District One looking forward to additional funding

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By David Meade

During their montly meeting Tuesday, Anderson School District One Board of Trustees heard good news about an increase in state funding and preparations being made in advance of the first collections of the 1 cent sales tax.

The board also heard an update on two Safe Routes to Schools projects that will bring new sidewalks and improve safety for students walking near Powdersville High School and the Palmetto schools in Williamston.

Finance Director Travis Thomas reported the district finances are at about 50 percent of budget which is where it should be just after mid year. He also reported tax receipts had come in and that the Federal Title 1 IDEA payments of approximately $3.2 million were slow but pending.

Superintendent David Havird told the board that it looks as if the district will not need the $250,000 from the fund balance approved by the Board to be used if needed to balance the budget.

He also reported that the state House Ways and Means Committee recently increased the base student cost for 2015-16 by $100, from $2120 to $2220. He added that some lottery funding was being taken away by legislators to be used on the state level.

Havird also said that new State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman “is making headway on standards” and that she had recommended adding funds in the state budget for public schools above the governor’s recommendation.

Thomas told the Board that under the state Ways and Means Education Funding projections for 2015-16, District One will see a reduction of $307,000 in K-5th grade lottery funding and $25,000 reduction in 6th-8th grade lottery funding.

The increase in Education Finance Act funding (base student cost) will amount to an additional $1,030,249 for District One.

Net increase in state funding for District One, with the lottery loss, will amount to $698,249.

Havird added that he thinks the state will require a step increase in pay for employees which “will almost balance out” with the increase in base student cost.

Havird said the state lottery funding to schools is being decreased on the local level so the state can encourage new technology and buy new buses.

He said lottery funding from the state has been steady through the years. “Lottery money normally stays the same,” he said.

Education Report

Jane Harrison, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, updated the board on a summer reading camp and IPAD deployment.

According to Harrison, the District continues to work with students and teachers on the use of technology in the A1 Digital Innovation program and is working to make teachers feel comfortable using technology in the classroom.

The board also heard a report from the director of the Goalpost after school mentoring program the District has implemented in partnership with Clemson University.

Dr. Dave Fleming said the program is working with 300 students and their families in the District.

The school district provides transportation and snacks for students in the after school program, which is held immediately after regular school hours, five days a week.

Under the program, Clemson University Education majors work with students who need academic assistance, focusing on homework, assignments and motivating the kids, Fleming said.

According to Fleming, Clemson has provided $1.5 million toward the program over the seven years District One has participated.

He said students in the program show a lot of improvement in grades and motivation in the classroom with higher than normal attendance rates and positive behaviors.

Lunch menus being

affected by Federal guidelines

Robbie Binnicker, Assistant Superintendent for Administration, reported that the student nutrition program is now operating in the black but that overall numbers were affected by a reduction in commodities available to the program and the fact that food sales are down from what they have been in the past.

Binnicker reported that the program had received a very favorable report from a recent Federal audit.

He said there is more paperwork and food quality guidelines that must be followed and that significant changes have been made recently under the Federal guidelines.

When asked by board member Mike Wilson if the new federal nutrition guidelines were affecting sales, Binnicker said that the nutrition requirements did affect the menus that can be served and the amount of salt, sugar, carbohydrates and other ingredients.

“Our vendors are working hard to provide meals that taste good,” Binnicker said.

Superintendent Havird said that eighty to ninety percent of school districts are serving less food due to the new guidelines and that “vendors haven’t caught up. The taste is not as good,” he said.

Havird also added that it cost more to purchase the healthy food.

New sidewalks planned

Havird reported District One is working with Anderson County through the Safe Routes to Schools program on a project to provide sidewalks from Powdersville High School to the M. J. “Dolly” Cooper Park. He said the District is also meeting with the Town of Williamston and another proposed Safe Routes project that will provide sidewalks at the Palmetto Schools, Hamilton Street and Minor Street to the baseball field area behind the Municipal Center.

He said the Williamston project is a couple of years away and that the District will need to commit approximately $25,000 toward the project if the Safe Routes grant comes through.

Total funding for the project is estimated at $1.2 million

Havird said the District’s portion of funds could come from the general fund or possibly local option sales tax funding and should not be a problem for the District budget.

Safety and Security

Havird also reported that the one cent local option sales tax will begin to be collected in March. He said the first funds District One receives from the new tax will be used for safety and security projects including access, lighting and security cameras.

“We plan to spend the first funds on safety. When that first ckech comes we will start moving on our plan.”

Havird said the District is currently working on an overall safety and security review at all 14 District One schools.

Trustees approved second reading on revision and adoption of four policies related to food service and nutrition and competitive food sales in vending machines.

The board approved personnel recommendations including 2015-16 administrative positions.

Due to spring break, the March meeting will be held on Tuesday, Mar. 24.