BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County Budget & Finance Committee recommended approval of a request for building improvements in the Greene County School System on Wednesday.
The Greene County Board of Education approved in December an $809,000 expenditure from the system's fund balance (or savings) for roofing, HVAC, exterior door replacements and safety measures, plumbing and computer purchases.
However, this expenditure had to next pass through the county Budget & Finance Committee and must receive a majority vote of approval in the full County Commission before the school system can make these improvements.
"We're trying to do a mid-year [budget] revision to begin work on these capital projects so that we can do a more timely job of getting the work done by the end of the summer," County Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk said.
"This still leaves our fund balance in good stead," she added.
Kirk said that the board is taking this measure as a "responsible way" to address the extensive infrastructure in the county school system.
She noted that the majority of the buildings are from the 1960s or earlier and are in need of updates and repairs.
"If we don't keep up with this, we will be leaving a legacy of crumbling infrastructure for our children, which is just as bad as leaving them in debt," she said.
Kirk further added that fixing these issues before the plumbing actually breaks or the aged roofs begin leaking is cheaper for the system than fixing them once damage has occurred.
Commissioner Robert Bird agreed.
"I think it's a good idea to correct things that you know are about to happen," Bird said.
He further requested that the system be cautious of who is bidding so that no public officials receive a contract from the system.
He also requested that the system keep detailed records and minutes of bid openings and an explanation of any time the lowest bid is not the one approved.
Kirk replied that the system is considering several new procedures to help address these issues and already has a new form for bidders to sign concerning conflicts of interest.
The committee unanimously recommended approval of this request to the County Commission, as well as a request for mid-year budget adjustments in the system's general fund as a result of $118,000 in increased revenues from various grant sources.
Other requests receiving the committee's recommendation included:
* budgeting $52,000 from the annual sign-on bonus from the jail telephone service for the Sheriff's Department to purchase law enforcement equipment;
* budgeting $5,222 in reimbursements from traffic patrol and background checks for the Sheriff's Department to purchase law enforcement equipment and other items; and,
* budgeting $15,000 from the sale of surplus equipment for the Solid Waste Department to purchase equipment, machinery parts and gasoline.
In final business, the committee heard a report from Clerk & Master Kay Solomon Armstrong, who told the committee that her office had for a long time contracted with Bridge Computer Systems, of Piney Flats.
Saratoga Software, an international company, purchased that Bridge Computer Systems over a year ago, prompting both Armstrong and Circuit Court Clerk Pam Venerable to enter into a contract with Saratoga Software this year.
However, the company accepted Armstrong's payment but not her revisions to the contract that would require them to make software changes as needed for her office to meet state standards on her reports.
As a result, the committee told Armstrong to work with Venerable and other officials to determine the best company to contract with in the coming fiscal year, starting July 1.
Armstrong also said that she would research the cheapest option for replacement of computers and upgrading of software related to two computers in her office that are failing.
Moreover, she cautioned the committee that her nine computers currently run on Microsoft XP software, which will no longer be supported by Microsoft in April.
The committee requested that Armstrong further research these issues and report to the committee in February.