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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Vining Comments on Board Action

Fund Balance and Excess Funds
John Hair, soon to be retired Finance Director of the District, had recommended a very conservative balance of two months operating expenses for the fund balance. He stated at the meeting that  the amount needed to keep our bond rating in place was between 1 and 2 months, but he liked to be conservative and recommend the full two months.  He had concerns about future funding but felt there was a good chance  funding would be adequate as long as the state stood by their obligations and he didn't have a problem having just a few days short of a two month supply.  He reported that "non recurring" funds were just that - they may not be there the next year, and in fact, there could be a deficient amount due to the inexact science of forecasting revenue (Board Chair Norwood reported there had been no deficits since he had been on the board - making them more like recurring funds instead of non recurring). Five members of the Board were comfortable with the financial picture going forward.  I was not one of those, but agree with Mr. Hair that the current financial snapshot of the district would be fine being under his two month suggestion. Having a very conservative outlook has allowed our district to weather state shortfalls when a lot of districts were struggling to keep teachers.

Security Equipment
A lot of our existing equipment is analog and not very practical.  We have areas which are not covered.  Digital technology will give us capabilities we've been needing for a long time.  I believe it will eventually act as a deterrent once the word gets out.  Modern schools, such as Blythewood and Dorman High School, were built with this technology.  I've been disappointed that ours have not - and it's time we moved into current technology.  It's an unfortunate reality that we need these devices. The funding approved will not complete the need.

Professional Development
It's hard not to approve Professional Development. I've approved large increases for the past 5 years - and we have made little progress on any of our No Child Left Behind measures. I suggested the development be used for a particular "need' area such as, having every third grader be proficient in reading before moving to 4th grade (one of the recommendations from the Riley Institute on SC educational needs) - so we could see the results of the professional development. The administration did not think this was a good idea so I voted against the measure.

District Three Stadium Improvements
The scoreboard has potential to generate funds for the athletic organizations. The net result would be less district money going to athletics. The example given was Byrnes High School, which, when their scoreboard is paid off, will reportedly generate $100,000 per year. The difference is they used no tax dollars and are relying on a community/business partnership to make it work. The administration presented no plan for how this would work here. Without an organization and structure in place, revenue generation will not be what Byrnes has experienced.  However, it is possible for this to be a winner project - plus the players (Northwestern and Rock Hill) and fans will enjoy the scoreboard - it will indeed be a showcase for our district and community - one everyone will be proud of. I voted against it because we were given no details and South Pointe players would be left out.

Artificial Turf is kind of like buying a new car every year.  You can't economically justify it, but you can justify it by "non" economical reasons. Artificial turf does provide year round service and allow for more usage than currently.  It is not maintenance free and without issues of it's own (vs. grass).  The District Three Turf has deteriorated in recent years - for whatever reason - and something needed to be done. We built a district stadium at South Pointe (2 stadiums and three schools should equal less use than 1 stadium and 2 schools). We also spent extra money on the Castle Heights football field for the same reason.  But, we somehow have not been able to manage this to lesson the load at district three.  I am opposed to the use of the field for soccer because we currently have regulation soccer fields at each school - giving us a competitive advantage (and an envious position with other school districts who have to play on football fields). I also oppose the use of the stadium for graduation.  We've worked hard making our ceremonies dignified - this would be a step back (not to mention rain outs - although that might be a good thing right now). The new artificial turfs are much improved. Yet, NFL players recommend natural grass by a 3 to 1 margin. That's good enough for me. For that, and fund balance issues, I voted against artificial turf.

Correspondence to the Board was overwhelmingly in opposition to the stadium improvements. Most wanted to use the funds to pursue more academic measures, or to keep the fund balance in good shape.  Although the expenditure seemed large, it represents only 0.8% of the budget - and the reality is - there are many more things, necessary things, in the budget, which would not be considered of an "academic" nature.  I really appreciate the large number of folks who took the time to write, email, and call with their concerns and suggestions. The passion for education was very warming, and a testimony of what our community represents. But these issues are now behind us. It is time to accept the decisions and make them work for the community. Thanks.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please stay on the school board so that parents may have a voice of reason when approving the school district's requests.

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