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County BOE moves funds to pay teachers

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP – Managing Editor
In the past, the Escambia County Board of Education has paid teachers their December salaries prior to receiving state funds at the end of the month. This year, they will do the same, but not without having to borrow against a cash deposit.
United Bank agreed to charge a minimal fee for a loan against a cash deposit which would mature in January. This will allow the system to pay teachers on Dec. 19. The system will receive its typical salary funds from the state by Dec. 30 when it will repay the loan.
Superintendent Buck Powell said the tradition of early Christmas and spring break paychecks will most likely not be possible in the coming year.
BOE Finance Officer Julie Madden showed the board members the fiscal year ending statement and said it indicates more financial problems for the system.
The system has one cash deposit left in which to draw interest. With further proration anticipated, Madden told the board that other revenues will be needed.
The board discussed ways of cutting their own budget and Powell said the first place to see cuts will likely be teacher salaries or possibly schools. Currently, the system is 14.6 units over what the state funds. Personnel accounts for 85 percent of the board's budget.
Madden followed by reminded the board that cuts alone will not solve the current problem.
The board of education approached the Escambia County Commission several months ago to discuss funding. And when asked by the board of any reply, Powell said that the commissioners wanted to postpone discussing the issue until after elections.
Powell said that a one cent sales tax implemented by the commission would be the quickest and best solution to the school's funding woes. But, he said the commission may choose to put it on next year's ballot. According to Powell, the commission can implement a sales tax without a general election vote if the money raised goes entirely to education.
Powell said that a local tax may be the only way to maintain current teachers and schools.
The board has cut from 35 teacher units over three years ago to its current 14.6 units over.
Other items discussed by the BOE included:
In a stark contrast of items, the board went from speaking of cuts and a funding crisis to allowing bids to be let for new buses. However, Powell reminded the board that the buses are paid for with state funds allocated through the Fleet Renewal Program.
Billy Hines, transportation director for the school system, said the board receives funding for each bus they have that is less than 10 years old. While they may save the money, he said it would be more beneficial to use the state dollars to replace older buses and maintain more 10-year-or-less buses so that the system can receive additional funding in upcoming years.
The board approved to let the bids;
The board approved to allow the Turtle Point Foundation to transfer funds held in an account with The Community Foundation in Mobile to the Turtle Point Foundation. The transfer comes after the Turtle Point Foundation received exemption as a 501(c)(3) organization and
The board accepted the following personnel changes: resignation of Frankie Bell as head football coach and athletic director at Escambia County High School; resignation of Theodore White as girls basketball coach at Escambia County High School; approved Andrea Hodges, assistant coach, to position of head coach of ECHS girls basketball team for upcoming season; hired Nellie Sue Higginbotham as office aid at A.C. Moore Elementary; hired Clara Copeland as bus driver of ECMS Title I extended day program; resignation of Will Brown as science teacher of Smart Links Community Education Program and 90-day on-the-job injury leave for bus mechanic Jack Clements, Brewton Bus Shop.