By T. Scott Boatright
It was a typical June meeting for the Lincoln Parish School Board Tuesday evening at the Central School Office Complex – meaning much of it was sort of the “Juanita Duke Show.”
June school board meetings usually involve a lot of money matters preparing for the new academic year, and Duke, the school system’s Chief Financial Officer, spoke to board members Tuesday night concerning five matters of new business while also reporting on sales tax receipts for May 2023, a financial update from April 2023 and a health plan update for April 2023.
Superintendent Ricky Durrett opened the meeting with unfinished business, asking board members to reject bids that had been received for the Ruston High School Football Turf Project.
“We decided we can get at least one if not two more seasons out of the current turf and felt it would be best at this point to put that off for now and address at a later date,” Durrett said.
Duke then told board members about five straight matters of new business before they were voted on.
She opened with consideration to adopt a resolution authorizing the incurring of debt and issuance General Obligation School Bonds, Series 2023, of the Simsboro School District No. 3.
“In the April election voters approved the funding of bonds for capital improvement projects for the Simsboro School District No. 3 to sell $10 million worth of bonds for the school to begin those improvements,” Duke said. “It provides for bond counsel, administrators involved in the issuance of bonds and costs of the work.”
That resolution passed unanimously, as did all the other matters of new business, with all 12 school board members in attendance at the meeting.
Duke then explained and LPSB members passed the 2023-24 proposed budget for the Lincoln Parish Sales and Use Tax Commission and adopted millages for the 2023 Tax Roll.
“Operating costs for the Sales and Use Tax Commission are $245,290 and of that, the School Board’s cost will be about $106,490,” Duke said. “That’s approximately a 13% increase over the cost from last year. We collect over $26-27 million in sales taxes across the parish, and I’ll say that for that amount of cost to the district, it’s a real efficient operation. We’re very fortunate to have them do this service for us.”
Duke said there were a couple of changes to the 2023 Tax Roll millages.
“One of them is the 1993 ad valorem tax, which is being increased from 9.44 to 10 mils for the 2023 Tax Role as a result of the March ’22 election renewing that for 10 years,” Duke said. “The Ruston School District bond millage will decrease from 17.75 mils to 16.75 mils. That was because of the available balance we have in our net service funds in addition to what debt payments are for the next year. We were able to lower that slightly for the 2023 Tax Roll.
“Then for the Simsboro School District No. 3, we are proposing to increase that in this resolution from 5.95 mils to 11.5 mils after the resolution that was just passed authorized the sale of $10 million in bonds. That is to levy that tax in order to pay for the service that will come due in the 2024 calendar year after those bonds are sold.”
Duke said all other Tax Roll rates will remain the same before explaining the 2023-24 Employee Salary Schedules and Pay Rates and Fall Instructional Supply Allocation before those were passed by LSPB members.
In other new business, Durrett and architect Mike Walpole explained why they were requesting permission to use the Construction Management at Risk Service (CMAR) for the Simsboro School District, and Asst. Superintendent John Young explained potential revisions to the LPSB’s Policy Manual. Those potential revisions will be voted on during the LPSB meeting next month, which will be held on July 11 because of the July 4 holiday.
According to projectsight.trimble.com, CMAR is a project delivery method in which the owner hires a construction manager (CM) to oversee the project from design to construction close-out and deliver it with a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) provided to the owner prior to the bid stage.
“Because the CM could be responsible for paying the difference when going over budget, the CM must closely manage the project budget and schedule to stay within the GMP. CMAR is a project delivery method not to be confused with Construction Manager Agency (CMA), which describes a relationship whereas the CM legally represents the client and makes project-specific decisions,” that website says.
During the reports part of the meeting, Durett addressed the National Honor Society (NHS) selection process at Ruston High School, adding that Choudrant and Simsboro High Schools have opted to use a Beta Club format as opposed to a NHS.
“At the request of (LPSB member) Danielle Williams and Dana Talley, Ruston High School looked at the National Honor Society selection process,” Durrett said. “Committee members presented recommendations. There were three that were recommended and the school implemented all three.
“One was to hand deliver applications to all students eligible for the National Honor Society. They added a minority grader. Before there was one person who graded the essays, now they have two and added a writing prompt so kids had a choice between one or the other.”
Durrett said that the committee recommended keeping a teacher as part of the selection process.
“This past year 600 kids were eligible with grade point average and 600 kids were given the letter of application and 128 filled them out and then 59 were selected,” Durrett said. “In the past we’ve had 85-100 that actually applied – this year that number went up to 128. Also minority membership increased from 16% last year to 22% this past year.
“I don’t think it’s where we’d like it to be. I do think it’s moving in the right direction. I think one of the bigger challenges for us is that 600 kids could have applied but only 128 did apply.”
Before moving that the meeting be adjourned, LPSB member Hunter Smith reminded board members as well as the crowd on hand watching that they were all at the meeting for one reason – the students of the Lincoln Parish school system.
“I think that our teachers, administrators, counselors, everybody involved – Central Office, community, parents and students especially, should be commended (for our high graduation rates),” Smith said. “I’m proud to be a part of this board. I’m proud to be sitting at this table with the 11 of you. I’m proud to be working with Ricky Durrett. I’m proud to be working with John Young and all the Central Office employees. I’m proud of the community and these crowds.
“We’ve asked for this for a long time and we appreciate you being here. We appreciate you reaching out to us. And that’s what it takes. It takes communication; not sometimes, not when it’s tough, not when it’s hard but all the time.
“We’ve got an incredible district. Is it perfect? No. By no means is it perfect. But we’re going to put our boots on every day, and we’re going to come to work and we’re going to keep working on it, and I appreciate the opportunity to be here with each of you.”