Lee County School Board Honors Member, Approves New Budget

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Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mac McCoy presents a commemorative plaque to the wife of District 7 Board Member Brian Roberson at the Sept. 13 meeting. Roberson died Sept. 7. PHOTO BY KENDYL HOLLINGSWORTH / THE OBSERVER

BY KENDYL HOLLINGSWORTH

KENDYLH@OPELIKAOBSERVER.COM

LEE COUNTY —

The Lee County Board of Education recognized District 7 Board Member Brian Roberson and approved its budget for fiscal year 2023, among other business, at its regular meeting Sept. 13.

Roberson died Sept. 7 at age 48. He had served on the Lee County Board of Education since 2018, with his district covering Smiths Station.

Superintendent Dr. James “Mac” McCoy presented Roberson’s family with a plaque commemorating his “dedicated service,” as well as a wooden name plate handmade by McCoy’s father.

“Last week, we lost a very good board member to health problems, and Smiths Station and Lee County lost a great man,” McCoy said, holding back tears. “… We will miss him.”

As of yet, there is no replacement to fill the District 7 spot. According to Board President Larry Boswell, of District 2, the board would “have an open space for a while.”

McCoy said later in the meeting that the board has 30 days to appoint someone to a vacant seat. The board said it will likely hold a special called meeting to do so before the next regular meeting, which is Oct. 11.

“The timeline is so short sometimes that it looks like maybe we’re moving too fast, but it is state law,” McCoy said.

Ken Roberts, CSFO for the Lee County Schools, presented a breakdown of the proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 as part of the second public hearing for the budget. The first public hearing was held at 10 a.m. the day before.

The projected expenditures total about $136.4 million. According to the presentation, the money will be used for the following purposes:

  • Instructional costs: about $63.7 million (47%)
  • Instructional support: about $18.9 million (14%)
  • Auxiliary: about $14.4 million (10%)
  • Capital outlay: about $13.1 million (10%)
  • Operations and maintenance: about $13.1 million (9%)
  • Debt service: about $5.6 million (4%)
  • Administrative: about $3.6 million (3%)
  • Other: about $4 million (3%)

Those funds come almost entirely from federal (about $21 million, or 15%), state (about $74.6 million, or 54%) and local (about $42.7 million, or 31%) sources. Only about $300,000 comes from various other sources, accounting for less than 1%.

Federal dollars support certain student populations and needs, such as child nutrition and special education, as well as supplemental programs and broad-based enhancement initiatives like Title I and Title II.

State dollars fund major expenditures like direct and indirect instruction. This is primarily earned based on student enrollment, according to the presentation. Other funds are appropriated for certain student groupings, such as at-risk students and English-Language Learners (ELL). Programs like career tech, and necessary functions like transportation and school nurses, are also funded by the state.

“A lot of what we do is scripted by the state,” Roberts said, given over half the revenue comes from the state.

Alabama is known as an “earmark” state, he said in the presentation, meaning most of the revenue gets designated for specific purposes with little flexibility to shift the dollars among different programs. A study done a few years ago showed 84% of the state’s revenue was handled in this way.

“With that said, we have … a relatively high level of flexibility in Lee County,” Roberts added. “Again, we have $42 million in local revenue. We’re very fortunate to have that. That allows us to spend in the classroom; … we have a large investment in locally funded teachers.”

According to the presentation, the high percentage of local revenue in the budget for Lee County Schools puts the school system in the top one-third in the state in revenue per student. The administrative cost, which accounts for about 3% of the budget, is also “very near” the state average, Roberts said.

In other business, the board approved the following items:

  • Policy 3.41 in the board manual for the Unsafe School Transfer Option,
  • Policy 5.92 for the Use of Non-Conforming Vehicles,
  • The facility cleaning bid award to Expert Cleaning Concepts Inc. in the amount of $300 per event for each facility,
  • A field trip for Beauregard High School students in Future Farmers of America (FFA) for a national convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, from Oct. 24 to 29, 2022,
  • A field trip for Beauregard Elementary School fourth-graders to attend 4H Camp in Columbiana, Alabama, from May 8 through 10, 2023,
  • Human resource recommendations for resignations and retirements; employment; transfers, reassignments and supplements; leaves of absence; suspensions; terminations; and
  • The expulsion of a student from Smiths Station High School per the principal’s recommendation.

In the Community Speakers portion of the meeting, Tabatha Boone asked for clarification on the reason for homecoming parade restrictions on children below sixth grade.

“We simply don’t have the bus drivers,” McCoy said.

The Lee County Board of Education typically meets the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the board room at 2410 Society Hill Road in Opelika.

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