Clay County Schools’ state funding stripped; Oct. 9 closure will be reviewed Thursday

Published in print October 7, 2015

By THOMAS P. WEAVER
HORIZON Editor

CELINA-Director of schools Jerry Strong said Monday he received word last week state funding for Clay County schools would cease this month and the agenda for this Thursday’s school board meeting lists the discussion of “school closing on October 9” as one of its items.
“I got a call from state education commissioner Candice McQueen saying our funding would be cut off,” Strong explained. “We were unable to submit an approved budget to her office because we don’t have one and by law that’s what she has to do.”
As previously reported, Friday may serve as the last day of school because the budget submitted by the school board reflecting an additional request of $200,000 to cover costs associated with the Affordable Care Act was rejected by the county budget committee and the county commission voted to appropriate funds that are “no more than the projected revenues” for the schools, otherwise known as a “maintenance of effort” school budget—one including the same money as was appropriated last year plus an additional state mandated $16,000.
“All we have is a mandate from the county commission,” Strong said in last week’s HORIZON. “We do not have a budget that has been approved by both the school board and the county commission.”
“This county is at a crossroads,” Strong said Monday. “Do we want education or not. That’s what this boils down to.”
Before the commission’s action, school board members had originally voted to set October 9 as the last day of school if the budget increase was not approved. Strong explained that decision “will be reviewed” tomorrow night at 6 p.m. here at the school system’s central office during the board’s regular October session.
He explained state funding came in the form of 10 payments with the next due to be received October 15 to cover this month’s costs.
“We won’t be getting that October 15 payment,” the director said, “or anything beyond that.”
The county commission was set to meet Monday after HORIZON press time in their regular October session two days before the school board was set to discuss closing schools. The agenda for the commission meeting made no mention of any resolution or discussion concerning the issue.

Wheel tax for
schools going
to referendum

The issue was discussed at the commission’s September session and recently released minutes showed commissioners voted “to send to referendum the option for a county-wide motor vehicle tax (wheel tax)” earmarked for schools.
Minutes showed a wheel tax increase of $27 was approved to be put on the March 1, 2016 Presidential Primary ballot where residents will vote for or against the new tax.
The information said commissioners Winton Young, Jerry Rhoton, Billy Maxwell, Timmie Scott, Parrish Wright, Denzil Cherry, and Dorothy Forney voted aye, commissioners Liz Boles and Timmy Boles voted no, and commissioner Bryan Coons abstained his vote.
According to the minutes, the vote came “after much discussion” and following a failed Liz Boles motion (seconded by Coons) “to postpone until next planning meeting to discuss.” Minutes also said “Coons wanted the school board to come to the planning meeting to validate their request for the amount they are wishing for to be earmarked from the possibility of new wheel tax increase.”
The information released then explained “discussion was continual in regards to said resolution and the fact the resolution needs to be set in motion,” and also detailed a vote taken on changing the wheel tax increase amount from $30 to $27—where all commissioners present voted aye, with the exception of Coons, who abstained his vote.
Wright then made the motion for the $27 wheel tax increase to be sent to the referendum and Cherry seconded his motion before the vote placed it on next spring’s ballot.
See next week’s HORIZON for details from Thursday night’s school board meeting and much more concerning this ongoing issue.