School Board Green-Lights Budget, Contract Negotiations

The Fairfield County School Board gave the final OK for their 2012-2013 budget of $32,898,265 on a 7-0 vote Tuesday night. The Board avoided a millage increase by taking $109,125 from the fund balance to cover additional expenses for the coming fiscal year.

An amended version of the motion, which would have required another public hearing after a budgetary review by a new superintendent, failed to garner more than two votes. The motion, put forth by Board member Annie McDaniel, drew only her vote and that of Marchella Pauling, who seconded the motion, in support.

“This is only so we don’t tie the hands of the new superintendent,” McDaniel said during the discussion, “so he can change what needs to be changed and take the District where he wants it to go.”

McDaniel repeatedly stressed that she felt there were problems with the new salary scale, which the Board approved as part of the budget last week. She said she also felt the public had not had adequate time to review the budget prior to Tuesday night’s public hearing, something also expressed by Thomas Armstrong, a parent and member of the public in attendance.

“I would like to ask that the Board table the public hearing until the public can have time to review the budget and ask intelligent questions,” Armstrong said during the hearing. Armstrong said he has requested a copy of the budget for weeks but only received a copy just prior to the hearing.

The Board did not honor his request to table the hearing, noting that the deadline for the District to present their budget to the County had already, in fact, passed on June 15.

A new superintendent for the District, meanwhile, remains undecided. After nearly two hours in executive session Tuesday night, the Board voted 6-1 to authorize the District’s attorneys to begin contract negotiations with “one or more of the candidates as discussed in executive session,” Board member Beth Reid stated in her motion.

Andrea Harrison, Board Chairwoman, voted against the motion.

Harrison later told The Voice that the discussion had been to negotiate with candidate number one, then move on to number two should those negotiations not come to fruition.

“I was opposed to candidate number one,” Harrison said. “My decision was my decision.”