Public meeting planned for BL building project

LISBON – The big news coming of the Beaver Local Board of Education’s meeting Monday evening was that of another meeting, which has been scheduled for next week.

District Superintendent Kent Polen announced that a long-awaited “town hall” meeting on the progress of the Beaver Local School building project will be held at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 20 in the high school auditorium. Polen says the presentation will include architectural drawings, showing the progression from the original rough concept shown in January 2012 to today’s detailed schematics by Olsavsky Jaminet Architects.

Polen will also review the project timeline, which he says is currently four weeks ahead of schedule. “The way we’ve been doing the design process and working with the architects, we’ve been able to get the work done quicker than we thought,” he said.

According to Polen, all surveying work has been completed, site core samples have been taken and tested, and the traffic study has been finished and turned in to the state. “I think people will be satisfied with where we are,” he said.

The public is encouraged to attend, especially those involved with the building trades. “If there’s anybody in the community that you know that wants to do business with the school and that project, that would be a good opportunity,” board member Greg Eisenhart said.

During his report to the board, district treasurer Robert Barrett criticized a new school funding proposal from Governor John Kasich that would freeze state educational funding in most Columbiana County districts through fiscal year 2015.

As it stands, Barrett said the $8,750,148 that Beaver Local received from the state for fiscal year 2013 is already down 3.3 percent from the $9,048,759 that the district received four years ago. FY 2009 was used for comparison purposes, as it was last year in which district budgets were not augmented by Federal Stimulus and State Fiscal Stabilization Fund money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Barrett said that, after subtracting funding from local property taxes, the state cuts result in $3,318 for the district to spend on each student in 2014, a drop of $506 from the $3,823 per student that was available in FY 2009.

Barrett’s objections to the governor’s budgetary proposals were not isolated to Beaver Local, however. Only three of the eleven county school districts, Salem, Wellsville and Columbiana Village, would receive budget increases over the next three years. Barrett said that, for school districts in an economically depressed county, this was unacceptable.

“Columbiana County is an Appalachian county,” he said. “Most of the school districts are low poverty, and [the budgetary adjustments are] a bunch of zeroes.”

Barrett believes that this new proposal is a non-starter because, in his opinion, it doesn’t comply with the state Supreme Court’s 1991 decision in the DeRolfe case, which found the property-tax-based method of education funding to be unconstitutional. “I’ll keep the board informed as this progresses until June 30, when we know what our money is going to be,” he said.

Following an executive session for personnel matters, board accepted the resignation of on-board instructor Debbie Bowersock, effective Jan. 29. Approved one-year contract for Shana Lawrence as a district bus driver, effective Jan. 10.

In other business:

* The board approved a three-year, $4,300 annual contract with Sammy L. Stamm and Co. accountants to assist with a state-mandated conversion from a cash-basis accounting system to a standardized GAAP (General Accepted Accounting Principals) system. Board member Pat O’Hara asked if the conversion was an unfunded mandate. “They’re all unfunded mandates when it comes to state funding,” Barrett replied.

* District has accepted its first share of state funding for construction of the new school in the amount of $897,772.40, which Barrett said will go towards the surveying, architectural, traffic study and other work undertaken so far.

* Board member Bill Croxall was absent and excused from meeting due to a family illness