School Board officially adopts 2006 budget; differ on requests to endowment corporation

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The Switzerland County School Board held its regular monthly meeting Monday night, and tops on the agenda was the adoption of the 2006 school budget.

The process of adopting a budget has several elements to it, the first being the school board adopting what is commonly known as an “advertised rate” in the budget. Without knowing what the actual assessed valuation of all county property will be at this point, superintendent Tracy Caddell works with County Auditor Janice Ramsey to come up with a figure that the rate could be based on educated projections.

In order to protect the corporation, budgets not only for the schools but also all county budgets use a higher “advertised rate”, which is then reduced by the state once the actual assessment figures are known.

For 2006, Tracy Caddell based the budget on a preliminary assessed valuation of $323 million. That assessment means that the school is advertising a tax rate in all funds of $1.75.

The $323 million figure is actually about $55 million less than the assessed valuation of Switzerland County property this year. Tracy Caddell said that the smaller number is because the 2006 assessment of agricultural land is $880 per acre. That figure had previously been over $1,000 per acre.

“We just don’t know what that decrease is going to do to the overall assessment,” the superintendent said. “We haven’t received the final numbers, so we’re just trying to protect the school corporation.”

The 2005 budget had an advertised rate of $1.51; but after the state got firm assessment figures, the actual rate fell to $1.01. The higher the assessed value of land in the county, the lower the overall tax rate is.

“I don’t anticipate a much higher rate than a year ago,” the superintendent said. “It’s going to depend on the assessment. Hopefully we had growth, and that will push the assessment higher.”

The final figures from the state will be available later in the year.

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One of the common items on the school board agenda at each monthly meeting is the process of sending funding requests on to the Switzerland County School Endowment Corporation, which funds capital projects through the use of riverboat revenues from Belterra Casino Resort and Spa.

Normally these requests are moved through routinely, but at Monday night’s meeting, one request in particular led to a long discussion by board members.

A request by varsity baseball coach Shannon Barger and varsity softball coach Steven Konkle for the construction of an indoor facility for spring sports was the main topic of discussion. Under the proposal, a building would be constructed on school property that would house hitting and practice facilities for baseball and softball; and would also have an area for golf.

This would allow pitching machines to be available to Switzerland County baseball and softball players year around.

The facility would be a pole barn construction, and would be heated so that it could be used in the winter. It would give spring sport athletes a place to practice during the year; and also on rainy days in the spring.

According to Shannon Barger and Steven Konkle, the cost of the building would be $38,000; but they had secured a group of volunteers who are willing to do most of the work themselves and donate their time to the construction; which would bring down the actual cost to $26,000.

After discussion by the school board members, the proposal died because no one made a motion to approve it going on to the endowment corporation.

But the discussion didn’t end there.

Following more talk, school board member Bill Roberts made a motion to approve the school paying one-third of the total cost of the facility — approximately $12,340 — if the coaches and members of the community could raise the other two-thirds of the cost from community donations.

After discussing that motion, the school board approved it by a 4-3 vote, with Bill Roberts, Jack Ranz, Jim Phipps, and Duane Cole voting in favor; and Wilma Swango, Laurice See, and Andy Truitt voting no.

The next endowment request was for $9,500 to provide equipment to be used inside the facility, and it was tentatively approved by the same 4-3 vote. This would only be presented to the endowment corporation if the facility is actually built.

Other requests to the endowment corporation on Monday night included:

— Masonry work on the exterior of Switzerland County High School with an estimate of $46,176 was approved.

— Physical education equipment for all four buildings in the amount of $12,649 was approved 5-2, with Jack Ranz, Bill Roberts, Andy Truitt, Jim Phipps, and Duane Cole voting in favor, and Wilma Swango and Laurice See voting against.

— A commercial washer and dryer for the high school to be used to wash athletic uniforms and equipment was approved unanimously. The estimated cost was $1,809.

— $1,700 in video equipment to be used by athletics and also in physical education classes was approved unanimously.

— The renovation of all four dugouts on school athletic fields, two on the softball field and two on the baseball field; was approved 5-2 at a cost of $18,000. Voting in favor were Jack Ranz, Bill Roberts, Jim Phipps, Wilma Swango, and Duane Cole. Voting against were Andy Truitt and Laurice See.

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In other business discussed by the school board:

— The school board approved dates for parent-teacher conferences. Students will attend classes for a half-day on Tuesday, October 18th, and the conferences will be held from approximately 12:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 18th.

On Wednesday, October 19th, students will again attend school a half-day; and students and staff will then be released for fall break, returning to classes on Monday, October 24th.

— In personnel matters: Gary Pavy was hired as the eighth grade boys basketball coach; Shelly Fowler was approved as the assistant soccer coach; and a maternity leave was approved for Brooke Levell.

— All professional leave requests and use of facilities requests were approved.

— An early entrance procedure was adopted.

The procedure stated that any child who is five years old on or before July 1st of this year could have applied to go to kindergarten; and that beginning in 2006, any child who is five years old on or before August 1st, 2006, can apply to go to kindergarten.