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Board approved $720,207 budget for school system

By Bill ShortFlag City Logo

The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a $720,207 budget this week to fund the municipal school system for the remainder of this fiscal year.
Board members took the action Monday night during their regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Thomas McGhee and seconded by Alderman Mike Caruthers. The motion was passed by six affirmative votes, with Alderman Frankie Dakin absent.
On a motion offered by Caruthers and seconded by Alderman Chris Ford, the board also passed an ordinance on final reading that amends the city’s budget to include the school system funding.
In the current fiscal year, the board initially appropriated $241,285 for the school district. But in early January, the Millington School Board submitted a proposed budget of $375,000 to cover the period from December 2013 through the end of this month.
At its Jan. 13 meeting, the city board voted unanimously to postpone approval of the School Board’s budget request until the amending ordinance was passed on final reading.
City Attorney Charles Perkins had said that, if the School Board could “finalize” its budget through the end of the current fiscal year, the ordinance could easily be amended to the proper amount.
On Monday night, Dr. David Roper, superintendent of the municipal school system, presented the revised $720,207 budget proposal that was approved by the School Board at its March 5 meeting.
“We are in startup mode for our new school district,” he noted, “and we’re plowing new ground in a lot of ways.”
Although the four school buildings in Millington’s system will belong to the city on June 4, Roper said the district is not allowed to employ teachers until July 1 or “commence instruction” until Aug. 1.
“Since we are in startup mode,” he acknowledged, “we will not have nearly the kinds of expenditures for classroom teachers, principals and others that we would have during a normal operating year.”
Roper said the two primary expenditures in the revised budget proposal are $282,135 for salaries and benefits to the Central Office staff and School Board members, and $301,500 for capital outlays.
While noting that the Central Office currently has four staff members, Roper said he hopes to employ a fifth person next week. Others will ultimately be hired to supervise various programs, such as Special Education, Information Technology and Human Resources.
He said the school system is currently leasing space in the Millington Industrial Development Board building on Veterans Parkway and will lease more as additional personnel are employed.
But he will seek the School Board’s approval of a plan to renovate space in the Harvell Civic Center to be a permanent location for the Central Office. He said part of the $301,500 will be used to cover the cost involved in “whatever arrangement” can be made with the city.
Roper said “dues and memberships” will include the School Board’s membership in the Tennessee School Boards Association and the Association of Independent and Municipal Schools, as well as his membership in the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents.
He cited the cost of liability insurance provided by the Tennessee Municipal League for the remainder of the fiscal year. And he said there is also the cost to train new employees on “existing programs” or current employees on new ones.
Along with the other new municipal school districts, Roper said, Millington is exploring a number of options for “shared services.” They include health insurance for employees, transportation, food services for child nutrition and custodial services.
He also said the districts are required to protect the “rights and privileges” of existing Shelby County school employees who will be “transitioning” to the municipal systems. Those include a salary at least equal to and health insurance comparable to what they are currently receiving.
To keep costs as low as possible, Roper said, the municipal districts are attempting to create a “self-funded” health insurance pool.
“To the extent that we can have cost savings there and have shared services,” he noted, “we don’t have to bring as many people on board in our Central Office.  And we can apply more of our resources to where things really count, which is in the classroom, where the teaching and learning takes place for our students.”
Roper said the school system is eager to work with the city, not just on budget matters, but on any kinds of “cooperative things” that could be helpful. As examples, he cited potential opportunities for shared custodial and maintenance services.
“I just want to express our willingness to try to entertain any possibilities that we might have to work with you,” he concluded. “And we appreciate your working with us.”

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