Union County Schools’ Public Budget Hearing draws standing-room-only crowd; highly positive for BOE

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Blairsville, GA – The Union County board of Education convened on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at 6 p.m. for the second required Budget Hearing for the 2017-2018 Proposed Budget. UCS Superintendent Dr. Fred Rayfield and all Board Members were present. Unlike any recent BOE Meetings, a gallery of about a hundred Union County residents, parents and UCS students were on hand for the Hearing and the Board Meeting that immediately followed; it was standing-room-only.

UCS Superintendent Dr. Fred Rayfield

The Budget Hearing began with a PowerPoint presentation by Dr. Rayfield highlighting several Budget items of concern that were brought to light at the April UCBOE Budget Hearing. Dr. Rayfield pointed out that though UCS is the eleventh highest out of 14 school systems in our district (Hall Co. has two), with per-pupil expenditures of $9,600 per year (three year average), the UCS graduation rate was 97.6 per cent in 2016; an unheard of number today. He also pointed out that UCS has the highest CCRPI (College and Career Ready Performance Index) scores out of all 14 school systems in the district. He said we could lower that per-pupil expenditure number, but the other statistics would likely suffer for it. He said that having a stellar school system, like ours here in Union County, comes with a cost. Dr. Rayfield also mentioned that, of the 13 counties in our district, only two have lower millage rates than Union County; all others are higher.

Dr. Rayfield addressed the concerns about fiscal responsibility stemming from the Tentative FY 2018 Budget showing a deficit of $1.3M. He said the Tentative Budget, which included an estimate in an Expenditures line item titled “Facilities Acquisition and Construction” of $5.0M, turned out to be $3.8M, which is 1.2M less than the estimate. So, he said, there is no 1.3M deficit. And, he said, we have a $29,397 excess of Revenues in the General Fund.

Dr. Rayfield also pointed out that nearly 67 per cent of the Budget goes to Instruction, as it should. Only 5.92 per cent, he said, goes to School Administration and only 10.28 per cent goes to maintenance and operations.

To conclude his presentation, Dr. Rayfield addressed the fact that the Tentative FY 2018 Budget is larger than the 2017 budget. The reason for that, he said, is because of the two per cent raise mandated by the Governor. However, he said, this time the State is covering most of the attendant increase in instruction cost.

UCBOE Chairwoman Cynthia Odom

UCS student with her mother speak at Budget Hearing

Chairwoman Cynthia Odom opened the floor for Public comment. She announced that since so many people had signed up to speak, the time limit would have to be restricted to two minutes instead of three for each speaker.

The comments made were largely supportive of the Superintendent, the Board and the Tentative FY 2018 Budget. Union County resident Pat Thibodeaux questioned the alleged $1.3M deficit, to which Dr. Rayfield repeated his explanation of why there is no deficit. Union County resident Linda Hill asked what studies had been made to discern that the return on expenditures for new buildings was worthwhile. Both Dr. Rayfield and the Board responded that, though there was not time for an answer to that question in the Hearing, they would get that information to her as soon as possible. The other speakers were highly complementary to both Dr. Rayfield and the Board; many were happy to bear the burden of continuing with the current ESPLOST in Union County for the good of UCS because, they said, it’s good for our kids. Others, as pictured to the right, testified to the soundness and quality of the Union County School System.

A video of the entire event can be seen below.

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