Mercer Co. board gets good financial news from several avenues, holds off on decision about request to allow parents, others to transport students to away activities

Harrodsburg Herald, Sept. 22, 2016

Mercer OKS $21.6 million budget
School board celebrates school successes
by Robert Moore

The Mercer Board of Education has approved a working budget for 2016-17, which includes $21,602,986 in revenues and $19,919,460.67 in expenses, leaving a $1,683,525—or 6.5 percent—contingency.

The budget includes SEEK funding of $10,800,000, reflecting a loss of 43 students from since the 2014-15 school year.

Last month, the board voted to keep their tax rate at $6.47 per $1,000 in assessed value. It's the second year in a row the board voted to leave the rate unchanged. Board members cited savings the school district realized by merging the 9th Grade Academy with Mercer County Senior High School and Harlow Early Learning Center with Mercer County Elementary School.

Finance Officer Ruth Cocanougher said the district was in good health financially.

"We had a good year last year," Cocanougher said, noting that it was the lowest in recent memory for substitute teaching costs. The school system eliminated seven bus monitor positions as well as one driving position.

Superintendent Dennis Davis said officials were making adjustments to the bus schedules — which require buses to make double runs — to shorten student wait times.

The budget was not the only good news for the board.

Davis said paid attendance at high school football games was up. The superintendent said the gate from the last four games of the last football season came to $6,000. The gate from the first two
home games of this season was $8,532.

Davis attributed the increase to the Alvis Johnson Field, which finally reopened this year. "Everyone loves it," he said. "The atmosphere has been stupendous."

The board members also celebrated the success of the Mercer County Senior High School track team, who won the KHSAA Class AA Track and Field State Championships in May. Track Coach Terry Yeast
and track team members gave board members T-shirts and cake.

"We are so proud to share your successes," said board chairman Ron Betsher.

Other items discussed at Thursday's meeting include:

• The board agreed to purchase three school buses for $227,577 through the Kentucky Interlocal School Transportation Association.

• The board approved a request by MCHS Track Coach Terry Yeast for alternative transportation for a spring break trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for the track team.

• The board approved grant applications for Lowes' Toolbox for Education by both MCHS and King Middle School as well as a application for a grant from the Corning Foundation.

• Tabled a request by Athletic Director Donald Wayne Smith to approve an alternative transportation plan.

At the last meeting, Smith showed the board a permission slip that would allow parents and other designated adults to transport students to activities. Smith said the idea was to help smaller programs.

"It is costly to take a school bus with only 10–12 people on it," he said.

"As a parent, I'm 99-percent for it," said Attorney Hadden Dean. "As board attorney, I'm 99-percent against it."

Dean said the issue was confirming insurance coverage.

"An insurance card does not mean insurance is in full force and effect," he said.

Smith said he would research how other districts like Fayette County handled the issue.

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