Manila School Board moves forward with building project

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Manila School Board discussed several options to fund a building project for a much needed lower elementary building. The new facility will house kindergarten through fourth grades. After a lengthy discussion and hearing from Scott Beardsley, senior vice president of First Security Beardsley Public Finance, the board voted to pursue a millage increase of 5.6 mills to fund the project.

Scott Beardsley speaks with Manila School Board members concerning millage increase. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

During the May meeting Board members had discussed a 2.0 mill increase which would allow the district enough to fund a portion of the $4.5 million building project. Manila District is part of a state partnership program and if approved the district could receive up to 69 percent of the total cost of the project.

"There is nothing official about the partnership figures," Superintendent Pam Castor said. "We do not know if funding for the new building or renovation will be approved. It could be much less than 69 percent."

Castor said a decision has to be made on what the district wants.

"We have to decide if we want a new building or settle for less," she said. "I can't see replacing everything in a building that I know has a leak somewhere under the building."

Board member Jackie Hill said it would cost more to renovate than to build.

Following more discussion Board member Justin Veach concluded the district cannot build a building on a 2 mill increase if the partnership money doesn't come in.

"We have to be educated on this," President Johnny McCain said. "Those buildings have served us well but are outdated. The 5.6 mills will ensure the district can provide a new and needed building for the children and staff. It is a lot easier for students and faculty to get fired up going into a brand new building. It's like a new pair of shoes, I feel like I can run faster when I have them on."

The existing building was built in 1961.

Council member Tracey Reinhart said Manila doesn't have a lot of new industry to bring in people, but the school does bring people in. He asked for figures on what the tax will cost individuals. Beardsley explained on a $100,000 house, 6 mills will be an additional $120 a year.

"That will put the taxpayers paying an extra $10 a month for a new school," Reinhart said.

With the 5.6 mills the project would be funded for 20 years.

"If the state partnership money comes through paying more than expected, the money can be used to pay off the debt in less years or to fund other improvement projects in the district," Beardsley said. "Manila District has a tradition of borrowing for a short period and paying off quickly."

The board agreed to place the 5.6 millage increase on the September ballot.

The increase, if passed, will put the district at a total millage rate of 36.7. Beardsley pointed out with the increase the Manila District will be right at the state average.

Castor said she did not think the millage increase will affect the amount of partnership money if the district is approved.

"I think it will give us leverage showing our community is willing to step up to provide adequate facilities," Castor said.

Following the review of financials, Castor asked the board to approve a $265 increase on the base salary of all teachers. She explained State-mandated trust fund dollars has to go to teacher salary. The motion passed unanimously.

The board approved the classified salary schedule by a vote of 4-3 for the 2008-09 school year.

Castor presented a stipend list for the board's approval.

Board member Tony Crowell said he thought there is too much difference in some of the amounts.

The list failed to pass by a vote of 4-3.

Following an executive session, the board voted to accept the resignation of Brooke Dunigan, elementary counselor, and Judy Mace, school nurse.

The board voted unanimously to hire Teresa Thomas for the elementary counselor's position; Mike Bridges as athletic director, assistant coach and physical education; and Whitney Milliken as high school biology teacher.

The Board also approved the transfer of Mike Hembrey to the position of maintenance/bus scheduler.

In other business:

*The board approved an increase in mileage reimbursement from 29 cents to 40 cents.

*Voted to remain with Dwight Jones, student insurance provider.

*The board approved a slight increase in breakfast and lunch prices. Student lunch prices will go from $1.25 to $1.50 and breakfast prices from 75 cents to $1. Adult lunch will go from $2 to $3 and $1.25 to $1.50 for breakfast. Extra milk will go from 25 cents to 35 cents a carton.

*The board approved the transfer of Zac Wells from Buffalo Island Central to Manila.

*The board reviewed a recommendation from the personnel policy committee on attendance incentive. The board voted 7-0 to send it back to the committee to review and for revision.

*The board approved the model policies reviewed from last month and will review the high school and middle school policies to be discussed at the next meeting. Castor pointed out the policy decisions are very important. They will have to be acted on next month.

*The board discussed with High School Principal Pam Chipman a proposed attendance policy giving students six excused absences and four unexcused absences per semester. Students will have the option to go before an attendance committee to have absences reviewed if they have to miss more than the allotted days.

"Teachers can't be accountable to teach if the students aren't there," Chipman said. "It is a real problem. I am telling you it is out of control."

Board member Reinhart discussed the tardy policy. He said if a student schedules a doctor or dentist appointment first thing in the morning and hurries to get back to school before the first period is over, he did not think it should count toward three tardies being an absence.

Chipman said she would look at the existing tardy policy if the board wanted her to. It is not part of the proposed absentee policy.

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