2019-20 Budget Approved By Highland School Board

The Highland County School Board approved the 2019-20 budget at their March 27th work session, but the process was anything but smooth, and the vote not unanimous.

Dr. Thomas Schott presented his final proposed budget to the Board during a March 13th work session, after receiving the final budget numbers from the state. Dr. Schott went through the budget in depth, noting that the majority of increases were due to increases in the costs of insurance, fuel, ink, and service contract costs for technology, as well as ordering new textbooks and an increase in sporting materials, which were primarily the cost of umpires and referees for sporting events. It also included teacher salary increases which match a state mandated ratio of 3% over the last two years.

Board chair John Moyers Jr. questioned several items, including fuel usage and using non-district referees. Board member Joe Neil brought up the subject of more compensation for board members, noting this could only be done in an election year, and better compensation could be an inducement for more people to run for the board. He discussed the fact that Highland County paid 80% of insurance costs for the Board of Supervisors, and years ago, school board members had insurance costs covered. Calculations showed this would add approximately $20,000 to the budget for three members. Board member Chris Amirault pointed out this would not be any extra incentive to those who already had insurance through their employer as mandated by law, and discussed a pay raise to the $2,500 per year board members currently receive.

The Board also noted that the budget was likely to be returned by the supervisors for cuts. Dr. Schott said his job was to put forward a budget which would move the school forward, and he felt this one was fair to the school and the community. He agreed to research fuel and sports costs, and whether board members could be added to the school insurance, and the work session was continued to March 27th.

Opening that session, Dr. Schott presented a budget which reflected a $1,500 increase for board member’s salaries. He also explained other research he had done on the fuel costs and umpire costs, saying he felt the numbers were in line, and using non-district umpires would be more costly. Mr. Neil questioned whether board insurance coverage would be discussed, and Schott said he was not recommending it. The Board then exited the work session, and opened the business meeting, where a motion to not approve the pay raise passed 2-1, with Mr. Neil dissenting. The Board then moved back into a work session to discuss the budget, and Dr. Schott explained the justification for several items questioned, then the Board moved back to regular session to vote on it. Mr. Amirault moved to approve the budget, and Mr. Moyers seconded. The vote was indecisive though, as Mr. Neil opposed, and Mr. Moyers abstained due to reservations. This required the re-opening the work session for further discussion, as the budget had to be finalized that evening. Insurance was again a key topic. Mr. Moyers spoke of other localities reducing the percentage of insurance paid for teachers, which Dr. Schott said was not necessary at this time, and that the teachers deserved the full amount paid. Mr. Neil also asked the cost of providing 50% of insurance to board members, which was figured to be approximately $13,700 per year.

After moving back to regular session, Mr. Neil made a motion for adding the board members insurance at 50% coverage, which died for a lack of second. The full budget was once again voted on with Mr. Amirault approving, Mr. Neil dissenting, and Mr. Moyers approving, quote “with reservations.”

The approved budget is $4,505,824, an increase of $100,701 over last year, which increases the county’s portion by $98,258 over last year.

Dr. Schott will present the budget to the supervisors on April 2nd.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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