By Donna Williamson
Opelika Observer

On Thursday afternoon the Opelika City Schools Board of Education approved a $52.07 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year. This includes a state mandated 4 percent pay increase for all positions (with the exception of the superintendent), as well as an additional 4 percent pay increase for positions without continuous step increases.
According to Superintendent Mark Neighbors, the Alabama Reading Initiative allocation of $113k for 2017 is being declined due to restrictions placed on the use of instructional reading coaches to third grade students only. The general fund will absorb $434k to more effectively utilize the instructional reading coaches. Although the allocation for 2016 was $305k, this never fully funded the program, according to Neighbors. However, because of local support, Neighbors said that the school system can now offer reading programs to all students.
Chris Harrison, chief financial officer, praised the City of Opelika for its support of education.  He explained that approximately 40 percent of the revenue is local. “We couldn’t have the programs that we have without this local support,” Harrison said. “Local support is critical.”
Nancy Olaveson, child nutrition director, gave an update on the Summer Feeding Program at Carver Primary School. Olaveson said that the program was a success from beginning to end. “We served almost 6,000 plates in eight weeks,” she said. “We fed people from Valley and Lanett to Tuskegee. Our youngest was 9 months old and our oldest 17 years old.” She thanked the community for their support and is already making plans to expand the program for next summer.
The board approved the renewal of the Alabama Trust for Boards of Education General Liability/Errors and Omissions Liability Coverage in the amount of $1,068.
In other business the school board:
– approved a $37,693.77 bid from Mobile Fixture & Equipment for large equipment for the Child Nutrition Program for Jeter and Southview Primary, Northside and Morris Avenue Intermediate, Opelika Middle School, and Opelika Learning Center
– approved field trips for FFA/Agribusiness students to attend the Sunbelt Ag. Expo in Moultrie, GA on October 20, 2016 and for OMS band students to attend the Orlando Fest Competition in Orlando, Fla. on May 4-7, 2017
– approved the revised Entrance Age Policy for Opelika City Schools
– considered five new policies for Opelika City Schools in reference to federal funds
– approved a three year contract for Himmelwright, Huguley, and Boles to perform audit services for Opelika City Schools.
– approved personnel recommendations of employment and resignations.