2017-05-18 / Front Page

Board votes to increase meal prices; reviews Welcome Mason campus sign

By JANE ELLYN AARON
news editor

A district-wide school meal price increase was approved by the Lin­coln County Board of Education last week, which follows a formula produced by Georgia and USDA guidelines, and was recommended by Lincoln County’s school nutri­tion department. Lincoln County schools have not seen an increase in meal prices for nearly three years.

Within this decision, elementary school lunches will increase from $2 to $2.15; middle and high school lunches will move from $2.25 to $2.40; and adult lunch prices will increase from $3 to $3.25. Breakfast prices, however, will remain the same at both school campuses.

“Meal prices are figured with a formula through the state depart­ment, and they identify the amount of our federal compliance – what we get in USDA foods, the pricing reimbursement based on free and re­duced lunch, and direct certification, and there is a formula or a range that we have to be in per price of a meal,” Superintendent Dr. Samuel Light said. “We are not in that range if we stay at $2.”

If the district disregarded the recommendations, and rates were left the same, then according to Light, not only would the district lose money from the increase, but it would also have to pay an additional amount to make up the difference in the increase.

Along this discussion, the board revisited the possibility of Lincoln County qualifying for the Com­munity Eligibility Provision (CEP) – discussed at last month’s board meeting – which has the potential to provide free meals district-wide, but is dependent on the number of low- income families within the district.

According to the superintendent, Nutrition Director Kay Light met with an area consultant with the state, who then calculated what Lincoln County’s percentage is to qualify. That calculation projected that Lincoln County is at 35.64 percent, just barely missing the 40 percent necessary to qualify.

“It is only direct certified students – direct certified meaning TANF or that type of assistance – you can be on free lunch and not be direct certi­fied, so it is only the direct certified students, and again we only have 34.64 percent,” Light said.

Even if the district reached 40 per­cent, there is a catch to qualifying. It would still require great consider­ation because the district would then be financially responsible for mak­ing up the cost difference for free meals, which could be substantial.

In other business, the board ap­proved the new site, along with the new design, of the “Welcome Emerson Mason Campus of Ex­cellence” arch. Approval was met with the stipulation that the board must be notified should the design change from what was most recently presented, in order to keep progress going on the project.

Chairman Sandra Rouse, along with other committee members of the Welcome Mason project, which is a part of the Lincoln County Alumni Association, were present for the request for approval.

“Some of you might remember that we came to you back in March 2015, to request approval to erect a sign in honor of Mr. Welcome Mason on the former site of the Lincolnton High School. We were requesting that the sign be erected over Ward Avenue, where there is presently a gate,” Roush said. “You granted our request which we are very happy about, however we ran into some unexpected stumbling blocks when we got to the city [council]. The sign did not meet ordinance regulations and stipulations such as right-of-way, height, and other city ordinances and codes.

“After a few meetings with the city we realized that we were not go­ing to be able to meet the standards of the sign that were created by the designer, so we looked at another area on the same site. Tonight we come asking for you to approve the new site, which is right at the corner of Dallas Street and Ward Avenue – if you’re facing the gate, it’s to the left of the gate,” she said.

Since the project’s update was met with board approval, the committee may now proceed to re-submit the pertinent documentation to the Lin­colnton City Council for its approval of the construction.

Furthermore, the board voted to award a bid of $95,000 to DeRalco, Inc. to conduct the plumbing repair work at the elementary school. The project will take place throughout the summer so as not to disrupt the regular school year.

After much discussion, the board also voted to renew the lease of Community Partnership – located at the old high school campus – for one year, until September 2018.

“The Community Partnership lease has come before us tonight for the reason to work on or affect the matching grant,” Dr. Light said. “The reason I am submitting to the board Community Partnership’s lease is the current lease expires in September of 2017, however there is a grant that Community Partner­ships is asking us to approve, that would give them an in-kind match­ing grant for the $360,250. We would do half of that for the in-kind matching process to allow them to use that building, however if we don’t grant the use of the building, then the matching grant would be pointless.”

Blount included that, “we need it as soon as we can get it, as far as knowing if we’re going to be able to go back into the building is concerned. If not, there’s no need for me to even move forward, this grant ends September 30, and to do a continuation we have to have it in now. If y’all don’t approve it, we need to start moving out, it’s real cut and dry.”

While Light initially recom­mended extending the lease to five years, along with lowering the rent by $1,000, board members raised concern over cost of utilities not balancing out with such a decrease. In lieu of this, the board, along with Light, agreed that within one year, figures for the cost of utilities could be calculated and then tenta­tively changing the rent could be re-discussed at that time.

Furthermore, the one-year lease extension was decided on so that it would match up with the end of the grant, and it’s overall timeline.

The board also approved a com­mitment to match the in-kind funds that were previously discussed. “This is not actually any dollars coming out of our pockets, this is just the commitment of the campus and the buildings that they’re us­ing now,” Chairman Jason LeRoy said.

As a part of his superintendent’s comments, Light congratulated LCHS Principal Dr. Howie Gunby on the school reaching Title I stat­ues.

“It is obviously with great please that I have the opportunity to pres­ent an award to the high school for High Progress,” Light said. “This is a Title I award for High Progress at the Lincoln High School for 2017.

“Our Title I faculty, staff, and administration have absolutely exceeded the bar. Again, congratula­tions,” he said.

As a part of the monthly financial report, Director Kaye Bufford noted that 83.33 percent of the fiscal year is complete, and that 89.82 percent of revenues have been collected.

“Of the bulk of the extra revenues there, you can see that the taxes are at 97.56 percent, so we’ve done a good job of collecting our local taxes, and everything else seems to be in line. Some of them, you will see, we’ve actually collected over,” Bufford said

“On the expenditure side, we’re at 76.48 percent, so we’re a little bit under on our expenditures, and that is a good thing. We’re standing quite well for this time of the year,” the director said.

Bufford also reported that there are $3.555 million in the fund bal­ance, although that amount is about $200,000 less than last month, “which is normal. Since we are not collecting those taxes, our expen­ditures are exceeding our revenues monthly on these accounts.”

SPLOST collections for the month of April are $48,902.50, and the di­rector reported that while this figure was higher than last month’s collec­tions, it is still less than what was received at this time last year.

She also reported that there is $142,000 in SPLOST account, and $526,000 in the bond tax account, making $668,000 available for the October bond payment.

Buford also explained that there is $47,000 in the capital projects ac­count available for future projects.

Furthermore, the board held a public hearing for the passing of the tentative budget for the upcom­ing fiscal year. This hearing will be followed by a second hearing slated for Monday, May 22, at 5 p.m. at the board office, which is in compli­ance with a new state mandate that requires that two public hearings be held before the passage of the tentative budget.

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