LEE COUNTY: School board meets on budget matters

Jun. 28, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

With nearly three-fourths of funding for the next fiscal year — which begins Monday — still up in the air, Lee County Schools officials met Thursday evening to approve a tentative spending plan that will keep employees on the payroll.

In the last meeting of the Lee County Board of Education with Jeff Moss as superintendent, official discussion never touched on the Lee County Board of Commissioners, which recently considered docking the schools by $1 million next year for not responding as county officials wanted them to respond to a request about how much the school board spends on technology.

The county ultimately didn't punish the schools by withholding funds, although commissioners did move at their meeting Monday — for the third time — to ask the schools for information specifically on technology expenditures. After Thursday's school board meeting, Dr. Lynn Smith, chairman of the board, said he had no intentions of asking school personnel to try to respond to the request again since they had already sent the county that information and more.

"We sent them our line-item budget," Smith said. "Everything."

The board also approved last-minute budget amendments needed to ensure that all the current year's finances are all in order. The district receives funds from five different sources, which officials estimated in a budget message sent to the county recently as follows: 62 percent from the state, 20 percent from the county, 10 percent from the federal government, 6 percent from child nutrition programs and 2 percent from capital revenue.

The budget amendments Thursday included increases to state funds, local current expenses, local restricted funds, federal grant funds and capital outlay funds, and a decrease to child nutrition funds.

The school board also received a packet detailing its separate expense reports for the end of the year. Each of the seven board members is alloted $700 per year to register for conferences, seminars and other training or informational sessions. All took advantage of those funds, with the amount they spent ranging from $32 to $691.50.

In total, the board has a $22,000 budget for its own uses; last year it spent $13,512.11 on everything from graduation robe dry-cleaning to floral arrangements, catering and legal conferences attended by board attorney Jimmy Love Sr. It also spent nearly $6,000 on technology purchases — $3,737.51 to buy board members iPads, $1,119.86 for iPad accessories and $1,050.36 on computer accessories and sound equipment for the board's meeting room.

The commissioners, though, have not commented publicly on how much the board spends on technology for itself, focusing instead on what is spent in the classroom. One of the first things the commissioners did after a Republican majority took office in December was request the schools to report any technology purchases of more than $100,000 — something it reminded the schools of Monday during budget proceedings.

The district's heavy focus on technology, though, was mentioned frequently by regional and statewide education officials recently when Moss was awarded first the Sandhills Regional Superintendent of the Year award and then the Order of the Longleaf Pine. Thursday, Smith said he was going to miss him.

"We all know what's happened with our graduation rates," Smith said, adding: "There's no question that you've raised our expectations."

Moss said any success was due to a team effort between central office staff and school board members. One of the school board's newest members, Tamara Brogan, said she wished she could've been part of that team for more than just a year.

"Right away, I knew," she said of meeting Moss in 2010, two years before she joined the board. "I could just tell you had a passion for the children and for the school system. ... I'm sorry that we didn't have a chance to work longer together."

Turning to the future, though, incoming superintendent Andy Bryan passed out a draft of his transition plan for the first three months of his tenure and asked board members for feedback so he could post a final version on the district website by Monday, his first day on the job.