’s meetings on Thursday night.

School Superintendent Fred Rayfield told board members that it’s not yet clear how the Georgia Legislature and new Gov. Nathan Deal will act in regards to education funding, which has been drastically cut over the past three years due to the state government’s budget crunch.

During the Board of Education’s work session Thursday, Rayfield referred to Gov. Deal’s “State of the State” address, in which the governor vowed to end teacher furlough days. However, whatever budget the legislature adopts will have to make up for hundreds of millions in federal stimulus money, part of which has funded positions in school systems across the state. Gov. Deal has also proposed that no cost-of-living raises be given to state employees or teachers this year, according to his spending plan.

Tim Matthews, Decatur County schools’ chief financial officer, said that on the positive side, the school’s share of local sales tax receipts has continued to rise. Collection of sales tax during the first six months of the school system’s fiscal year has increased by about $31,000 when compared with the previous year, Matthews said. State revenues are also on the rise by several percent, Rayfield had noted previously.

There are some concerns about rising prices for fuel and food staples, which could affect local schools’ budget, according to Matthews and Debbie Purcell, director of school nutrition.

Parent perception surveys sent out

Rayfield said Board of Education officials had recently sent out a parent perception survey, which can be filled out on paper or through the Internet. A little more than 2,100 surveys had been filled out so far by parents; those who haven’t yet still have some time to complete them, the superintendent said.

“This is a legitimate attempt by us to gather information from parents to help make the school system stronger,” Rayfield said.

Other business

In other business, the Board of Education:

• Agreed, unanimously, to designate a 1.69-acre parcel of land at the intersection of Wheat and Miluli avenues as surplus property, which will allow Rayfield to begin the process for disposing of surplus property per board policy. The land in question is located due east of the baseball field at what is now Bainbridge Middle School. Board member Sydney Cochran abstained from the vote, citing a potential conflict of interest.

• Elected, by unanimous votes, Sydney Cochran as the board’s chairman and Jackie Grubbs as its vice-chairman for 2011. The board also reappointed Bruce Kirbo as its consulting attorney.

• Approved, unanimously, the final adoption of the board’s code of ethics and conflict of interest provisions.

• Approved, unanimously, to begin the process of adopting Georgia School Board Association standards for local school boards.

• Approved, unanimously, out-of-state field trip requests from the Bainbridge High School Chorus, which is going to Gatlinburg, Tenn.; the BHS junior and senior earth science classes’ trip to Marianna, Fla., and the Bainbridge Middle School eighth-grade science’s class to Tallahassee, Fla.

• Recognized the top two finishers in the district spelling bee: Eighth-grader Erin Caplan of Bainbridge Middle School, who finished first; and sixth-grader Corey Sibley of Hutto Middle School. Caplan will compete in the area spelling bee to be held in Tallahassee, Fla., in February.

• Recognized Catherine Gossett, director of special education, for her work in helping Decatur County win an award from the Georgia Department of Education for reducing the dropout rate of students with disabilities.

• Heard from BHS special education teacher Marie Stapleton, who along with her students has collected 471 cell phones and more than 300 chargers that have been donated to U.S. Armed Forces soldiers stationed overseas. The cell phones are set up to allow soldiers one free hour of talk time per month, which they can use to talk with their families.

• Held an approximately 50-minute executive session during its work session for the purpose of discussing personnel matters.