PS board discusses operating budget

By Kelsey Kimbler -

CAMDEN — The Preble Shawnee Local School District Board of Education continued its conversation regarding an operating levy during a meeting on Thursday, Aug. 23.

Responding to a previous report, Denise Robertson asked the board how much money the district has in its general fund. Treasurer Lori Green responded, some questions they can not answer at this time. Robertson pointed out that during the “school levy business” the general fund had $16 million and Superintendent Matt Bishop assured her the fund still has close to that amount.

“The term ‘hemorrhaging money’ was used and I am very sorry Mr. [Jeff] Wood isn’t here, because most of this would be directed at him, but what does that mean? Are you out of control with the budget? What does hemorrhaging money mean? That sounds like a spending problem. Are you in agreement with Mr. Wood that you are hemorrhaging money, because if you still have the same amount of money you had last year then that sounds like a nice, steady budget, to me,” Robertson said.

“Obviously, I cannot speak for Mr. Wood, but I think his point was that we are taking in the bare bones minimum as far as a district, and our spending is outweighing what we are taking in. I think that was his point when he said that these funds were going to be disappearing,” board member Gary Rader said.

“Maybe you should reign in the spending,” Robertson said. “I found it insulting to read in the paper that he would say we need to put a levy on for more money, when you’re sitting on $16 million.”

Robertson added, she hopes the operative levy is not discussed during the community engagement process, as she believes this process should only be focused on the building issue. Rader responded, he hopes the community engagement process helps educate people on how far $16 million will go in fixing or improving the buildings.

“[Preble] County has the same budget, just about, as the school district,” Robertson said. “So I have an understanding of what $16 million is. I don’t think it is rocket science, it is just basic math.”

“I will say, Mrs. Robertson, that Mr. Wood came in with a discussion item that he wanted to talk about and the board decided not to follow that route. The board decided, and I think Mr. Wood maybe even decided by the end, that it wasn’t the best decision at this time,” Vice-President Julie Singleton said.

However, West Elkton fifth grade teacher Kim Willoughby said she hopes the community engagement process is about “more than just buildings.”

“I hope that it is going to be about everything that goes along with offering quality education to our students, which goes way beyond buildings,” Willoughby said. “Right now, I know that we have been trying to save money, because we do not know what is happening with the buildings. Yes, we have that carryover, but in our minds as teachers, we get that we are trying to figure out what is going on, but we should be spending more money than we are, really.”

“Class sizes in the high school right now, 31 or 32 students in a class,” she continued. “I hope everyone understands that the school is trying to be fiscally responsible, because we don’t know what is going on, so I’m hoping through this community engagement process that we are also going to be looking at things like class sizes and the types of technology that are available to students.”

The board also discussed the merits of having a member of the student body sit on the board in a non-voting capacity. The board was in support of the idea, but wondered if there was a negative they were missing.

“I just know there have been a lot of times when the board is having discussions, it would be nice to know what the students thought about of it. If you had someone sitting at the table, you could ask them what they thought, or at least send that person back to talk to their peers,” Bishop said.

“Have you thought of a process how to nominate that person?” Singleton asked.

Bishop suggested the person apply, like a board member would. Members of the board suggested an election or the class president be asked to fill the position. With the board’s support, Bishop agreed to come back to the board with additional information and a suggestion for a student representative.

The next regular board meeting will be held on Thursday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. in the board of education office.

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH