, 2015

LHS schools want 3% budget increase

by Audrey Thomasson

KILMARNOCK—The Lancaster school board approved a 2015 fiscal year budget last week that would extend the school year by two weeks, return to the two-bus route system, and give teachers new laptops and a small pay increase.

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The cost of these measures drive the budget up to $15,887,458, an increase of $468,340 (3%) over the current budget. Food service accounts for $633,874 of the total. County taxpayers would contribute $10,772,272, an increase of $346,788, or 3.3%, if county supervisors agree to the request.

The budget passed on a 3-1 vote. Supporting the measure were District 4 member Patrick McCranie, District 3 member Don McCann and District 5 member and board chairman Dr. Robert Westbrook.

District 1 member Bob Smart voted against passage, saying he was “95% in favor of the budget” but could not support giving administrators a pay increase since they received significant raises under former school superintendent Daniel Lukich and are now paid higher than their counterparts in most neighboring counties.

District 2 member Ella Davis was not present due to health issues.

Before the vote, McCann questioned the return of several items previously scratched from the budget, including returning to a dual bus route system that pushed the budget up about $145,000.

“This wasn’t put up for discussion prior to the public hearing,” he said. “I’m not comfortable voting for something we didn’t have time to talk about.”

“It was brought up in the work session,” said acting superintendent Sandy Spears. Staying with a one bus system that transports students to all three schools lengthens the day for teachers because they must be in school earlier and stay later. The schedule didn’t allow “tutoring to begin in a timely fashion,” she said.

McCann said he didn’t remember it being brought up. He argued the one-bus system was started in order to be more efficient and save money. “I realize $60,000 in this size budget isn’t much, but it was stated it was something we should do for efficiencies.” He suggested the money would be better served going into bigger increases in teachers’ salaries.

“This has been done in a whirlwind,” said Smart. “I don’t think we’ve done a fine-tuned accounting of how much we were saving” on a single bus system.

“I appreciate Mr. McCann’s comments,” said McCranie. “We can take that money and give it to teachers in pay raises, but I’ve seen what happens when the bus drops off kids and then heads out to the next school. It causes confusion.”

McCranie said the system works in neighboring counties because their schools are clustered together and not spread out like Lancaster’s.

Regarding teachers’ laptops, Spears noted the old computers could not be repaired and that replacing them next year would cost even more.

The school proposals will now go before the board of supervisors for consideration and final approval. However, District 1 supervisor Butch Jenkins has called for an ad hoc meeting of the school and county finance committees to review the figures before they go before the full board. That meeting was not scheduled by deadline.

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