Genia Smith preps her classroom

Computer teacher Genia Smith was getting her classroom at Cottondale Elementary School ready for Friday's open house. This will be her 18th year of teaching.

MARIANNA — Educators are back at it, decorating classrooms and preparing for open houses later in the week and gearing up for Monday, the first day students come roaring back to class.

Meanwhile, the Jackson County School Board recently finalized several issues related to personnel. The hiring of teachers, resource officers and nurses were just some of the issues discussed when the board convened for two sessions Thursday.

At a public budget hearing, the board unanimously approved the previously proposed millage rate of 6.030, which is lower than the rate used last year (6.160).

The tentative rate of 6.030 mills is divided into three categories: State-mandated Required Local Effort (4.912 mills, down from last year’s 5.042 mills), Basic Discretionary (0.748 mills, same as last year) and Capital Outlay (0.370, same as last year) portions. The new total rate is .68 percent lower than the rolled-back rate, or the rate that would yield the same ad valorem tax revenue as what was levied the prior year.

Using the 2015 Gross Taxable Value of $1,629,471,251, the tentative 6.030 millage rate has the potential to bring $9,825,712 in proceeds for the school district, though only 96 percent ($9,432,683) of those proceeds are used for the purpose of drafting a spending plan. The board also approved a tentative budget of $78,648,696 for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, roughly $1.1 million more than was in last year’s budget.

During the special board meeting that followed, a handful of pending matters were addressed, including a couple of issues that had previously generated some occasionally contentious discussion.

An annual agreement between the school district and the Florida Department of Health in Jackson County brought FDOHJC Administrator William Long to the meeting, to answer questions board members had about health services his department provides for schools, for which the school district is facing an $80,000 increase over last year.

Long told board members that the increase in the school district’s 39-percent portion of the nearly $780,000 bill for the school health services provided by FDOHJC had, in previous years, been subsidized by his agency. Now, Long said, the county Health Department could no longer afford to fill the funding gap.

The school board agreed to approve the agreement between the district and FDOHJC, committing to reimburse the Health Department $306,643 for services, though the board did ask for a review of some documentation that was submitted for review and meant to show the cost of salaries and benefits for employees involved in the program.

As for the much-debated School Resource Office issue, the Marianna Police Department won a tight 3-2 vote to get the SRO contract at Marianna High School, which removes that job from the books of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office — for this year, at least. The board approved contracts with the City of Marianna for two SROs and the Board of County Commissioners for four SROs, contingent on the City making some language adjustments in the agreement and City Commissioners approving the revised contract. That matter is on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting of the Marianna City Commission.

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