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...no objections voiced as Allen Co. board goes for 4% revenue increase to help cover state-mandated pay hike; report on reducing food waste under new free meals program

Citizen-Times, Scottsville, Aug. 28, 2014

Taxes Edge Up 4%
By Rachel Herrington

A four-percent tax rate increase for the 2014-2015 school year was approved last Thursday night during a special meeting of the Allen County Board of Education.

The board held a previously-advertised public hearing before the meeting, soliciting comments about the proposed increase from the community, but no one came out to voice any concerns.

The General Fund tax rate of 59.1 cents on real estate and personal property is up from last fiscal year’s rate of $7.40 cents, which generated $4,401,254.99 in revenue. The new rate is expected to generate around $4,619,868.78—a revenue increase of $218,613.79. The majority of the new revenue ($127,836), Superintendent Randall Jackson noted, is slated for the state-mandated one-percent pay raise increase for all certified personnel.

“Salaries make up about 80 percent of the budget,” he said, but cutting back on staff is not an option he wants to entertain. “We are certainly not overstaffed in the Allen County School System.”

Another $74,219.38 will go into the Building Fund.

A cutback in state funding has also contributed significantly to the increase, Jackson said. The cuts date as far back as 2008 when the Kentucky Department of Education began scaling back allocations of the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding program—the main funding source of state allocations to local school districts.

“We always have unexpected costs that eat up our savings,” Director of Operations Brian Carter said, referring to last year’s HVAC repair at the Allen County Primary Center.

“And as much as I don’t want to raise taxes, I don’t know how we can recover without it,” board member Al Barman said.

The board voted unanimously in approval.

In other business:

# Food Services Director Mary Hobdy shared promising statistics regarding the newly-initiated Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) breakfast and lunch program at the Primary and Intermediate centers.

Aside from a few minor issues, Hobdy reported significant success just 11 days into the school year. Of the 1,600 students enrolled at ACPC and ACIC combined, 95 percent are eating breakfast compared to last year’s participation which hovered around 60 percent.

Hobdy commended those responsible for the smooth transition.

“Allen County’s food service staff are an outstanding group of women and men,” she said. “It is amazing what this group has done with the implementation of CEP in the elementary schools.”

Students at both schools—except for preschoolers who eat in the cafeteria each morning—pick up a choice of milk or juice and a pre-packaged breakfast as they exit the gum and carry it to their classrooms to eat. They also have the option of purchasing a hot breakfast if they choose.

Hobdy said the free breakfast choices vary, but always adhere to state guidelines and include four items, including grains and dairy.

In response to Barman’s question as to whether any positive outcomes to CEP have been identified, ACPC principal Tim Wilson said the availability of milk and juice is a plus, considering that some students aren’t drinking anything until lunch time.

Hobdy addressed concerns she’s received from parents who questioned whether food is being wasted due to CEP.

Hobdy noted that ACPC and ACIC students are learning they can refuse meals offered to them if they’ve already eaten or brought their lunch. And even so, the majority of unclaimed breakfast food doesn’t go to waste, she assured.

At ACPC, all non-perishable food items are kept in the classrooms for students to have access to during break time. At ACIC, the non-perishable items are donated to Family Resource Center for students who need extra food throughout the day.

These items are also donated to Family Rsource’s Backpack Program. FRC Director Chad Cooper said the schools have been preparing these backpacks for the last four years, and there are currently about 40 children at ACPC and ACIC benefiting from it. The backpacks are filled with easy-to-prepare food items and sent home each weekend with needy students who may not otherwise have adequate access to food.

Cooper said Smuckers is the newest donor on board, agreeing to donate Uncrustables to the program each month. He said the program has carried over to the middle and high schools this year, where the food is packed more discreetly for the older students.

# Overall, district-wide attendance is up this year according to Director of Pupil Personnel Gary DeWitt. As of August 20, enrollment was at 2,962 students, coming in slightly above the 2,853 count at the beginning of school last year.

“We’ve seen the biggest difference in the high school’s numbers,” DeWitt said, noting that attendance has jumped by nearly 100 teens compared to 2013. ACPC continues to house the most students within the district, averaging roughly 960 students.

# A Community Education grant totaling $40,000 over the course of two years was an unexpected surprise for the district, Jackson announced during his report.

Funded through the Kentucky Department of Education, the grant’s additional funding made way for a Community Education Director position. Donnie Meador, public relations coordinator for the school system was appointed by the board for the position, making Allen County one out of the state’s 95 counties with this liaison.

“Essential components of the Community Education Program include fostering involvement of the total community: its citizens, schools, agencies, businesses, industries and other community groups in the education of its residents and the social and economic development of the community,” Meador said of what his job will entail.

# Superintendent Jackson reported that Bobby G. Herrington became the eighth Allen County veteran to earn his GED through a 2006 state law amendment which allows a board of education to award a high school diploma to any honorably-discharged military veteran who didn’t complete school before enlisting.

Herrington, a US Army veteran, was awarded his diploma earlier in the month.

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