By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
Madison County Schools will have the option of a one-hour delay the next time inclement weather strikes, Superintendent Tommy Floyd announced at Thursday’s school board meeting.
The one-hour delay will take affect when “conditions exist that a pause in the schedule might provide a safer environment,” he said. “When it’s dark and very early, those are obviously tough calls.”
Staff will be asked to report to work as “close to normal time as possible” during a one-hour delay to provide supervision in the schools if parents bring their children at regular times, Floyd said.
Sometime between 4 and 5:30 a.m., the district’s “Road Crew” will come to a determination after driving roads both in town and in rural areas. A one-hour delay would be announced in the same way as a school cancellation, via local media, the district’s website, Facebook or Twitter.
“Many times a cancellation will be more likely, based on experience,” Floyd said. “It will be a specific circumstance that we look at for a one-hour delay.”
Buses will run one hour after their regularly scheduled time.
“The big thing parents need to hear is that we need you to make arrangements for all students until the buses run,” he said.
If a student is a car rider, the child may be dropped off at his/her school one hour after the regular drop off time.
Breakfast will be served in the event of a one-hour delay and lunch will be provided on the normal schedule. Afternoon release times will be as normal.
Also during a one-hour delay, morning kindergarten and preschool will be canceled whereas afternoon kindergarten and preschool will operate at regular times. Buses for midday pick up will run on regular schedules.
Board renews audit contract with Baldwin CPAs
Two years ago, the board hired local accounting firm Baldwin CPAs to conduct the district’s annual financial audit.
The board agreed to hire the agency to do the audit for the fiscal year ending June 30 for a fee of $28,000. This will be its third consecutive audit of the district. Baldwin charged $27,500 last year.
The job of the auditors is to render an opinion on financial statements by determining if they are presented fairly and if all the material respects the generally accepted accounting principals, said Myron Fisher, a CPA with the firm, at the Oct. 11 board meeting.
Last year, the board voted to accept the 113-page audit report from the firm, which determined that the school district was “in accordance with (generally accepted accounting) principals.”
Board member Mary Renfro asked if the district could seek bids from other companies.
“I’m not sure if we would have that much time,” said Mona Isaacs, board chair.
“But would it hurt, though, to get two bids from outside sources?” Renfro asked a second time.
Board member John Lackey interjected: “Let me quickly weigh in. Mary, this is a huge job and the price we’ve gotten from Baldwin is pretty good … I hate to just let them do it one year. I don’t see anything wrong with them.”
When the bid process began two years ago, three bids came in, said Debbie Frazier, the district’s chief financial officer.
Baldwin was the only local firm to bid. Another bid was cheaper, but “there were issues on other audits for other school districts,” Frazier said. The third bid’s cost was “dramatically higher.”
It was agreed that auditors need time to “learn the system,” according to board member Becky Coyle. “Four years is a pretty good span for one auditor, but we all did not want to go past four years.”
All five board members said “Aye” when the voice vote was taken, but Renfro said she had meant to oppose the contract. The measure passed 4-1.
Capital funds request recommendation approved 3-2
In 2012, the General Assembly passed HB 265, which “allows some flexibility to use school district capital funds without forfeiting the district’s eligibility to participate in a School Facilities Construction Commission (SFCC) program,” said Isaacs, reading the recommended motion aloud.
The capital outlay funds ? originally slated to offset costs of construction, renovations or emergencies ? can be transferred to the general fund if the district can “live within its means,” Floyd said.
For the past five years, the board has accumulated around $4.8 million in capital outlay, which is not figured into the general fund budget.
“This allows us to use them, if necessary, to meet shortfalls in other revenue sources. But it also gives us the flexibility to use them for capital projects if we choose to do so,” Isaacs said. “This is a request to allow us to move capital funds to the general fund. It doesn’t mean we’re going to spend them, it just gives us the flexibility should we need to.”
Board member Beth Brock, Coyle and Isaacs all voted to set aside another $1 million in capital outlay, bringing the total to $5.8 million. Lackey and Renfro voted against the measure.
“My question in all this is why do we have to do this now?” Lackey asked.
“We’re working on the budget and as long as this money is sitting out there, there’s really not a lot of incentive to make the economies that I feel are necessary in the budget,” he said. “I don’t see the pressure on the people that prepare the budget to make the cuts that ought to be made. Does it really have to be done in February?”
Frazier said the deadline for the request is May 1. The request process has changed, she said, which may cause a delay. For the past five years, the timeline has been the same in which the capital outlay question was posed to the board, Floyd said.
Consent agenda questions
At school board meetings, a consent agenda is adopted in one motion. The items are sent to the board members for review a week before each meeting.
Renfro posed questions about a few items on the consent agenda, such as maintenance uniforms totaling $757; around $2,000 in physical exams for pre-employment; and $2,155 in cell phone charges.
Floyd said maintenance crews get “extremely dirty and oily” and were “destroying their clothes on a regular basis.” Uniforms are provided only for maintenance personnel.
Renfro questioned why the district had to pay for pre-employment physical exams.
“Anything that is part of the employment process that is required, the employing agency is required to pay for that. We pay for all pre-employment physicals,” said Dr. Kevin Hub, assistant superintendent for human resources.
“Other companies do it differently,” Renfro replied. “Foster care, for instance. If you wanted to be a foster parent, you have to pay for that yourself. I’m just curious, we’re trying to save money … We couldn’t say ‘if you want to be employed here, you have to get a physical?’”
“We’re not allowed to say that if we want to remain within the law,” Hub said. “There’s a law that says if we require something ahead of time, as part of the employment process, we have to pay for that.”
“I’ll look into that. That’s just strange to me,” said Renfro, who then questioned the cell phone charges.
Floyd said district cell phones are for employees who are “out and about,” such as maintenance employees and administrators when they are checking road conditions during inclement weather.
“It’s something that we monitor,” the superintendent said.
Look in Monday’s paper for a second story about the Feb. 14 school board meeting.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.