Lee County School Board receives optimistic financial reports

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PHOTO BY JOSH FISHER / FOR THE OPELIKA OBSERVER

By Wil Crews
sportscrews@
opelikaobserver.com

The Lee County School Board met for its regularly scheduled April meeting on Tuesday and revealed how pandemic-related financial numbers affected Lee County. 

Chief Finance Office for Lee County Schools, Ken Roberts, presented the findings during the “Superintendent’s Report” by way of the Monthly Financial Report and Cash Reconciliation for the Month of February.

“We’re right on target,” Roberts said. “In terms of the challenge of spending money now, in terms of knowing where you’re headed, what’s going on, some of the unknowns, to stay on budget is certainly something I’m proud of.”

Roberts said that through five months, the fiscal year budgeted revenue is at 50%, while the budgeted expenditures are at 42%. Tat is an encouraging sight given the majority of the fiscal year was spent in a pandemic.

Furthermore, Roberts said revenue overall is 2% ahead of where it was last year, while total expenditures are up 1%.

“You would expect that that in terms of just your normal, standard cost of living increase … in terms of how much things cost so to speak,” Roberts said of the spike in expenditures.

Local revenue is up 7%, however, according to Roberts.

“As you know we receive a bulk of our local annual revenue in the first four or five months of the fiscal year, so we typically run ahead in terms of revenue collections versus the point in the fiscal year,” he said. “Simply put, its increasing more than expected.”

Finally, Roberts said that, most importantly, the surplus in the budget is near where it was last year at this time.

“We were pretty optimistic,” he said regarding the finances during a pandemic. “We felt like Lee County was somewhat insulated in terms of just the specific nature of our local economy, but it’s even exceeded my expectations and I hope it continues to do that.”

During the portion of meeting dedicated to community speakers, James Sprayberry, an attorney based in Auburn, spoke on behalf of Eddie Daniel, a Smiths Station faculty member who is currently involved in a lawsuit with a Smiths Station high school student.

The board heard an explanation of the situation from Sprayberry and then explained that Daniel’s official letters regarding the situation had been received and would be subject to review.

The lawsuit stems from an incident that revolves around Daniel allegedly apprehending the student’s phone during his class. His reasoning, according to Sprayberry: the student was being “disruptive” and “wasn’t doing her schoolwork.” The student reported Daniel “having physical contact” with her and claimed it as assault.

Daniel was suspended following his actions. Up until now, Daniel has been a teacher in the county for 30 years and never had a formal complaint. “There was no confrontation, there was no discussion, no argument … our position is that since he is a 30-year teacher that has never had a complaint and he should not be terminated for confiscating a girl’s phone from the classroom,” Sprayberry said. 

At the end of the meeting, District 6 board member Larry Patterson brought up an off-agenda item. Patterson implored the board to consider the need for Black history and male leadership – especially Black male leadership – in the school system, something that has been brought to his attention by community members on numerous occasions. The current status of the country is all the more reason to take this call for action seriously, Patterson said.

“We live in a society where people don’t know each other,” he said. “People need to know each other. They need to know their history and how you go about working these things out.”

In Other Business:

– The board approved minutes for the regular called meeting on March 9, 2021.

– The board approved Kelly Services, one of the largest staffing companies in the country, to handle the employment of Lee County Schools’ custodians and aids. Kelly Services already works with a number of school systems including Opelika and Auburn.

– The board heard a presentation from Andrew Click explaining the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and how Lee County Schools employ strategies to remain compliant with its guidelines.

– The board approved the local adoption of textbooks from Out of State and In-State Adopted List on Mathematics.

– The board approved a revision to the 2021-22 School Calendar for 187 and 189 day employees.

– The board approved the 2020-21 Budget Amendment 1.

– The board approved out of state, overnight field trips for the Smiths Station High School basketball team to attend a basketball camp on June 4, and for the Beauregard High School Track and Field team to attend the Track and Field State Championships in Gulf Shores, Alabama, from April 28 to May 1.

– The board called an executive session to approve human resource recommendations.

The next meeting will be on May 11.

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