BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – The Union County Board of Education (BOE) reviewed a tentative budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year during its May 15 meeting.
According to Karen Bundy, Union County Schools finance director, the school system will enter the 2018-19 fiscal year with a fund balance of $11,130,345. Revenue projections for the next fiscal year will be $30,749,654 and expenditures are projected to be $30,749,237. This will leave a projected fund balance of $11,130,762 at the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Bundy gave a revenue breakdown to the board. State funds will account for approximately 50 percent of the next budget at $15,390,857 and local taxes will account for approximately 47 percent at $14,450,000. According to Bundy, local taxes include real and personal property taxes, ad valorem taxes, and intangible taxes. The remaining amount derives from other local revenue and state grants from the Georgia Department of Education.
Regarding expenditures, Bundy stated employee salaries, benefits, and operating costs account for the bulk of expenditures in the budget. She further explained that salaries and benefits alone account for 86 percent of the overall expenditures. Also, Bundy pointed out an amount of $75,000 was allotted for the school resource officer (SRO) added earlier in the meeting for Union County Primary School.
During the budget presentation, John Hill, superintendent, and David Murphy, assistant superintendent, presented statistics concerning recent enrollment throughout the district. Murphy stated the school system has been averaging a 1.7 percent per-year increase in enrollment over the past few years, which accounts for an approximate 50-student increase a year. However, the state of Georgia, Murphy explained, has experienced a 5 percent decrease overall, which Hill pointed out was mainly due to the recession of 2008.
Following a brief breakdown of federal funds from Dr. Paula Davenport, assistant superintendent, District 4 board member Keith Potts stated, “All the work you have put into educating (the BOE) on (the budget) this time has been really good. We’ve had a pretty good while to digest all of it.”
The board unanimously accepted the tentative budget as submitted. According to Hill, the budget will be publicly advertised in the county’s legal organ and on the school system’s website beginning May 29. On June 19, the BOE is expected to officially adopt the budget. Finally, on June 30, the budget will be transmitted to the Georgia Department of Education.
Near the end of the regular session of the meeting, the BOE announced personnel recommendations, which included the promotion of Davenport and Murphy to assistant superintendents.
Earlier in the work session, Murphy presented the board with an update of the planned revamp of the school district’s website and communications page. “We want to present an accurate image that’s consistent across the district and provides meaningful information,” Murphy said.
Murphy stressed the importance of distributing information to both internal and external audiences in the district. The assistant superintendent stated the new website will have a “completely new look, so that when people see the web page, they can tell that it’s been updated.”
Murphy explained the new website will focus heavily on photos, videos, school apps, social media integration, school messenger, and PowerSchool.
Hill also pointed out the revamp project will be completed at no cost to the school system.
All five principals within the school system presented a State of the Schools update to the BOE. Principal Carol Knight, of Woody Gap School, began the updates by saying the 2017-18 school year had been a year of firsts for the school, which saw Woody Gap’s first cross country team in the fall and the school’s first participation in dual enrollment. Other highlights included the school receiving new playground equipment at the beginning of the year and attending the state capitol after a special invitation from state Senator Steve Gooch.
Principal Millie Owenby, of Union County Primary School, reported on the school’s continued improvement in testing scores across kindergarten, first and second grades. Owenby also said five student teachers from Young Harris College assisted at the school during the school year. The school also raised money for hurricane victims in the fall. Owenby also stated the school’s pre-k program continues to grow and remain successful.
Principal Patricia Cook, of Union County Elementary School, told of the success of several student-led organizations. Cook explained three students are responsible for regularly raising and lowering the school’s flag at the beginning and end of each day as well as at the onset of inclement weather. The principal stated the school also now has a street safety team of students that helps control traffic on the school’s campus. She also said United Community Bank partnered with the school in managing a school bank for students.
Principal Gwen Stafford, of Union County Middle School, stated the school put a heavy focus on writing during the past school year. Stafford said writing assignments dealt with interest-based and career-based projects, such as cooking, law enforcement, health, education and mechanics. Technology integration, the principal said, continues to grow throughout the school as every student is using technology in some way at the middle school. Stafford also congratulated the UCMS boys soccer team, which finished undefeated in the regular season and won its region championship.
Principal C.T. Hussion, of Union County High School, reported the school had added a volleyball program and a bass fishing club this school year. Hussion also congratulated the school’s mock trial team, which finished as state runner-up in competition. Regarding the school itself, Hussion stated the school’s C-wing got a building addition during the school year, which was funded by the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST). The principal also announced the school will graduate 190 students this year, which is the largest graduating class in school history for the third straight year.
Several school recognitions were presented during the regular meeting. UCPS Principal Millie Owenby recognized the school’s cafeteria staff “for going the extra mile.” Owenby told of the cafeteria staff organizing the Pound Puncher weight-loss program at the school in which 371 total pounds had been lost by the school’s staff during the school year. Owenby also recognized Brook Bridges, who, for the third straight year, served as the yearbook sponsor for the school’s yearbook.
UCES Principal Patrica Cook presented a school recognition to a group of students from Keri Young’s class who organized a fund-raising support group – Team Ila – in honor of one of their classmates who began cancer treatments during the school year. The group sold Team Ila bracelets and raised over $4,500 to help pay for medical expenses for Ila.
“We wanted to let (Ila) know that we care for her and that we have her back,” one of Ila’s classmates explained during the BOE meeting.
Principal Cook also explained that Ila is doing well and is now back at school.
Also from UCES, the school’s Science Olympiad team was recognized. Cook explained the 20-student team went to the state competition for the second straight year and competed against 63 other schools. Across Georgia, there are 275 Science Olympiad teams overall, according to Cook. During the presentation, the principal also surprised the team by announcing she had just received word earlier in the day that the team finished seventh overall in the state competition.
Principal C.T. Hussion, of Union County High School, recognized student Anthony Grader, who Hussion described as an “unbelievable talent.” Grader, a saxophonist, has received a full scholarship to the University of Kentucky to play in that school’s marching band.
Principal Carol Knight, of Woody Gap School, recognized student Austin Crowder for finishing third in a building maintenance skills competition.
Two Partners in Education Awards were awarded at this month’s meeting. The board recognized Mayor Jim Conley and the city of Blairsville as well as Al Harper and the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce for both entities willingness to assist and partner with the school system.
Special education teachers Beth Rouse and Becky Tracy were presented with the Extra Mile Award and the Service Above Self Award, respectively.