Pine Bluff school board approves budget


The Pine Bluff School District Board of Directors approved the proposed 2012-2013 budget for the district during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday evening.

“The beginning balance is down some from last year,” district Interim Superintendent Linda Watson said as she introduced the budget to the board. “The official district budget is due Sept. 30 and at present all departments in the district are working on their sections of it.”

Figures presented by Watson showed a beginning balance for the proposed 2012-2013 budget of $19,069,633 — down from a beginning balance of $19,210,639 in 2011-2012 and a beginning balance of $21,848,130 in 2010-2011.

The board approved a separate budget for athletic expenditures funded through district funds. Watson said it was a new requirement of the Arkansas Department of Education.

“The total athletic expenditures budget for this year is $1,118,689.64,” Watson said.

The board heard the monthly financial report from district director of business and finance Pam Winkler.

Winkler said that for the month ending Aug. 31, the district had a beginning balance of $13,391,509; monthly revenues of $2,648,339; monthly expenses of $2,498,867; amount available for operating of $12,044,048; and a total balance for all funds of $17,453,796.

Staff transfers

In other business, Watson told the board that personnel transfers she initiated earlier in the year were necessary to avoid fiscal imbalances that would have occurred otherwise.

“The board gave me an assignment several months ago,” Watson said. “We seemed to have too many staff members and [director of federal and state programs] Ms. [Bernice] Martin-Russell discovered that the district had lost $1.2 million in Title I funding. The drop in enrollment means a loss totalling over $2 million. Prior to this, I was looking for funds for an across-the-board raise, but now that may be a little bit more difficult.”

Watson said that she transferred some secretaries and paraprofessionals to different departments in order to shift the source of the employee salaries to budget areas that had sufficient funding.

Watson said that even though employee raises were not in the immediate future, the district would begin to cover an additional $50 per month per employee of health insurance benefits.

Enrollment

Watson said that while exact enrollment numbers for the district were not yet available, it is clear that numbers have gone down.

“Like many other districts it appears that we have lost students,” Watson said.

Personnel

The board approved a series of personnel recommendations from Watson, including the hiring of certified personnel Chandra Davis as a family and consumer science teacher at Pine Bluff High School, effective Sept. 17 and replacing Wanda Andrews who resigned; and Wanda Jones as a history teacher at Pine Bluff High School, effective Sept. 18 and replacing Eddie Ryan Roberts who resigned.

The board accepted the resignations of certified personnel Eddie Ryan Roberts as a social studies teacher at Pine Bluff High School, effective Sept. 18; and classified personnel Onia B. Walters as a secretary at Southwood Elementary, effective Sept. 24.

Calendar revision

The board approved a recommendation from Watson to revise the school district calendar to reflect a date change for the Arkansas Education Association meeting in Little Rock, also known as professional development days in which students do not have classes.

The dates have been moved from Nov. 1-2 to Nov. 8-9.

“Students will be in class Nov. 1 and 2,” Watson said.

Board policies

Watson told the board that the recent ADE legislative financial audit of the 2010-2011 school year offered several recommendations to the district regarding accounting policies and recommended that the board approve two new policies, which they did.

“The approval of the minimum fund balance policy and the use of restricted and unrestricted funds policy ensures that the district is complying with the audit recommendations,” Watson said.

The minimum fund balance policy states that the school district authorized the finance director to establish a miscellaneous/emergency fund of $500,000.

The use of restricted and unrestricted funds policy authorizes the superintendent, in conjunction with the finance director and other management authority, to assign amounts of money to a specific purpose. The finance director will use unrestricted funds first in instances where restricted or unrestricted funds may be used.

Minibus

The board approved the purchase of a 2000-model-year Freightliner Eldorado Minibus with 38,000 miles on the odometer at a cost of about $26,500.

The price includes a one-way airline ticket to Sedalia, Colo., to pick up the vehicle and drive it to Pine Bluff, according to information provided to the board by Watson.

Board member Ellen Nichol asked if the bus would be exclusively for cheerleaders or if it would be open to other small groups.

“It will be for any small school group that needs it,” said Deputy Superintendent Rudolph Howard. “We can get more mileage out of a bus that size and save some money on fuel.”

“For the benefit of the public, can you say where the funds for this purchase will come from?” board member Chandra Griffin said.

“It come from capital outlays, which is used for purchasing equipment,” Winkler said.

Charter schools

The board voted to voice its opposition to the open-enrollment charter school applications of Exalt Charter School and Quest Middle School of Pine Bluff.

In material provided to the board, Watson said that the central concern of allowing charter schools into the area would be the further loss of students from the district and the commensurate loss in funding.

The Arkansas Department of Education will make the final decision on the charter schools’ applications.