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BOE approves ’20-21 budget

The Russellville City Schools Board of Education approved the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, set to begin Oct. 1, at its monthly meeting Oct. 10.

The overall budget for this year is $39.1 million, which chief financial officer Lisa Witt said is considerably higher than this past year thanks to money for future projects and from the CARES Act.

“This budget includes the bond issue we took out with the city to go toward the project at the high school,” said Witt. “That gave us $10.5 million in new money.”

Construction at the high school will be spread through three fiscal years, with $6 million of the project included in this new budget.

The CARES Act gave RCS a total of $1.7 million from four different funds to help with costs associated with COVID-19.

Witt said some of the money has to be spent by December, but some of the funding can be spent within a two-year time frame.

Money from the CARES Act will go toward expenses associated with fighting COVID-19, such as cleaning supplies, two thermal cameras at each school to check student temperatures and to cover the cost of substitutes if a teacher is out with COVID-19.

CARES Act funding will also go toward technology, including the purchase of 1,200 Chromebooks, which will allow the system to have one Chromebook for each RCS student.

“We normally are able to purchase a few Chromebooks here and there, but this money allowed us to go ahead and finish this out so we are at a one-to-one ratio,” Witt said. “When all of this is over and the cleaning supplies are used up and the masks are gone, we will still be able to have this technology for our students.”

RCS also significantly increased the budget for English Language Learners because of an increase in funding per EL student at the state level.

RCS Superintendent Heath Grimes said the budget increased from $50,000 to $370,000 for EL students, which he called “a step in the right direction.”

“Previously we were having to educate students who can’t speak English for only $100 extra per student,” Grimes said. “Now we have $400 a student, which will help us out a lot. It is still not where we want to see funding at, but it is definitely an improvement.”

Advancement in technology funds will also give RCS $578,000 to go toward improving different aspects of the schools, including capital projects.

“We receive money from the state each year for capital projects, but a lot of the time we don’t get around to a lot of capital projects because the money for capital projects doesn’t go that far,” Witt said. “A lot of the times it will go toward things like a leaky roof or something else that needs to be addressed.”

RCS personnel expense is up 5 percent this year because of additional hires, with the state allocating an additional $300,000 to go toward hiring four additional teachers because of an increase in enrollment.

There are 318 staff in this year’s budget, with 195 holding a teaching certificate and the remaining 123 considered support staff.

The Pre-K budget has expanded this year with two additional classrooms for a total of five classrooms.

The system received $1.25 million from the city from local revenue, which Witt said RCS is always so thankful for.

“We are always very thankful for the support of our local government,” Witt said. “We are very thankful for the great relationship we have with our mayor and city council.”

Witt said there are two expected amendments to the budget, including a state-level bond issue and money from the Simplified Sellers Use Tax.

The state level bond is expected to bring $3.4 million to RCS, which will go toward Phase 2 of the project on the high school, renovation and construction on the career tech building.

Witt said there is also a verbal agreement with the Franklin County Commission, that the commission will allocate two-thirds of the money from the tax to be divided among RCS and Franklin County Schools based on enrollment numbers. Witt said this is estimated to bring an extra $130,000 to RCS.

“We really appreciate the support of our local commission and the support they give education,” Witt added.

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