The Wise County Board of Supervisors met in a Special Called meeting on Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 5:00 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors meeting room. The following were present:
Honorable J. H. Rivers – Chairman
Honorable Dana Kilgore – Vice-Chair
Honorable Fred Luntsford
Honorable Robert E. Robbins, Jr.
Honorable Steve Bates
Honorable Robert R. Adkins
Honorable Virginia Meador – members of said Board and
Shannon C. Scott – County Administrator
David L. Cox – Financial Administrator
Karen T. Mullins – County Attorney
Annette Underwood – Executive Secretary
Honorable Ronald L. Shortt
PURPOSE OF MEETING
Chairman Rivers reported that two Board of Supervisor members have requested this Special Called meeting for the purpose of:
Change order/Electrical Upgrade for Health Department (Emergency Procurement)
Report from Dr. Jeff Perry on budget and construction of new schools
Closed Session – Investing of public funds
Chairman Rivers noted that closed session was no longer needed and would be deleted from the agenda.
Shannon Scott led in prayer.
All led in the pledge of allegiance to the flag.
Marlene Bush, a resident of the Exeter area, addressed the Board regarding the following:
Cell tower for the Appalachia area
Opposition to School consolidation
Waste of money paying off superintendents that can’t carry their work load
Harold Greear, a resent of the Pound area, addressed the Board regarding the following:
Walter Crouse, a resident of the Hurricane area, addressed the Board regarding the following:
There being no further comments, the public expression period was closed at 5:25 p.m.
IN RE: BUDGET AMENDMENT #15
Attorney Mullins reported that the HVAC project is ongoing at the Health Department. As part of that project, it was necessary to remove panel from the walls. At that time, it was noted that the electrical wiring was not sufficient or safe to proceed with installing the HVAC system.
A motion was made by Bob Adkins, seconded by Steve Bates, to approve budget amendment #15 in the amount of $125,000.00 for the critical electrical upgrades for the Health Department and to approve the Change Order for Quesenberry, Inc. as the general contractor for the electrical upgrade, rewiring of improper and non code electric service at the Health Department. The motion was unanimously approved.
IN RE: SCHOOL BOARD – BUDGET AND CONSTRUCTION OF SCHOOLS
Dr. Jeff Perry, Superintendent of Public Schools, addressed the Board with a power point presentation on the school budget and construction costs for school consolidation. The purpose of the presentation is to provide the Board with information and to solicit any feed back from the Board of Supervisors that he may share with the School Board on the budget, retirement incentive and school consolidation.
Regarding cuts, the school has already received a $4.5M cut in state aid. The House anticipates a $3.3M additional cuts and the Senate approximately $800,000. The exact amount of additional cuts should be forthcoming near the end of this week.
Insurance has increased by 9% which amounts to $750,000. Depending on the local composite index at this time, the school is set to lose additional $370,000.
The Reduction Plan for meeting these challenges were in the areas of safety, instruction and employment. Those planned elements of reduction were reviewed.
It is the plan to keep all high schools open during 2010/2011. However, this will depend upon finances. There is not a need to struggle to keep these high schools open if a plan is not in place for new schools for consolidation. If no plan is in place within the next three to four years or no tangible, realistic ability to put students in a new school, a tough decision will have to be made to put the students in old buildings.
The budget expenditures were reviewed by line item noting that there have been cuts in all categories. Administration and Central Office are one of the few offices that received less money this year than last year. He noted that seventy eight percent of the school budget is in Instructional Program.
The school enrollment was reviewed noting that there has been a loss of enrollment in high schools but all programs have been kept in place. As a result, the high schools have become more and more inefficient to operate.
It is hoped that the budget will be finalized in April. The reason for the late date is because the basic information has not been received from the state.
Regarding the retirement incentive plan, this plan would prevent massive layoff from occurring in Wise County. The cost of this plan for one year is $2M which will be paid out over the next four years. The total cost of the 55 retires is $3.5M.
Last year the school budget was cut $500,000 in its operating budget. From the level funding part, that was a loss of $500,000. It was Dr. Perry’s understanding that the Board mentioned putting $300,000 back in the school budget, if requested, for a certain need. He asked for the full $500,000 if possible. He asked that the Board take into consideration all the other decreases that the school has had at other levels and the increased operating costs. At least, reinstate that level funding piece back to the same level as last year.
Regarding consolidation, four responses have been received that are currently being reviewed for quality and apple to apple comparison. The price given is all inclusive. The big piece not available at this time is the site selection. The companies were asked to provide a price on a 750 school and a 1200 school. The average cost for the 750 school is in the high $20M range. The average cost for the 1200 school was close to $30M to $40M range.
If two schools were built on separate sites, the cost would be approximately $40M each. If the two schools were built on a single campus, that number could be greatly reduced because certain facilities could be shared which would be a cost savings. One of these firms will be selected in March. The construction time for the schools will be approximately 18 to 24 months which will depend upon site preparation.
The current plan for consolidation require three schools, however, a two school model can be looked at with each one being placed in a different community or placing two independent schools on one site while sharing certain facilities.
There are deep concerns about the 2011/2012 school year. If school construction has not been started in 2011/2012, there won’t be financial resources to do the schools. However, if the Board of Supervisors is willing to help keep all six high schools open, and it was certain that the schools would open up in fall of 2012, the school could make some adjustments and make other sacrifices to be able to open up in the fall of 2012.
A meeting has been scheduled with the City of Norton to ascertain whether or not there are some mutual benefits in being a feasible partner for school consolidation. Also, Russell County is being approached as a potential partner.
Regarding the Appalachia gymnasium, there was support from the Board for the construction of the Appalachia gym as soon as funding is received for the new schools and this is contingent upon the high school situation being under control.
A letter has been written to the Secretary of Education on the quality school construction with zero interest bonds for new construction. The square footage cost at this time is very low as well as bond rates, which makes it an opportune time for construction.
Financially, the Board of Supervisors is being asked to determine an allocation that they can afford in addition to the $42M which would allow the School Board to have a figure they can work with in making a decision as to which direction they can go whether it be new schools or consolidation to old schools.
There was some discussion on the $500,000 that was cut from the school budget for this year.
Dr. Perry stated that the School Board was one of the few, if not the only locally funded entity, that did not receive level funding. Therefore, he is requesting that a portion of that funding be reinstated for the schools to help get through this budget cycle.
Supervisor Bates stated that it was a discussion and there was a gentleman’s agreement that the Board would reinstate the funding, if the need was there and upon request by the School Board, if the money was available.
Dr. Perry noted that during the budget discussion at that point in time, he felt that it was the “spirit of cooperation” that this funding cut would be reinstated if needed and if the money was available.
When asked what alternative was available for the schools if the Board of Supervisors cannot provide additional funding, Dr. Perry replied that the School Board would have to decide, but in a realistic financial situation, only one option is available, and that is to close the three smaller schools and move those students into the larger schools.
When asked if there could be some modifications made to bring the cost down to a more affordable plan, Dr. Perry replied that at the next School Board meeting, models of the different schools will be provided for his Board to review and discuss. Information will be provided on each model as to cost savings that may be reaped by making certain adjustments in the teaching environment and modification to the plans.
Dr. Perry thanked the Board for allowing him to speak noting that whatever the Board can do, will be appreciated and the School Board will work its options accordingly.
There being no further business, a motion was made by Bob Adkins, seconded by Ronnie Shortt, to adjourn the meeting. The motion was unanimously approved.
ATTEST: WISE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
Shannon C. Scott, Clerk J. H. Rivers, Chairman