BY SARAH GREGORY
The Greeneville Board of Education on Thursday gave the go-ahead to purchase three new buses to comply with state mandates -- at a cost of $241,306.
Purchase of an automated system that will allow parents to complete the student registration process on the Internet was also approved.
Tuition rates for the coming school year will remain the same following board action at the Kathryn W. Leonard Administrative Office.
THREE NEW BUSES
The board approved purchase of three new buses for the 2013-2014 school year, in compliance with state mandates that dictate when school systems must replace the vehicles.
Two 78-passenger buses will be purchased at a cost of $88,702 each.
A smaller pre-kindergarten bus, which seats 30 passengers, will be purchased at a cost of $63,902.
Total cost for all three vehicles is $241,306.
Board discussion was brief, but centered around the structural integrity of the vehicles, and whether the Town of Greeneville was aware of the need to purchase the vehicles for the coming school year.
Historically, the school system requests funding for necessary buses from Greeneville as part of budget appropriations.
Director of Schools Dr. Linda Stroud said she had spoken with City Administrator Todd Smith and Mayor W.T. Daniels and they are aware of the amount that will be requested as the fiscal year 2014 budget processes continue.
She noted, however, that funding from Greeneville for the buses is not a guarantee until budget development is completed.
The buses must be ordered at this time in order to be received for the start of the next school year.
Board members approved purchase of an automated registration system that will allow families to register their children for school on the Internet instead of filling out more than 30 sheets of paper by hand each year.
Parents will still have the option to fill out the forms on paper if they so desire.
Assistant Director of Schools for Administration Beverly Miller said the program would come with an initial investment of $12,500 for deployment in the 2013-2014 school year.
Funds would come from the 2013-2014 budget.
Miller said that amount was a "significantly discounted" price, which was negotiated on a condition that the system serve as a client reference for the product.
The solution would have a $10,000 cost per year for each year after the first.
The contract period is for one year and can be canceled at any time.
"I'm very excited about this solution," Miller said, commenting that one benefit of the automated system is the ability to more quickly update information, such as changes to parents' phone numbers.
Under the manual process, Miller said, updates to student registration information can take a significant amount of time to process manually.
"I don't necessarily buy the fact that this is going to be easier for families," said board member Mark Patterson.
Patterson did, however, say he could understand the value of the solution for the sake of creating an electronic database of student registration information.
The measure passed, but Patterson did not vote, as he was not in the room at the time of the vote.
Patterson, a local surgeon, must occasionally step out of the room or leave meetings to respond to medical calls.
NO CHANGE TO TUITION
The board voted to maintain the same tuition rates for the coming 2013-2014 school year.
Tuition rates are reviewed each year as registration process begins.
Last year, the rate was raised $50 for a family's first child.
This year, Stroud said she recommended no additional increase.
Anderson abstained from the vote, stating a conflict of interest, as he pays tuition for his grandchildren to attend Greeneville City Schools.
Without discussion, the board voted unanimously, with Anderson abstaining, to leave tuition rates as they are: $1,075 for in-county, and $1,650 for out-of-county tuition students.
An agreement with Microsoft for software licenses at a cost of $24,340 was approved.
The agreement will allow the school system to take advantage of discounted, volume pricing to provide up-to-date software for all computers in the system.
"This allows us to have a complete, open agreement to update every system in the district to the latest and greatest," Miller said.
She told the board that the purchase "will pay for itself" when software on systems purchased this year alone is updated.
Extra savings will be realized with the purchase of systems in the 2013-2014 school year.
In addition to providing the ability to continually upgrade software to the latest versions without incurring additional cost, the licenses will allow the system to be able to update freely in such a way that systems will have matching versions of software programs -- a process that, previously, would have become very costly very quickly.
The measure passed unanimously without discussion.
CARPET INSTALLATION BID
A bid award for installation of new carpeting in the library of Hal Henard Elementary School and library and some classrooms of EastView Elementary and Tusculum View Elementary schools was approved unanimously.
Total cost for the labor is $61,614 from capital improvement funds.
A local company, Terry's Flooring, was the low bidder.
Chief Financial Officer Nicole Buchanan gave a report of February financial statements, which the board voted unanimously to accept.
Local revenue collections were up $692,809 over the same period last year, Buchanan said.
The majority of the increase came from property tax collections.
Buchanan said she was happy to report sales tax collections for February were up almost $13,000 from the same time last year.
Month-to-date revenues were reported as $4,189,175. Month-do-date expenditures were $2,450,923, leaving a net revenue of $1,738,252.
Thus far, revenue collections are at 68.6 percent of budget for the budget year.
Expenditures for the current year are at 60.3 percent of budget.
Buchanan also gave the board an update on the budget development process for 2013-2014.
She said she is continuing to work on revenue projections, and numbers from the Tennessee Department of Education will be available at some point in April.
During the budget projection process, she says she is making calculations based on only 1 percent growth estimates in property and sales taxes collections.
Buchanan said that she is continuing to study how the federal healthcare reform law, the Affordable Care Act -- also known as Obamacare -- will affect the system, as portions of the law come into effect in 2014.
She said the system will have to be "especially diligent" in regard to part-time employees to monitor that they do not go over a certain amount of hours.
One minor revision to board policy was approved on first reading without discussion.
The revision relates to policy 5.200 -- "Separation Practices for Tenured Teachers."
Buchanan said the Tennessee School Boards Association made a recommendation that the system make minor modifications to language in a section related to insurance benefits for retirees.
The change simply clarifies that a retiree must continue on the state insurance plan to be guaranteed the system's incentive of health insurance paid by the system, pending the employee meeting system eligibility requirements.
The revision passed unanimously on first reading.
REMEMBERING DR. MARTIN
The meeting began with a moment of silence in memory of Dr. Ernest Martin, Director of Greeneville City Schools from 1994 through 2000.
Dr. Martin died on March 6.
Board member Jerry Anderson said Martin was "truly a wonderful man who set the tone for this school system."
He added that virtually "all of the awards from the last 15 to 20 years have basically been due to that tone and the people he put in place."
Stroud took a moment to share her impressions of Martin from her first meeting with him.
Stroud said that Martin formulated the "vision and belief statement still used in our school system today."
Martin "had a profound effect on my life as a leader. I simply loved him," she said.
At the conclusion of comments, a moment of silence was observed in the late director's memory.