2017-09-21 / Front Page

BOE votes to reduce mills to 17, announces ‘Teachers of the Year’

This year’s Maintenance and Op­erations (M and O) tax millage rate was set at 17 mills by the Lincoln County Board of Education last week, marking a slight decrease from last year’s 17.006.

“We’re recommending that it be lowered to an even 17 mills. That is a loss of $87,417 or 1.95 percent, but that is the recommendation,” Superintendent Dr. Samuel Light said.

“That’s an actual rollback mill­age rate – 17 – it’s due to a loss and changes in the tax digest. A lot of that is car tags, where people are paying the sales tax on the new cars, but they no longer have to pay the birthday tax. That’s going to continue to go down in the mo­tor vehicles area. It’s been steadily going down in the last few years,” Finance Director Kaye Bufford explained.

Furthermore, members voted to keep the bond tax millage rate the same at 2.977.

“Right now with the SPLOST collections fluctuating up and down we don’t feel comfortable reducing that,” Chairman Jason LeRoy said.

Bufford affirmed, “I don’t feel comfortable going any lower than that right now, but we’ll look at it in a year and re-evaluate it.”

In other business, this year’s nominations for Teachers of the Year were announced, and include LCES fourth-grade math and sci­ence teacher Amanda Sandifer, LCMS seventh-grade ELA teacher Susan Pilgrim, and LCHS inclusion math teacher Debbie Deason.

The teachers will be featured in a subsequent issue of The Lincoln Journal, and will be honored at a Lincoln County School System banquet in October.

Director of Teaching and Learn­ing Benton Cunningham presented the latest testing results from the Georgia Milestones, ACT, and SAT.

“As far as the Georgia Milestones goes, the test scores students on four different levels, and those levels are ‘Beginning Learner,’ basically that means they have not mastered the fundamentals. Then there’s ‘Developing Learning,’ which means they’re not quite there yet. ‘Proficient Learner’ means that they’ve mastered the basics, and ‘Distinguished Learner’ means they’re your top performers,” Cun­ningham said, explaining that the state deems “Proficient” and Dis­tinguished” as passing scores.

The director included that overall students did well in math, science, and social studies, however, and as expected, there was a decrease in ELA scores. The decrease was expected, according to Cunning­ham, due to schools across the state facing similar challenges in this subject. Cunningham pointed out that it’s more than reading and grammar involved in ELA, but also reading comprehension, text analysis, and writing and response to text analysis, to highlight a few of the challenges.

“We had 24 tested areas this past year, and 16 of those 24 areas were in the top three for the CSRA, so we were pleased with that,” Cun­ningham segued. “In grades three, four, and six, which only had two tested content areas – those were ELA and math – they were in the top three within the CSRA. Fifth grade had two of the four tested areas, because fifth grade was one of those isolated grades that tested for sciences and social studies. For the high school, all of their ELA, their math, and their science were in the top three.

“The ones that were number one in the CSRA, the ones that beat out Columbia County and Wilkes County, which tend to be our rivals, were fifth-grade math, fifth-grade science, and Algebra I,” Cunningham said, noting that despite seeing declines in Algebra I, Lincoln County is still ahead of other neighboring counties.

In closing, the director praised the efforts of teachers, faculty, and staff in their continuous strides to improve student learning and growth.

Regarding the ACT, Cunningham reported that the number of test- takers decreased from last year, and that scores were below the state average, however she did positively include that there was an increase in scores from 2016 to 2017.

As the SAT was revised in March of 2016, the director explained that the grading scale was reverted back to 1600, and that the penalty for guessing incorrectly on questions was removed, resulting in an in­crease of students across the nation taking the test.

In Lincoln County, 87 students took the SAT, a huge increase from years past, to which Cunningham added that the average score was 1028, and the three highest scores were 1290.

Transitioning, the board returned to the matter of demolishing the ag­ricultural building on the old high school campus, which was tabled at last months meeting to gather more input and bids for the job.

The board voted to hire Hamilton Dawkins to demolish and clean up the space for $16,100, with the ca­veat that he leave the concrete foun­dation in tact so that a propane tank and school buses may be moved there for fueling purposes.

The board also returned to the decision to replace the roof on the old gymnasium, which was also tabled at last month’s meeting.

The board voted to hire HBC Technology, LLC to do the replace­ment for $32,864.

Additionally, FCCLA and CTAE students Students Jalicia Norman, Oak­ley Carani, and Alexis McCall, along with CTAE student Isabelle Linkous were praised for their hard work in competing on local, state, and national levels in various cat­egories throughout the summer.

“Our CTAE has showed off – that’s the best way to put it – their exceptional skills. They have not only done great things regionally, but they went on to state and blew it out of the water, and then went to nationals, and again showed off. All I can do is congratulate them,” Light said.

As a part of his superintendent’s report, Light discussed the rise of cyber security being promoted by Fort Gordon.

“I wanted to provide an update to the board on some of the things Lincoln County has been asked to participate in, or encouraged to participate in, but I think all of y’all are aware that Fort Gordon was talking about a new 35,000 soldiers coming in the next 5-10 years,” Light explained. “That be­ing said, Fort Gordon is taking on the mindset that they need to grow their own civilian assistance. In doing that they’re targeting local school systems around Fort Gordon and are introducing children to cyber security.”

Through Fort Gordon’s company NICERC, 180 lessons are available in every grade level, ranging from literary subjects to sciences, but are all based around cyber security and the cyber range.

“In talking to the principals, and talking to Mrs. Cunningham, we’re looking at this as an introduction or exposure to cyber security. I don’t believe we need immersion in cyber security, if we do then we’re throwing everything out, and we have way too many great things going on, however the last thing I want to do is restrict our kids and not let them be exposed to some­thing that could be employment opportunities immediately outside of high school,” Light said, noting further research into the matter is all they’re doing at present.

As a part of her monthly finan­cials update, Director Bufford reported that at two months into the new fiscal year, 16.66 percent of it is now complete.

She noted that 12.47 percent of revenues have been collected, stating, “It’s normal at this time of year for everything to be a little bit low.”

Bufford also highlighted, “I know it looks odd, but we’ve got 290 percent under our ‘other local’ [ledger], and the reason for that is we had some insurance refunds for the computer/fire backup that we had, and a bus. While we did have those items budgeted, they will have an offsetting expendi­ture, so we’ll just add that in when we amend the budget, it’s not like we’re going to have more revenue, we’re just offsetting that extra ex­penditure we had.”

Expenditures for the month of August were at 17.37 percent, to which Bufford explained, “At this time of year we do have several things that we have at the begin­ning of the year like software and insurance that we have to pay early, and those will level out.”

She further reported that there is $2.5 million in cash, and $1.7 in fund equity.

SPLOST collections were at $55,856.74 for August, which marks the first month of the new SPLOST schedule. Bufford ex­plained that $50,000 a month is budgeted for the year.

The director reported that there is $360,679.11 in the SPLOST ac­count, and $569,116.48 in the bond tax account, giving $929,795.59 for the October bond payment.

There is $148,937 available for capital projects.

The next meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Education is slated for Tuesday, October 10, beginning at 7 p.m. at the board office.

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