The Richmond Register

September 29, 2013

Board to vote on full-day kindergarten Oct. 10

By Bill Robinson
Register Editor

RICHMOND — The Madison County School Board will vote Oct. 10 on a commitment to begin full-day kindergarten in the fall.

During a semi-annual budget meeting this past Thursday, board member Becky Coyle asked that such a vote be put on the next regular meeting’s agenda.

The board voted Sept. 9 to set property tax rates calculated to increase revenue from existing property by 4 percent with the understanding the money would be used to fund full-day kindergarten.

However, some observers have remained skeptical that expanded kindergarten would start as early as the next school year, Coyle said.

When board chair Mona Isaacs asked Superintendent Elmer Thomas if he was agreeable to such a vote then, he replied affirmatively.

Although school district staff could not have a finished proposal prepared by Oct. 10, Thomas said he was comfortable with the board making a formal commitment to full-day kindergarten in the fall.

Full-day kindergarten was discussed in passing during the budget review.

Board member John Lackey expressed some surprise that projected income from 2013 property taxes would exceed the previous year’s revenue only by about $671,000.

At one point as he went through the complicated and often confusing numbers, Lackey pointed to one field in the 45-page budget speadsheet that appeared to show a revenue of only about $400,000.

“I’d hate to think we went through all that pain last month for only $400,000,” he said, referring to the tax increase.

However, Debbie Fraizer, assistant superintendent for finance, pointed to a field showing a bit more than $671,000 as correctly reflecting the extra revenue.

Revenue projections are based on numbers derived by the state government based on local property values and assessments, Frazier said.

Some observers may have been hoping for a greater revenue amount, she said, but total Madison County property value did not rise as much in 2013 as it did in 2012.

The 4 percent revenue cap is applied only to existing property, not new property, Frazier added.

Most updated budget figures varied little from the previously reported numbers, and the review proceeded routinely.

A large portion of the meeting, which lasted an hour and 15 minutes, was devoted to an update of the board’s bonding capacity.

Based on projected capital outlay funding from the state, the board could potentially sell up to $30 million in bonds, said Joe Nance of Ross Sinclair & Associates, the district’s bonding agent.

However, the board has no major capital construction project on the horizon.

The legislature continues to allow school boards to spend a portion of their state-provided capital outlay for operating expenses, the representative noted. But, a board’s bonding authority is reduced by a corresponding amount when that is done.

Bill Robinson can be reached at editor@richmondregister.com or at 624-6690.