June 26, 2013 10:55:09 AM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
The Columbus Municipal School Board has hired an accountant to help construct the district's budget for the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year.
The board originally made a motion to hire CPA Frances Goldmon during a special meeting Tuesday morning but then tabled the issue until a rate of pay could be determined. The board met again this morning and approved the motion by a 3-0 vote. Board members Currie Fisher and Angela Verdell did not attend today's meeting.
The board voted to hire Goldman at a rate of $95-per-hour. She will work eight hours a day for 20 days. Goldmon is a retired business manager with the Lowndes County School District.
Led by new school board president Jason Spears and Edna McGill, who was recently appointed to serve as interim superintendent on a temporary basis, the majority of Tuesday's meeting addressed the district's budget needs.
Former CMSD Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Hughes was fired May 3. Business office supervisor Felicia Elmore has taken over Hughes' duties but was not named interim CFO. Federal programs director Anthony Brown and deputy superintendent Craig Shannon have been working on the budget in Hughes' absence.
During Tuesday's meeting, Brown said he felt the district was on track financially. However, he urged to board to move quickly in hiring an interim CFO.
"We spent the greater part of the last two weeks doing an analysis of our expenditures and that is a portion of the budget where we have focused most of our attention," Brown said. "We feel confident that all of the projections you've been given previously will hold true in terms of fund balances but we're at that stage where we would like to get that interim CFO, someone with a financial background to double check, triple check our work and make sure that we've not overlooked anything."
A new part of the 2013-2014 budget will be the addition of 10 work days for some administrators. Administrators previously worked 236 days but were furloughed to 226 days in 2010. McGill asked the board to restore those furloughed work days.
"During the budget crisis in the state, districts across the state were asked to furlough employees," she said.
Presenting a list of the affected employees, McGill said, "We feel very comfortable in looking at the expenditures and the proposed budget that implementing the increase of these administrators back to 236 days would be supported by the proposed budget. We would like to recommend that these administrators be restored to 236 days. Any other groups that were furloughed will certainly be considered in the upcoming budget."
Board member Glenn Lautzenhiser asked McGill if restoring the furloughed days would increase the city millage rate.
"I think you said this in essence, but I just want to clarify that if we add these back that it will not impact the millage negatively, that we will not be looking at any kind of millage increase by adding these days back," he said.
"Based on our preliminary projections, that is correct," McGill said.
The board voted 4-0 to restore the furloughed days. Board member Currie Fisher did not attend the meeting.
The board also voted 4-0 to return grant money related to a program at the high school.
The $50,000 grant, Excellence for All, would create the Cambridge Program, a program that would benefit high school freshmen and sophomores and would mirror advanced courses already in place for juniors and seniors.
McGill said the district was not prepared to launch the program.
"At this point, we have not had an opportunity to inform parents, to properly train our teachers and to get that program at a place where we feel comfortable getting it off the ground," she said. "In addition, over a three-year period it is going to cost the district some additional funds. At this point, we are recommending that we not implement the Cambridge program and this is with input from Columbus High School."
Board member Angela Verdell questioned why the district applied for the grant. McGill responded that she did not know when or why the grant was applied for.
CMSD grant Writer Janette Adams told Verdell that because of issues with the grant guidelines and future costs, the grant would end up costing the district money.
"It has been a difficult process for all of the districts," Adams said. "Even though we were getting $50,000, it was going to cost us much more."
Adams said over a three-year implementation process, the grant would end up costing the district $200,000.
Adams assured Verdell that the district could apply for the grant in the future. The board voted unanimously to return the grant money.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.