Whitesburg KY
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School officials urge dollar tax on cigarettes

Letcher County Schools Superintendent Anna Craft urged audience members at Monday night’s school board meeting to call all Kentucky legislators in support of a cigarette tax which Craft and others hope will prevent a four-percent cut in funding for elementary and secondary education.

“Everyone needs to contact their legislators,” she said, referring to Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposal to raise the state’s cigarette tax to $1 a pack and to double the tax on snuff and other tobacco products. Beshear says the extra taxes would generate $81 million this fiscal year and $144 million the next year.

Craft said if the cigarette tax is approved by the state legislature the Letcher County School System would have enough money in its contingency fund to successfully operate for the remainder of this school year.

“It is not the ideal fix but it will keep education from taking a massive four-percent cut for the remainder of this year and next year,” said Craft.

Craft also said that in addition to the cigarette tax, Beshear is proposing a two-percent cut in education funding which would affect textbook allocations and support programs like the Family Resource and Youth Service Centers (FRYSC).

Craft said if the proposed cigarette tax does not pass then school district could possibly receive a fourpercent cut.

“I’m not happy for any cuts in education,” said Craft. “We can weather the two or four percent.”

Craft said she and her staff had anticipated the rising costs of fuel when planning this year’s budget, but said next year’s finances will be harder to budget.

“You can’t continue to take in less remain solvent,” said Craft.

Members of the Letcher County Board of Education agreed that it will have to “tighten belts” if the legislature makes major cuts in education.

“We’re really going to have to tighten our belts,” said Dr. Sam Quillen Jr. “We have to cross our fingers that this passes.”

The legislative message line is 1-800-372-7181.

In other business at the school board’s December meeting, Rupert White, a certified public accountant with White and Associates PSC of Richmond, told the board the audit he conducted of the financial records of the general fund, Chapter 1, school activity funds, school lunchrooms and any other funds required by statute for the 2007- 2008 school year was the best he has conducted for the board in the nine years he has been contracted here.

“This year was the best audit report that we have had since we have been coming here,” said White. “From a district perspective, it is the best it has been.”

The board approved the audit after a presentation by White.

The board also:

• named Rondall Baker and Josh Yonts, math teachers at Martha Jane Potter Elementary School, employees of the month.

• approved a change order for precast concrete bollards which will be placed on the walking track near the entrance of Bill’s Marathon Station in West Whitesburg. Whitesburg architect Bill Richardson said the plan for the Safe Routes to School project originally called for steel bollards, which he thought would look too industrial. Richardson said the precast concrete bollards would look more natural. Richardson said the change order did not involve extra money.

• approved using the Kentucky Department of Education’s current mileage reimbursement rate of 49 cents per mile through December 31. This amount may be adjusted when the new rate is set in January.

• reaffirmed the resolution of the school board’s commitment to student achievement.

• approved a resolution of appreciation for funding from Viacom’s VH1 television network which helped provide musical instruments for students in the school district.

• approved the use of facilities at West Whitesburg Elementary School on January 10 and January 17 for birthday parties with X-Treme Fun Inflatables.

• approved an overnight trip for the Letcher County Central High School boys’ basketball team to participate in a tournament beginning December 29 in Belfry.

• approved the continuation of mobile home site leases for Winston Burton at Arlie Boggs Elementary School and Bob Smith at West Whitesburg Elementary School.

• approved payments of claim for services rendered for the construction of sidewalks: Richardson and Associates, architectural fees, $500; and Mountain Enterprise, asphalt paving and sidewalk repair, $65,102.40.

• approved payments of claim for services rendered for the renovation project at Fleming- Neon Elementary School: Richardson Associates, $659; and Breeding’s Plumbing and Electric, $29,567.

“They have done a quick demolition on the boys’ bathroom,” said Richardson. “They are making steady progress.”

• heard from Roger Martin, district finance officer, who reported that the general ledger balance contains $2,679,598.

• accepted resignations from Amanda Black, a program assistant II for the Early Steps program at Beckham Bates Elementary School; Tammy Click, a substitute instructional assistant and substitute bus monitor; and Nancy Hatton, a bus driver at Cowan Elementary School.

• accepted the retirement of Paul Fields, a bus driver trainer.

• established a certified music teacher position for only the remainder of the 2008-2009 school year. This action is contingent upon receipt of donated funds for a piano lab for elementary students.

The next board meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on January 26 in the Letcher County School bus garage.

Some of the information used in this report was gathered by the Associated Press.

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