BONIFAY - A public hearing but with no public, the Holmes County District School Board waited several minutes before starting their public hearing and special session on July 29 to approve tentative millage rates for the fiscal year 2014-2015 and adopt the tentative budget.
With a budget review that started focusing on 1988 and working through to 2014, Hawkins took the school board members through the budget, pointing out significant factors including four years of stimulus funding, personnel changes and facility expenses, stating that this is the first year "with our nose above water" but never fully recovered from the economic downturn in 2008.
Hawkins focused on the changes impacted by the stimulus funding between 2010 and 2013, stating that the personnel/revenue percentages would have remained consistent if it wasn't for the added cushion provided by the stimulus funding. He showed where it remained consistent as the stimulus funding was reduced to nothing, which was this year.
He added there were increases in personnel salaries and benefits as well as added expenses in facility repairs, which included the continual debt to the Honey Well Project.
The Honey Well Project was started in 2006 and was a project focusing on providing air conditioning for all of the schools' gyms at once and Hawkins informed the board that the county only has two more payments before the debt was cleared, which will add much needed relief to the county, according to Superintendent Eddie Dixon.
"We've saved some on the costs for some of the repairs," said Chair Rusty Williams. "I'd like to see the paperwork of those savings by the next school board meeting."
Hawkins also explained that in order to stay above the three percent mark the school board had to draw from contingency. School Board member Debbie Kolmetz asked for him to explain how that was possible if those funds were to establish the "good faith" required by state to help fund the new middle and elementary school for Bonifay.
Hawkins said only a portion is required to establish the requirement, while a portion is established for funding relief. For example if a county was building a new school but still needed additional space for classes then the county could use a portion for portable buildings while waiting for the completion of the new school.
Kolmetz also asked how many new positions were added to the 2014-2015 school year. Dixon replied that there was only new position, the new Spanish teacher position, with the rest of the hires being to fill in positions vacated by those retiring or had remained empty since 2008.
School Board approved Tentative Millage Rate for 2014-2015 at 7.257 with a vote of four to one, with Kolmetz voting "no," and approved of the 2014-2015 Budget with a vote of four to one, with Kolmetz voting "no."
Williams announced that the school board members would be making a trip to Bainbridge, Georgia to look at the school structure of Bainbridge High School, however Kolmetz excused herself.
"We're not sure it's going to be a two story facility, so I don’t know why we keep looking at them," said Kolmetz.
Williams explained that with the limited acres of the area where the school is going to be built may require them to build a two-story facility to accommodate to state statutes.
After a brief discussion about needing a member of the school board on the Holmes County Value Adjustment Board, Kolmetz volunteered.
The next meeting of the Holmes County District School Board is set for 9 a.m. on Aug. 5.