BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County School System's Long-Range Planning Committee identified just over $800,000 in infrastructure needs that the committee will ask the County Board of Education to fund this year.
The committee met on Tuesday to review needs compiled by David McLain, assistant director of operations and academic services for the school system, and by Maintenance Director David Myers.
The "top priority" list presented to the committee totaled just over $1 million and did not include any needs for technology.
The Board of Education previously paid for both capital projects and technology needs out of any remaining revenues or savings at the end of the school year.
Last year, however, the board agreed to pull $700,000 at mid-year from their undesignated fund balance, or savings, for capital improvements.
Myers explained that taking that action allows the system to act ahead of time to receive and approve bids and be ready to complete projects over the summer.
He requested Tuesday that the board once again follow this practice by settling on a capital projects budget in December.
The committee, composed of Chairman Nathan Brown and board members Kathy Austin and Tommy Cobble, agreed to present their recommendations to the full school board during their November retreat.
However, Austin expressed some concern with budgeting a large amount of money from the undesignated fund balance so early in the year, before the board members know how the current fiscal year will close and whether there will be a projected shortfall in the 2014-2015 county school budget.
FUND BALANCE DISCUSSED
The committee estimated that the school system's savings at the end of the 2012-2013 fiscal year stood at $2.8 million.
"We could take up to $900,000 [for capital projects] to be at the same level as last year," Brown said.
This statement was in reference to the $1.9 million that remained in the county school system's savings after the board approved spending $700,000 on capital projects last year.
Austin recommended that this year's spending on capital projects should be kept close to only $450,000, in order to "keep a safety net for other items."
Brown agreed that spending the full $900,000 might not be in the system's best interests.
"I wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable using the whole $900,000," Brown said. "Maybe $700,000-something."
McLain recommended that the committee go through the recommended items, which Myers detailed, and make a list that could be summarized as: "It has to be done."
The committee did go through the list of recommendations and designate the ones that were essential to be carried out.
This top-priority list included all safety improvements, including safety entrances at the three schools that do not yet have them (Glenwood, Nolachuckey and the T.H. McNeese Educational Center), as well as magnetic entry buzzer systems for any school that does not yet have one, and a number of exterior door replacements.
Other items on the top-priority list included floor-tiling repairs, roofing, plumbing, HVAC replacement and more.
The committee debated whether to carry out plumbing at Baileyton Elementary School or in the West Greene High School kitchen.
Both items made their top-priority list, but the committee later said it may be best to only fix Baileyton this year, since that plumbing dates from the 1930s.
The plumbing at West Greene dates from the 1960s.
Other items that were debated included installing air conditioning in two coaches' offices at North Greene High School and updating a science lab there as well.
Myers said that two of the six laboratory tables in the science classroom went "missing" under a prior principal.
But he would only say that it was not when McLain was principal and that he did not know details or when the laboratory tables were discovered missing.
Replacement costs were estimated at $12,000.
The committee concluded that they would take their list of needs to the board during their Nov. 19 retreat.
2012-2013 TOP PRIORITIES
Members also briefly reviewed items from last year's top-priority list.
Austin praised Myers and McLain for creating a list of this year's important capital needs that is very close to last year's second tier of items, which did not get addressed last year.
She did express concern that the HVAC system installation begun at West Greene High School was converted to natural gas instead of the electric system the school board originally approved.
Although school board members did discuss potential long-term savings from converting the HVAC system from electricity to natural gas, making the change was never brought to the board for a vote, Austin said.
Myers reported that the end cost for a natural gas-based HVAC system was $50,000 higher than the original cost estimate for an electricity-based system.
"Be sure if we discuss something that we bring it before the board and vote on it," Brown agreed.
"I want to make sure that we get things done the way that they need to be going forward."