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BOE adopts FY2023 budget
Citizens express school safety concerns
Liberty County School System

The Board of Education held their second public hearing at 5 p.m. on June 14 to discuss the fiscal year 2022–23 budget. 

Among some of the reported highlights were a 5% increase to the quality basic education funds and a salary step increase for all personnel, including a revised pay scale for school nutrition clerks, school nutrition managers and paraprofessionals; a $3,000 increase in pay for personnel paid on a certificate; an increase of $3,000 in base pay for directorial positions and above; and a 2% increase for all other positions. LCSS Chief Financial Officer Stephanie Clark said the budget also includes an increase of five days for school social workers and six days for head basketball coaches.

Fifty-four percent of the Liberty County School System is funded by the state, followed by federal funding at 25.9%, local property taxes at 18.3%, 0.9% from other sources, and transfers from other sources at 0.3%.

The proposed budget will have $164.5 million in the general fund and a little more than $25 million in the capital projects fund. Expected expenditures in general funds is $137.8 million, which is an increase of $597,294 from FY2022. Expected expenditures in capital projects is $15.8 million. The LCSS is expected to collect $25.2 million from local property taxes, $1.3 million from other local sources, nearly $75 million from the state, $35.7 million from federal funds and $385,000 from transfers and other sources.

Clark said the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST) can be used for capital expenditures but not salaries and other operating expenses.

After the public meeting, the BOE’s regular meeting started, where the proposed budget was adopted.

During public participation, Kisya Burnett asked the BOE what safety measures have been put in place regarding what’s been happening across the nation with school shootings and bullying. She also said the LCSS needs to do something to improve their relationship with stakeholders, saying far too many educators and people are leaving the school district.

“We need to come together collectively so we can truly make this ‘Excellence in Everything,’” she said.

William Burch then addressed the BOE, stating how disappointed he was with the parent conference held in mid-April with LCCS Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry.

“What was supposed to happen was he was supposed to listen to us, and that didn’t happen,” he said, adding that there was what he considers inappropriate behavior at the meetings.

“I hope the board also knows the violations of the sunshine laws, where he decided to cancel one of the public meetings without 24 hours’ notice,” he said.

Burch said Perry was disrespectful to him and other veterans who attended the meetings.

“I hope the board is truly aware of that,” he said.

Current teacher Sandra Pickney then spoke about enhancing the schools’ security systems and said she wants the LCSS to mandate that kids only use clear backpacks for the upcoming school year. She also requested that the board place metal detectors at the schools.

The board went on to approve out-of-state travel for the Bradwell Institute girls’ basketball team and the Liberty County girls’ basketball teams to attend training, with board member Marcus Scott IV voting “no” because the paperwork for Bradwell’s travel request was not before the board.

The board also held a lengthy discussion regarding approval of the code of conduct, mentioning how some parents want to see metal detectors placed in schools and kids carrying see-through book bags to curb the potential for violence. After much back-and-forth, Chairwoman Lily Baker reminded the board that this was an action item and that they needed to approve it as written or vote it down and address the implementation of newer safety measures. However, she reminded the board that changes need to be done quickly to give parents time to purchase whatever new supplies approved by the board. The code of conduct was then approved as written by a vote of 3-2, with Marcus Scott IV and James Johns voting against the code and Dr. Chante Baker-Martin abstaining, which drew the ire of Burch, seated in the audience. He called Baker-Martin a name, and she mentioned filing a police report.

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