Piggott School Board votes to seek extension of current milage issue

Thursday, June 11, 2015

With an eye toward future needs, members of the Piggott School Board set the process in motion at Monday night's regular meeting to seek an extension of the district's current millage issue. Based on the recommendation of Marshall Hughes, with First Security, Beardsley Public Finance, board members voted to adopt a proposed budget for the 2016-17 school year, and to submit an application to the state for a permit to issue bonds for future construction.

If approved by voters, the extension would generate $6,950,000 over the life of the issue, of which a little over $4,000,000 would be available for future building projects.

Both matters passed on a vote of 5-0.

Hughes had met with the board members several times in the past six months, urging them to either propose a bond issue or extend the current one, which is scheduled to end in 2016. He noted under the proposal, the district's millage would remain at 35.44, still well below the state average of about 37.5.

Of the monies generated by the issue, nearly $3 million will be used to retire the outstanding bond issues of May 1, and Sept. 1, of 2012. The remaining $4,001,839.37 will be earmarked for a variety of construction projects. Those efforts include updating HVAC systems at both campuses and repair of the roofs on both the elementary and high school buildings, with any additional funds to be used for construction, refurbishing, remodeling and equipping other school facilities.

Monday night's action sets the process in motion, with the matter to be decided by voters in the annual school election in September.

During the meeting the board also heard from Erma Campbell, speaking on behalf of the local Special Olympics athletes and special needs students. She offered an impassioned plea for additional support for the students from the district, noting she was stepping down as a full time volunteer. Accompanied by another longtime local volunteer, Toby McGuire, along with supporters Alan and Pam Morris, Campbell asked the board to do whatever they could to provide additional support and encouragement for the students.

"They're good kids, they're all good kids, but they need the help and support of this school district and good volunteers," she explained. "I hope that you'll do everything you can to help whoever takes over the job."

Campbell also reviewed what was termed a misunderstanding, concerning transportation for the Special Olympics athletes from Piggott who took part in last month's state games at Searcy. At the time it was learned transportation had not been secured for the students, forcing Campbell to rent a van--which she indicated was to be reimbursed by the school district.

"It takes a lot of effort, and a lot of volunteers, but these kids deserve it and they deserve our support," she concluded. Campbell also noted Jerri Lynn Swann had expressed an interest in taking over as one of the lead volunteers for the Piggott area, "but, she's going to need a lot of help."

McGuire indicated he would continue to help as he could, and as he has done for the past 10-12 years, but often has to deal with conflicts with work.

"I know we're all supportive of the Special Olympics and those kids," noted board president Neil Morgan. "I know (superintendent) Charlie (Powell) also supports them, and is behind them. We'll do everything we can."

Allan Morris noted as a long time volunteer he appreciated the effort, and added he didn't see the Area One Basketball Skills Competition, held each February at PHS, on the school calendar on the wall of the administration office. "I see a lot of sporting events and activities, but that's not up there," he observed. "I think it should be included with the others."

In other business, the board also approved changes to the licensed and classified personnel policies and salary schedules for the coming school year, which includes a raise for staff. Under the plan, certified staff members will see $650 annual increase, while classified will have their salaries increased by two percent.

The changes were approved without dissent.

In what has become an annual ritual, the board also approved the transfer of funds to cover accounts in the red in the food service department. This year the shortage was $4,672.25, although Powell indicated some additional collections may be recorded before the end of the month.

Board members voted to approve the transfer.

The board also approved adding competitive cheer to the district's participation sports, acting upon a request by senior cheerleader sponsor Connie Vaughn. Powell indicated the district had already declared with the AAA for the sport, but could back out if they chose. She noted the only costs which would be incurred would be to transport, and house, the cheerleaders during the annual state competition in Hot Springs.

In years past the school district has fielded a competitive cheer team, but not for the past several seasons. The board members voted to approve the change on a vote of 5-0.

During her report to the board, Powell noted there were 15 students currently attending summer school. She also reported the summer feeding program has been averaging about 30 kids a day, although that was expected to fall somewhat during the upcoming "dead" period. She also offered congratulations to Noah Smith of PHS, for his statewide win in the MOS Excel 2013 competition.

Powell also indicated the district would be participating in the upcoming job fair for L.A. Darling employees, and noted the project by EPM was progressing nicely. She also told the board members the district had been approached by Wells Fargo Bank concerning the possible donation of a tract of land near St. Francis. The board voted to table consideration of the donation pending further investigation.

Late in the meeting, following a 45 minute executive session, the board acted on several personnel matters. Based on Powell's recommendation, they voted to hire Shawna Stone to oversee the summer feeding program, with Jessica Robertson to provide backup. Board members also approved an additional $800 stipend for both Penny Toombs and Jerri Tate, for Advanced Placement.

PHS teacher/coach Melissa Turner's contract was extended by 10 days for the coming year, as she will have a 215 day contract. And, the board voted to accept the resignations of Stephanie Wallace and Brooke Clayton.

Afterward, they voted to extend a contract to Sue Blair to serve as an elementary teacher for the coming school year.

In other business the board-

* Approved the appointment of Powell as the ex-officio financial secretary, and authorized the superintendent, district treasurer and school board secretary to sign checks.

* Agreed to the purchase of property, vehicle and mobile equipment insurance from the ASBA.

* Discussed the companies providing mental health services to students at both campuses.

* Approved renewal of the NWEA testing program for PES.

* Accepted the bid by Darrin Johnson and Rick Staples for painting the interior of the middle gym at a cost of $19,325.

* Voted to approve an agreement between the district and the City of Piggott for use of city owned utility poles for routing fiber optic cables for the district's computer systems.

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