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BOE agrees to SRO services
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The Board of Education approved a contract with Newton County to obtain officers from the Newton County Sheriff's Office to serve as school resource officers beginning in 2008-2009.

In the past, the SROs essentially worked double shifts as they would arrive at the schools after completing their regular NCSO shifts. After the board received notification that a significant amount of deputies would not be working the additional shifts, Superintendent Steve Whatley and the board explored alternative ideas to fill SRO openings.

"One of the concerns was how we could continue to provide the SRO service given that we wanted to decrease their having to work the second shift with us," Whatley said.

Under the new agreement, the county school system won't have those worries as the SROs will be NCSS employees and the assigned officers will works exclusively at their designated schools.

The NCSS will pay the county $839,056 over 10 monthly installments. In return, 17 SROs will be provided to the school district. If for any reason either party is not satisfied with the situation, the agreement can be broken 90 days after a written notification. The contract will begin July 1 and run through June 30, 2011.

Alcovy and Newton High and Sharp Learning center will have three SROs this fall while Eastside will have two. Clements, Cousins, Indian Creek and Veterans Middle schools will each have one with one SRO in mainstay and one roaming officer.

Budget approved

After several work sessions and three public hearings, the board voted to approve the budget for fiscal year 2008-2009 at Tuesday's meeting.

At the same time, the millage rate will remain at 18.21 mils with one mil for debt services. During the work sessions leading up to Tuesday's vote, officials added an additional $472, 722 in the general fund expenditures to compensate for salaries and benefits, video equipment for school hearings, school maintenance and repair work and instructional technology the county had not anticipated when it originally drafted and presented the budget last month.

Next year's budget increased by 4.6 percent due to additional student enrollment and a 2.5 percent state mandated salary increase.

Of note, the state once again cut more than $1 million in austerity cuts, raising the total of QBE earnings shortfall at more than $20 million since FY2002.

The system has projected a maximum total enrollment of 21,556 throughout all schools. The actual enrollment in January came in at 18,937.

In other points of interest, the county expects to pay more than $151,000,000 for all expenditures next year with more than $131 million going to salaries and benefits.

The local supplement schedule increases by 2.5 percent to go along with the state mandated increase.

Sonny money on its way

For the third year in a row, Gov. Sonny Perdue is issuing $100 classroom gift cards to all full-time K-12 classroom teachers who are employed as of Aug. 1.

Each media center will also receive a card to purchase supplies for the media center.

As in past years, gift cards are meant to compensate teachers for materials and supplies purchased for instruction each year. The cards can be used at all retail, office and school supply stores.

Board vice chair Rickie Corley commented he would like the board to consider doing something similar for teachers in the future.

"We should look into matching the amount next year," Corley said. "It's the least we can do. I know these teachers spend well more than $100 of supplies and materials for their classrooms."

Fuel still a concern

Fuel prices continue to soar and the NCSS is doing what they can to offset the costs. In May, the average cost of fuel the district paid came in at $3.88 per gallon. That amount jumped to $4.17 with the most recent purchases this month.

Buses traveled 425,204 miles in May while averaging a paltry 9.7 miles per gallon. The county typically buys fuel twice a month, in 7,500 gallon increments and is able to get a price break for bulk purchasing.

Fortunately the additional fuel costs have not affected the bottom line as the NCSS has operated in the black and will end FY2008 with a cash surplus of more than $10 million.

Still, that's money the district hopes to keep as a reserve should fuel costs or unforeseen expenditures arise in FY2009.

Work continues in schools

Several maintenance and capital improvement projects have begun throughout the school system.

Expansion work at Alcovy High continues and is on pace for a mid-July completion date while Newton High gets new floor coverings and paint in several areas.

Trailers have also arrived at Alcovy and are positioned at the back of the school to be used as temporary classrooms until the new 50-classroom addition is completed.

Construction at South Salem Elementary School is virtually complete and a comprehensive punch list is being prepared. Furniture and instructional equipment continues to arrive and the school is on pace to open Aug. 1.

The middle schools and Eastside get a facelift as their respective gym floors will be refinished before class resumes this fall and the stadium improvements at Sharp continue as the railings have been ordered and are set to be installed soon.

In addition to the work in schools in the district, each school will have a freshly painted door when teachers report back in late July.