Superintendent: ELOST funds are ‘much lower’ than expected
By Kathryn Purcell
Morgan County Superintendent Stan DeJarnett expressed concern over the decrease in collections from the Education Local Options Sales Tax (ELOST) at Monday night's Board of Education meeting.
"You typically experience a drop after Christmas in ELOST collections," DeJarnett said. "But the check came in March for January, and it was much lower than it should've been."
The check totaled more than $230,000, compared to almost $285,000 for January 2007 and the average 2007 collection of more than $308,000, according to DeJarnett.
Morgan County is exactly halfway through this ELOST cycle, and, currently, more than $8.6 million has been collected. The goal for this ELOST, however, is $21,206,500.
The sole item left as far as facilities on the five-year ELOST plan, after completion of the new gym at Morgan County High School, is a new elementary school.
"We're not going to make it if we continue at this level," DeJarnett said.
DeJarnett also said he's put in a call to the state Department of Revenue regarding the decrease in collections, and is expecting a call back.
Additionally, in his report, DeJarnett highlighted several financial updates from the recently concluded 2008 session of the Georgia General Assembly, including a 2.5 percent pay raise for teachers, bus drivers and lunchroom workers and a budgeted $50 million "to apply against the continuing, seemingly permanent 'temporary austerity cuts' that have appeared in every budget since 2003," according to a document distributed at the meeting.
"There was no tax reform legislation that passed the General Assembly this year," DeJarnett said.
Continuing his report, DeJarnett:
• Informed the Board of revisions to the Board Policy Manual Code of Conduct involving the removal of "tribunal" from "tribunal hearings."
"We do not use tribunal panels any more; we use hearings," DeJarnett said. "It's a change in terminology. We haven't changed the Code of Conduct."
• Asked the Board's informal permission to allow a full-time Morgan County Schools bus driver who lives out of the county to enroll her children in Morgan County schools. Currently, all full-time Board of Education employees are permitted to enroll their children in Morgan County schools tuition free, but this marks the first time a bus driver has asked permission to take advantage of the policy.
• Let the Board know of his meetings with DeKalb Technical College, which is planning a move into the former Denon facility, now the Public Safety Training Center.
"DeKalb Tech would very much like to have a presence here to expand their courses offered," DeJarnett said. "But that's still one year off. They want to give the sheriff a chance to get in, get settled and see how much space they need."
• Informed the Board that the Policy Manual is currently online, hosted by the Georgia School Boards Association, through the Morgan County Board of Education Web site.
Also, in the Financial Report, DeJarnett emphasized the fact that the school system is barely under budget at 71 percent with three-quarters of the year gone by.
"It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain facilities, maintenance and transportation with the rising cost of fuel," DeJarnett said.
Director of Operations Bob Monk, in his report, updated the Board on progress with facilities.
Currently, the gym at Morgan County High School is on schedule. There have been eight payments made on the gym, for a total of $2.4 million, with $2.8 million left to go, according to Monk.
Also, Monk announced plans to begin roofing on several of the schools.
"Roofing is a hot subject in Morgan County," Monk said. "And the hail didn't help with that."
The roofing began with the Morgan County High School auditorium, starting Tuesday, and will continue with two large sections of Morgan County Middle School and then the first grade hall at Morgan County Primary School. The total for roofing comes to $300,000, according to Monk, and will be financed by ELOST.
"We have a dire situation at Morgan County Middle School," DeJarnett acknowledged. "The reason we didn't start at the middle school first is because the middle school is in testing now."
Monk also announced that the guard house and gate at Morgan County High School, built to prevent vehicles from leaving the parking lot, is in its final stages.
As far as future facilities plans, the next big project will be the new school in the western part of the county, followed by a classroom building at the high school to house Freshman Academy.
As far as transportation, Monk informed the Board that computerized routing systems will be installed on all of Morgan County's buses by mid- to late-May.
"This computerized routing system will tell us, by computer, the best way to run our routes," Monk said. "The software will allow us to optimize and be more efficient in our routes."
In her report, Assistant Superintendent Sarah Burbach let the Board know that there were, at last count, 3,254 students enrolled in Morgan County schools - 780 at Morgan County Primary School, 723 at Morgan County Elementary School, 748 at Morgan County Middle School, 959 at Morgan County High School and 44 at Morgan County Crossroads School.