School board rolls back millage rate

Published 11:00 am Monday, July 17, 2017

By Beth Alston

AMERICUS — The Sumter County Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to not raise the millage rate. Board vice chairman Rick Barnes was absent.
Finance chairman Jim Reid explained that this year the tax digest had a decrease. With the current millage rate of 18.253, the school system would receive about $76,000 less in revenues for the 2017 year. If the board rolls back the millage rate to 18.224, revenues will be $96,000 less. Reid said the committee recommended the rollback which was approved unanimously. Board member Meda Krenson had said at Monday’s work session that the move shows that they are good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.
Board chairman Dr. Mike Busman commented, “this is probably the most confusing year as far as millage rates.”
The board has a called meeting at 5 p.m. July 31 to approve the Five-Year Tax Digest.
In other business from the finance committee, the board unanimously approved a stipend for certified and non-certified employees to encourage attendance. Superintendent Torrance Choates, Ed.D, said the school system had spent $367,480 for substitute teachers during the 2016-17 school year. He said there were 3,202 teacher absences last year, an average of 10.17 days. His proposal is to offer a $300 stipend to certified and uncertified personnel who are absent one day or less during the school year. Krenson also suggested offering added incentives for schools that improve in attendance, such as pizza party.
Board member Alice Green commented that she is “a stickler for rewarding people who do what they’re supposed to do. But if you’re sincere … you should want to come to school. That’s just my take on it.”
Jim Reid said he was looking at it from a business standpoint, but he agreed with Alice Green. “Even if every employee doesn’t miss only one day, it will cost us $195,000,” less than hiring subs.
From the curriculum committee, Sylvia Roland recommended board approval of a grades 6-8 math curriculum with consumables and professional development, at a cost of $68,000. Between $12,000 and $13,000 will come out of the General Fund, according to the superintendent. It was a unanimous vote.
Another matter on the agenda for Thursday were stipends for Worker’s Comp for individual schools and departments. Reid said the board was “not ready” to take action on that.
The board also unanimously approved the following personnel items.
Retirement: John Walker
Resignations: Latavia Perkins and James Carter
Family Medical Leave: Tawanna Wright-Bettis
Third-Party Contract: Jesus Amaro
Employments: Ashley Brooks, Nealie Coley, Laure Fendley, Rachel Kuhne, Oscar Ellis, Michael Wilson, Jeffrey Boges, Lynn Heath and Lawanda Williams.
Richard McCorkle, veteran educator and administrator, and new director of the Chattahoochee-Flint RESA, gave a presentation to the board, describing what RESA offers to the 14 counties it serves. He said RESA will be involved in the pre-planning activities in all 14 counties. He said RESA is expanding its leadership program and reinstating the TAP program due to a “huge shortage of teachers in our area.” He said more workshops will be offered to school personnel for paraprofessionals, technology, etc. He said the Chattahoochee-Flint RESA is the only RESA of the 16 in Georgia that has psychologists on staff. He said Sumter County Schools is the largest school system in the area, next to Muscogee, which does not participate in RESA. Fees to RESA are based on the school system’s FTE.
Jim Reid said he had a “burning question” for McCorkle. “When we hire a teacher to teach in the classroom, in my profession and many others, training is always held during the off season. Why is training held during the school year?”
McCorkle responded that teachers may not be under contract. “Training is not based on certification,” he said, “but on changes coming down from the state.”
Reid countered, “As a businessman, I like to see a return on my investment, and I’m not seeing a return on my $160,000 (RESA fee).”