Board of education to make important decisions Thursday

Published 10:13 am Wednesday, July 10, 2019

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By Beth Alston


AMERICUS — During a two-hour work session Monday, the Sumter County Board of Education (BOE) heard presentations from various entities, all of which will factor into their voting on important matter at its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday. Board members Alice Green and Sylvia Roland were absent at Monday’s meeting.

First up was Russ Moore who presented the board with the logo the Ignite College & Career Academy board has chosen. The BOE will vote whether to approve the logo Thursday.

Next came John LeJeune, chairman of the board for Furlow Charter School (FCS). The BOE must vote on the charter renewal by July 24. “For the past four years,” LeJeune said, “we’ve done very much with very little.” He showed slides of information he had gathered from the Georgia Department of Education website about funding per student. He said FCS is the second-lowest funded in the state, at $7,454 per student per year yet the school has achieved a four-star financial efficiency rating from the state. LeJeune said the $7,454 is “overestimated.” He said, compared to $9,441 per student in the rest of the Sumter County School System, FCS should have received $1,025,092 for the last school year. He told the board, based on ad valorem taxes, FCS should be receiving in excess of $1 million each year from the system based on its FTE of 516 (13.2 percent of the system’s total) this year and a projected 564 (13.2 percent) for school year 2019-2020.

LeJeune said FCS is asking the board to approve funding for the charter school as follows: proposed revenue per pupil of $7,690 (FY 2021); $8,046 (FY 2022); $8,444 (FY 2023); $8,846 (FY 2024); and $9,272 (FY 2025). He said the school will take on increased maintenance responsibility and the BOE can counter these numbers.

Later in the meeting, BOE co-chair Rick Barnes said there would have to be a called meeting later this month to vote on the changes with FCS’s facility contract. “They delivered numbers that need to be addressed,” he said. “They said we could counter. That means they inflated the numbers.”

Furlow Charter School’s chief financial officer, Stephanie Duff, also spoke briefly, giving a snapshot of the school’s budget. She said 93 percent goes for staff and fringe benefits, and they have done their own fundraising for sports programs, etc., have applied for grants, and rely on parents for maintenance and lawn care at the school.

Next came Sumter EMC and Georgia Power with presentations on powering the new high school to be built.

Rene Smith, an engineer with Sumter EMC, went first. Summarized, this proposal would charge 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour for three years; provide automatic power source switching within 60 seconds in the event of power failure; provide a solar array on 10 acres where Green Power EMC will sell solar power to the school system and pay $5,000 per year rent on acreage; about one-third of the school’s energy needs to be met by solar; up to $20,000 in added values up front and low-cost equipment lease to free up capital (up to $400,000). Among the added values are water heater rebates of up to $10,000 based on quantity and size of electric water heating equipment; three free electric vehicle chargers; solar equipment to be provided by Green Power EMC for the school’s STEM programs.

For outdoor lighting, Sumter EMC will provide and maintain 28 poles with two fixtures, 37 poles with one fixture under standard LED rate of $18.75 per fixture ($1,743.75 per month), and dusk to dawn operation; energy cost is $3.25 per fixture per month.

Jeff McGee, an electrical architect representing Greg Smith, architect on the new school project, asked how much the cost would be after three years. SEMC’s Smith said they did not anticipate any price increase.

Don Porter, region manager for Georgia Power, and two colleagues, Austin Arnold and David Tyson, gave their presentation the highlights of which are:

Option 1 — fixed price of 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour for five years after which real time pricing starting at 5.85 cents per kilowatt hours.

Option 2 — Real time pricing of an estimated 4.36 cents per kilowatt hour.

Their outdoor lighting proposal includes installation of 93 250-watt LED area fixtures, 56 35-ft. aluminum buried poles around the campus perimeter and parking lots, 7,505 ft. of underground conductor, all lights to be controlled by photocell. Cost is zero for construction and $35 per fixture per month, including Georgia Power Company’s maintenance policy.

Regarding solar energy, Georgia Power offers market pricing for panels and installation of about $1.20 per 1.7 watts. Five to seven acres could product 1 MV of solar panels at a cost of $1.2 million to $1.75 million. For the new school, Georgia Power analyzed two solar installation sizes: 1.1 MV at $1.40 per watt and -400 kilowatt at $1.75 per watt.

Georgia Power would construct an overhead line to feed a new underground loop system and install two transformers at no cost. Rebates are also offered: $10,000 for efficiencies in building envelope, $25,000 if lighting density is .96 watts per square foot or less, and $55 per kilowatt or $15,000 for high efficient electric cooking equipment over 10 kilowatts.

McGee, the electrical architect, told the BOE, that since the school is built to last 50 years, he advises they look at cost and reliability. He said both proposals are “about the same,” and “You can’t make a bad decision with these two suppliers.”

A representative of Parrish Construction, who won the bid to build the new school and to renovate existing facilities, gave an update, saying that his crews should be finished within the next couple of weeks in time for school maintenance to get in and polish the floors prior to school restarting.

Travis Miller of Parrish also spoke to the board. He said he could not provide a complete package for site preparation costs at this time but would ask the board to vote to accept his plan at a cost not to exceed $7.5 million. He said his firm had just completed a redesign of the site, with consideration of a lift station, and they are waiting on the permit from the state. He said if the state rejects the redesign, the design team will have to revisit it but if approved, they can start work immediately. This will be decided on Thursday as well.

Marvin Laster, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Albany, came before the board about having a program at Sumter County Middle School beginning a couple of weeks after school restarts. He gave the board members a packet of information that included an agreement between the school system and the club, which they will decide on Thursday. Laster also mentioned that the club and Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are working to soon launch a $5-7 million capital campaign.

Other items to come before the board Thursday include the following.

  • Approval of the financial reports.
  • Request by the policy committee to waive the 30-day table rule and approve three policies: tobacco use, promotion and retention, and school admissions.
  • Approve a $17,992.56 expenditure for licenses for Office 365 for all students and staff for FY 2020.
  • Renewal of agreement between Sumter County BOE, Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and Georgia Southwestern State University for field and clinical experiences.
  • Renewal of agreement between Sumter County BOE, Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, on behalf of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service (4-H agent).
  • Renewal of agreement between Sumter County BOE, Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and Columbus State University for professional laboratory experiences.

The board will also consider personnel matters.