Board Taps Legal Budget to Fund Disney Field Trip

WINNSBORO (March 25, 2016) – The Fairfield School District’s legal fees budget line, which has been described by some board members in the past as a slush fund, was once again a topic at the School Board’s March 15 meeting.

Projecting a $1 million surplus in the fund balance by the end of the fiscal year, the District’s Director of Finance, Kevin Robinson, also asked the board to consider a budget transfer request to move $7,000 from the legal fees budget line to help pay for the Fairfield Middle School chorus to perform at Disney World in Orlando. District Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green said students had raised or contributed more than $30,000 toward the trip.

“Why is it that we are continuously funding the same groups?” Board member Annie McDaniel (District 4) asked. “I know we have an outstanding chorus, but my question is the disparity that we keep funding the same trip, and I am sure there are other opportunities for our children that we are not funding.”

She questioned why the district was not funding transportation for other students for extra-curricular activities as that would impact the students even more.

Board member Paula Hartman (District 2) also raised the on-going question of why the students needed to go so far away to perform.

“At risk of opening an additional can of worms, it is important to know where this money is coming from,” Board member William Frick said. “I think it was mentioned that this would be coming out of legal fees … what is the status of that budget?”

Chairwoman Beth Reid (District 7) stated that 95 percent of the legal fees budget was still unspent, so there was plenty of room to make the $7,000 transfer.

Referring to past questions that had been raised about why the legal fund continues to be over-budgeted and used to fund other projects that come up, Hartman commented, “That’s our slush fund.”

“Contributing to students’ going to Disney World is not a slush fund,” Reid said. “There are legal fees that are not being spent. Therefore, there is a surplus which most graciously we should share if at all possible with the students, which I think you are focused on.”

The board approved the transfer, 5-2, with Hartman opposed and McDaniel abstaining.

The board also voted unanimously to approve the adoption of new textbooks for the 2016-2017 school year even though three board members – Hartman, McDaniel and Frick – said they had not been made aware that the textbooks were available for review prior to the meeting.

Dr. Claudia Edwards, Deputy Superintendent of Academics, said classroom teachers had been given the opportunity to give input into the selection, and the recommended textbooks had been on display at the district offices since February. She said the board had been notified in last month’s side pocket to the agenda.

Frick said the only reason he knew the books were in the office was that he happened to go by the district office on some other business. Since approving textbooks is “a fairly core function that we have, I ask that next year you make an announcement when they are coming out,” he said.

Reid agreed to do that.