BOE passes record budget for Schools

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

The Henry County Board of Education passed a record budget at its June 12 regular meeting.

The amount is $380 million, and the vote was 3-2. Chair Pam Nutt along with members Josh Hinton and Holly Cobb voted to approved the budget, while Annette Edwards and Donna McBride voted against the move.

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After superintendent Rodney Bowler recommended approval, McBride made a motion to postpone the vote because of various concerns. Edwards seconded the motion, but it failed 2-3. By law the budget must be approved before the start of the fiscal year, which is July 1.

Edwards and McBride were on the dissenting end of two other votes at the meeting, as they attempted without success to add the issue of live-streaming broadcasts of meetings to the agenda and also voted against the approval of student handbooks for the 2017-2018 school year.

McBride said she could not support the budget because she feels is doesn’t support students, while Edwards said she could not support it because she thought it isn’t fair to the next superintendent. Bowler announced several weeks ago that he will retire this fall.

Hinton said passing the budget shouldn't hinge on the hiring of a new superintendent and that the 35 new tech jobs it will provide are necessary to help the 1:1 initiative to support student learning. He added that he was excited about the 3-percent salary increase for employees and the personalized learning investment along with other items.

Cobb cited conversations with employees that she said solidified her position in favor of the budget that would meet the needs those employees said exist in their schools.

Brian Blanton, assistant superintendent for technology services, fielded questions from Edwards and McBride about the 1:1 technology initiative which the board approved a few months ago at a cost of $36 million and includes technology devices for each school on a tiered rollout. McBride also asked Bowler about students with needs for extensive support by way of discipline issues, saying she had seen nothing in the budget for that issue.

According to district officials, the new budget includes new assistant principals for high school and an additional 11 clinic aides to support various schools. There is also an adjustment to salary schedules for nurses, administrative assistants and school bookkeepers as well as a 3-percent salary increase for all employees.

“We’re excited about the budget that our financial services division was able to construct with input from departments and divisions across the school district,” said Bowler. “Our system has been a positive example for districts across the state from a financial standpoint as we were able to manage through the economic downturn and come out on the other side with a healthy fund balance and increased bond rating. This speaks directly to the sound fiscal management set forth over the years by our Board and school system employees.”