The Sunday paper stated the board of education has announced a town hall meeting for Jan. 21. I feel the citizens of Liberty County may not know enough about how money is allotted to run our school system so they can ask questions to determine if board members are spending our tax dollars with care.
Besides buying property, there are different funds used to pay staff, utilities, maintenance and upkeep. If citizens do not understand all the different "pots of money," they cannot ask questions to understand the wasteful spending.
Lily Baker stated at the forum this past week that she wants everyone to attend the town hall meeting because she has answers to our questions. I feel sure the board can justify the funds used for the purchase of the Brewton-Parker campus. But questions we need to ask might be: Where do we get money to pay for staff salaries, electricity, phones, maintenance and upkeep of a building? The Nov. 10 board minutes (www.liberty.k12.ga.us) state that board members unanimously voted to make a land acquisition. If the board felt this action would have been agreed to by the taxpayers, why was this purchase hidden from the public and the property not named? Why did the minutes not get posted until late the day before Jason Rogers’ press release on Dec. 16, telling of the purchase?
Dr. Scherer stated what a wonderful opportunity it was to purchase the building so the system would have a facility to hold plays, concerts, etc. When Steve Wilmoth was superintendent and Barbara Martin was chairman, they both stated in an interview with the newspaper that the property to the back of our new board office was being purchased for a fine arts facility. So now, we have two pieces of property for fine arts events.
You can be assured the central office staff and board members will meet prior to that town hall meeting so they will all know exactly what to say to you about their purchase. But SPLOST will not pay for salaries and utilities.
One area I know the board is using a great amount of local funds is for salaries at the three-story central office. The buildup of the central office staff exploded under Wilmoth. Keep in mind that the board must approve all actions involving personnel and funds. Each year, our county is provided money from the state for "earned positions" to run a central office. For 2008-09, our county got state money for salaries for the following positions: one superintendent, six assistant superintendents, one central office secretary, one central office accountant, 4.24 social workers, 4.24 psychologists, and 3.22 special education leaders. This county earned 20.7 positions. Visit www.doe.k12.ga.us/fbo_budget.aspx for a QBE report. The money to pay these salaries by the state was $1,253,572. All other positions at the central office are paid by local taxes and possibility a small amount of federal money. There were actually 119 positions assigned as central office positions for 2008-09: one superintendent, three assistant superintendents, four executive directors, nine directors, three assistant directors, four curriculum specialists, 13 coordinators, five social workers, one facilitator, four instructional technology staff, seven technical support staff, 14 secretaries, six bookkeepers, two accountants, two data operators, three clerks, one grounds foreman/director, seven grounds personnel, seven mechanics, one routing supervisor, three custodians, one lead nurse, seven psychologists, one record keeper, seven maintenance staff, one parent mentor, one network engineer and one payroll supervisor. Their salaries add up to $5,963,645. $4,710,073 of that had to be paid from federal or local funds. The seven elected school board members received salaries adding up to $65,768 and the money is not allotted by the state or by feds.
In addition to salaries, we also pay for travel to "workshops and conferences." There was $262,741 spent during 2008-09 for travel expenses of the system. $158,071.62 of this was spent by 75 central office staff and seven board members.
One assistant superintendent had $14,640 in travel expenses for the year. Lily Baker’s travel expense for a year was $10,041.64. Visit www.audits.state.ga.us for details.
Yes, I feel sure that on Jan. 21 board members and staff will have the answers to your questions. They will very carefully plan exactly what to tell the public. Most likely the answers have been determined at one of their morning meetings while we are at work. As for their town hall meetings, the citizens of District 4, District 5, and District 6 could probably better spend their time meeting to discuss who will run on the November ballot for their district school board positions and all of us throughout the county could better spend our time finding a candidate to run at-large for chairman of the board.