Whitesburg KY

School board sets taxes, acts on financial report

The Letcher County Board of Education has voted to increase taxes on real estate by four percent, the maximum amount allowable under Kentucky law without being subject to recall by registered voters.

The board met in a special meeting last week to approve a tax rate of 45.4 cents per $100 of real estate. Last year’s tax rate was 46.7 cents per $100 of real estate.

The tangible personal property tax rate of 50.5 cents per $100 will stay the same as last year. Roger Martin, district finance officer, said the general fund tax levied last year produced a revenue of $3,091,531 and this year’s proposed general fund tax rate is expected to produce $3,220,442.

Martin said the compensating tax rate for 2008 is 43.7 cents on real property and 50.5 cents on personal property, which is expected to produce $3,127,704.98.

The board approved the percentage rate for the sheriff’s tax collection to be four percent for the first month of the year 2007 collection and three percent thereafter. This is the same as last year.

The board held its regular meeting this week, during which it approved a recommendation to publish its annual financial report on the school district’s website instead of in The Mountain Eagle.

At its August meeting, Board Member Attwell Turner asked why the yearly report of expenses is being placed on the district’s website instead of being printed in The Eagle, which is the paper with the largest general circulation in Letcher County. Superintendent Anna Craft cited the length of the document as the reason.

“It’s very expensive to publish it,” said Will Smith, chairman of the board.

The school board hasn’t published its financial statement in The Eagle since Sept. 8, 2004. The public notice published then cost the school district $4,836 and appeared on six full pages. The district has an annual operating budget of about $130 million.

While state law requires most local governments and boards to publish annual financial statements in a county newspaper with the largest paid circulation, an exception exempting school boards from the requirement has been written into the state’s budget law each year since 2005. The exception was requested by the Kentucky School Boards Association, which says the cost is prohibitive in counties served by large daily newspapers.

Roger Martin, finance officer for the district, said he will keep a copy of the annual financial report in his office for members of the public to view.

In other business at Monday night’s meeting, Kenneth Cornett, pupil personnel director for the district, reported that the total student enrollment for the district is 3,261, down from last year’s enrollment of 3,328.

“It seems to be leveling off some, so that is good,” said Cornett. Turner also expressed concern about some problems with school buildings that are mentioned in the Site Based Decision Making Council minutes which are presented to the school board. He said the board needs to address the problem with faulty plumbing at Fleming- Neon Elementary School.

“I would like for us to move in taking care of this problem,” said Turner. “I know we have a serious problem with the plumbing.”

“This is a job that maintenance really can’t do,” said Jim Slone, director of operations.

Turner said the SBDM minutes also reported that a parent at Letcher Elementary School had concerns about a lack of textbooks in the seventh grade.

“I hope we are not going to begin the school year without adequate textbooks,” said Turner.

“The allocation is not available until July 1 to order textbooks,” said Craft.

Kelly Hall, director of curriculum and instruction for the district, said he spoke with Carolyn Spangler, principal of Letcher Elementary School, and was assured there is not a shortage of textbooks at that school.

Turner pointed out that the SBDM minutes for West Whitesburg Elementary School contains a list of items the school needs including student and teacher desks.

“What is the need in that school?” asked Turner.

“The school does look pretty good over there but the furniture does need to be replaced,” said Smith.

Bert Slone, school safety officer at Letcher County Central High School, said the number of assaults at the high school are down so far this year compared to previous years. Slone said there had been only two problems three weeks into the school year.

Jeff Hawkins, executive director of Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) in Hazard, acknowledged Craft for her leadership role as KVEC board chair for the 2006-07 school year.

Yvette McGuire was introduced to the board as the new director of federal programs, replacing Kim King, who was recently named superintendent of the Knott County school system.

The board also:

. named Billie Kincer, custodian at Whitesburg Middle School, as the district’s employee of the month.

. approved a proclamation of appreciation to the Kentucky Legislature for its support in the technology program to fund the schools’ high-speed Internet and student computers.

. approved the World Pro Wrestling Inc.’s request to use the Fleming-Neon gymnasium on October 6 for a wrestling show.

. approved the use of the Letcher County Central High School cafeteria by the Whitesburg High School Class of 1972 for its reunion dinner set for October 20.

. approved all master schedules for the schools in the district for the 2007-2008 school year. Beckham Bates, Fleming-Neon and Martha Jane Potter elementary schools are the only schools participating in early release on Wednesdays.

. reaffirmed the following policy statement: “The Letcher County Board of Education is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of disabilities, gender, race, color, national origin, religion, creed, age, or marital status in the educational programs or activities it operates.”

. reaffirmed that the Letcher County school district certifies it has no policy that prevents participation in constitutionally-protected prayer in its schools.

. approved fund-raisers at Beckham Bates, Martha Jane Potter and Arlie Boggs elementary schools and Whitesburg Middle School.

. approved the following extra service contracts beyond the regular school day to be used for the 2007-2008 school year for Gail Glanz, psychologist; Carla McAuley, occupational therapist; Kristi Dixon, speech therapist; Melissa Bailey, speech therapist; and Melissa Bell, speech therapist. The following contractual services are for referred students for services on an as-needed basis: East Kentucky Physical Therapy and Sports Clinic, Southeast Kentucky Audiology, Kentucky River Community Care and Letcher County Health Center.

. approved an agreement with Stericycle Inc. to collect, transport and dispose of all biomedical waste generated by Letcher County schools. Cost for the service will be $61.36 per container, a fuel charge of $9.75 and an energy charge of $3 for a total of $74.11. The company will stop once every 24 weeks for pickup services.

. approved the student teacher agreement with Midway College to allow Midway College students’ participation in the student teacher program in partnership with the Letcher County Schools serving as centers for teacher preparation.

. approved a sub-award with the University of Kentucky Research Foundation for $20,000 received from the National Science Foundation for a period of June 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008. The participants will attend three days and three evenings of professional development on content-specific instruction in middle school mathematics that will incorporate the standards based methods into their classrooms.

. entered into a lease agreement with Pitney Bowes for a postage machine to be located at out-of state trips to Pound and Clintwood, Va.

. Learned from Federal Programs Director Sherry Wright that 17.5 percent of the district’s total enrollment is in special education programs, and that the district’s Title I allocation for the school year is $295,247, down $3,009 from last year.

. Received a report from Technology Director Damien Johnson that overall technology is in very good shape, with the oldest computer workstations in the system only dating back to 2004. Johnson said that fiber-optic cables have been installed to accommodate KEN, a state program to increase broadband connections from 1.5 megabytes to 10 megabytes.

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