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story.lead_photo.caption Fulton school board members look at plans for parking lot and drainage projects. Photo by Olivia Garrett / Fulton Sun.

The Fulton Public School District Board of Education met Wednesday to approve the Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

The budget includes $4,019,207 more in revenue than expenditures for all funds, with an operating deficit of $954,514.

Worked into the budget are several assumptions, including state budget cuts and federal CARES Act funding.

The budget includes:

$250 increase to the base certificated staff schedule.

An increase in classified staff schedules to meet the 2021 minimum wage of $10.30 per hour.

An estimated $5 million spent toward Proposition S projects.

"As state, local and federal revenue sources continue to evolve, we anticipate additional revenue and expenditure adjustments throughout the year," Superintendent Jacque Cowherd wrote in the budget summary. "Hence, we are confident this budget will be a good plan but look significantly different at the end of FY21."

The board also discusses coaching stipends, the BAC-PAC program, the Fulton Public Schools Foundation and summer improvement projects.

The stipend issue had been brought up earlier this month — district administration had suggested changing the pay schedule to better prepare for potential future shutdowns.

But when surveyed, coaches and activity sponsors expressed strong reservations about the change, noting they often work all year, not just during a certain season. Nearly 74 percent of survey respondents preferred 12 month pay.

"I thought it would be a good idea to get paid when you do the job," board President Andy Bonderer said. "I didn't realize that there was that much passion about that."

Considering staff feedback, Bonderer said, he didn't see any reason to go forward with the change. During a shutdown, coaches could come up with plans to continue activities with students remotely, similar to how teachers handle virtual learning.

"So you're expecting them to have a plan for their sport or their activity, so when they're shutdown and somebody says, 'Are they still getting paid?' Yes, they're still getting paid because they're doing X, Y and Z," Cowherd said.

Cowherd told the board the district hasn't been able to find a manager for the BAC-PAC program, which provides before- and after-school child care for elementary students.

"We just don't think we can sustain that program the way it's structured right now," Cowherd said.

To find a solution, the district is talking with the YMCA and considering switching to an afternoon-only program.

"We don't think it's a good idea to end the program for our parents, but we don't know exactly how we're going to go," Cowherd said.

Foundation

The debate over the Fulton Public Schools Foundation centers on whether the foundation is a component unit of the district. If it is, the foundation must be audited for the district to receive an unqualified audit opinion.

A clean unqualified opinion indicates financial statements are presented in compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

"So I said to myself, 'What if we don't get an unqualified audit?"' Cowherd said. "I checked with the financial advisor — in his 20-plus years, he's never dealt with a school district that had a modified audit."

The board agreed on the standard of an unqualified audit. To resolve the foundation question, the board decided to include component units in the next bid for auditing services.

Projects

The district hopes to accomplish parking, sidewalk and drainage projects by this summer or early fall, using funds from the Prop S bond issue.

The board examined maps showing several small projects:

Additional parking, lanes and driveways at Bartley Elementary School.

Drainage improvements and a service entrance at Bush Elementary School.

Redoing the front drive and improving drainage and adding a parking lot at McIntire Elementary School.

The board also approved a construction manager at risk delivery method for Prop S building projects.

"I would propose a construction manager at risk," Bonderer said. "The reason I say that is that is qualification-based as opposed to a low-bid method. Based on my experience, the low-bid method can really go wrong."

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