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School board saves athletics, six jobs

By KATE PRAHLAD
Assistant Editor
[email protected]
The Washington County School Board took six jobs and $200,000 worth of coaching supplements off the cutting board last week by betting that sales tax revenues will improve enough in the future to fund the positions.
By raising sales tax projections from a 1.5 percent increase over last year’s collections to a little over 2 percent, board members were able to add an additional $117,000 in funding to the $255,000 most recently provided by the county.
Faced with a budget that was originally $1.8 million out of whack, the school board first received about $564,000 from the county, still leaving the budget short by $1.3 million. Several jobs, including those of nurses, instructional assistants and athletic directors, as well as textbooks, buses and athletic programs remained in danger of being cut.
After another plea from Director of Schools Ron Dykes, the county provided about $255,000, suggesting it be used to restore athletic programs.
At a called meeting last week, Dykes said another $74,000 could be found by cutting field trips in half and another $14,000 by reducing travel by 10 percent. In all, $343,000 could be added back to the budget.
The school board was given a list of items they could choose to reinstate with the additional money.
On the list were coaching supplements at $200,000; textbooks for high schools at $178,446; a set of needed textbooks for each elementary school classroom for $173,715, as well as two nursing jobs at $60,000; two instructional assistants at $50,000; and two athletic directors at $140,000.
Several school faculty members spoke at the meeting, including principals and coaches, about the importance of athletics to the students and schools.
Selena Blevins, the principal at Lamar, has two children that attend Sulphur Springs.
She said the community needs to stand behind Dykes and “take a stand” against the Washington County Commission.
“The real issue is not that we’re lacking money,” she said. “In my opinion, the real issue is that Washington County does not support its schools.”
The system stretches personnel as far as it can already, she said, and any cuts would be “detrimental” to the quality of education.
Coaches spoke about the education that sports provides to the students, emphasizing commitment, work ethic and discipline.
Most speakers also extolled having athletic directors Danny Good and Josh Kite, whose jobs were on the line. Principals and coaches said the positions took away scheduling nightmares and allowed teachers to focus on classroom time. Both Good and Kite were present at the meeting.
Board member Eric Barnes noted the speakers all tended to emphasize athletics and asked the audience if anyone was there to speak on behalf of the instructional assistants and nurses, whose jobs were also on the line.
“This seems like a coordinated effort, and it seems to be others were not afforded the opportunity to come forward,” Barnes said. “This is not a public hearing. The speakers are here trying to influence our decision. This was not an open opportunity to do so.”
After little discussion among board members, Dallas Hardin made a motion to restore the athletic director positions, two nurses, and the coaching supplements – and raise revenue projections by $60,000 to submit a balanced budget.
Eric Barnes offered an amendment to restore two instructional assistant positions, tacking on another $50,000 to sales tax projections.
That adds another $117,000 in projected sales tax for next year, which is currently 1.5 percent above last year’s.
Dykes and Beverly Thomas, the school finance director, conferred and agreed to the move. Thomas offered that the school system has lost $866,000 in sales tax over two years, and neighboring school systems have projected about a 1.7 percent increase.
In the past five months, four months have come with sales tax revenues above the projected numbers, Dykes added.
The motion passed unanimously.
The move does not guarantee the school system will not have to make cuts down the road, Hardin pointed out.
“We could be postponing it or it could work out,” he said.
If the school board does have to make cuts in the future to scale back expenditures to match revenues, “we would be looking at these same areas of course,” Dykes said. “I suspect there really aren’t any other non-mandated area to look at.”
to the students and schools.
Selena Blevins, the principal at Lamar, has two children that attend Sulphur Springs.
She said the community needs to stand behind Dykes and “take a stand” against the Washington County Commission.
“The real issue is not that we’re lacking money,” she said. “In my opinion, the real issue is that Washington County does not support its schools.”
The system stretches personnel as far as it can already, she said, and any cuts would be “detrimental” to the quality of education.
Coaches spoke about the education that sports provides to the students, emphasizing commitment, work ethic and discipline.
Most speakers also extolled having athletic directors Danny Good and Josh Kite, whose jobs were on the line. Principals and coaches said the positions took away scheduling nightmares and allowed teachers to focus on classroom time. Both Good and Kite were present at the meeting.
Board member Eric Barnes noted the speakers all tended to emphasize athletics and asked the audience if anyone was there to speak on behalf of the instructional assistants and nurses, whose jobs were also on the line.
“This seems like a coordinated effort, and it seems to be others were not afforded the opportunity to come forward,” Barnes said. “This is not a public hearing. The speakers are here trying to influence our decision. This was not an open opportunity to do so.”
After little discussion, Dallas Hardin made a motion to restore the athletic director positions, two nurses, and the coaching supplements – and raise revenue projections by $60,000 to submit a balanced budget.
Barnes offered an amendment to also restore two instructional assistant positions, tacking on another $50,000 to sales tax projections.
That added another $117,000 to the projected sales tax amount for next year, which was already 1.5 percent above last year’s.
Dykes and Beverly Thomas, the schools’ finance director, conferred and agreed to the move. But Thomas offered that the school system has lost $866,000 in sales tax over two years, and neighboring school systems have projected about a 1.7 percent increase. However, in the past five months, four months have come with sales tax revenues above projected numbers, Dykes added.
The motion passed unanimously.
The move does not guarantee the school system will not have to make cuts down the road, Hardin pointed out.
“We could be postponing it or it could work out,” he said.
If the board has to make future cuts to scale back expenditures, “we would be looking at these same areas, of course,” Dykes said. “I suspect there really aren’t any other non-mandated areas to look at.”