BOE sells bonds for 2020 ESPLOST

News
BOE Bonds Raymond James

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Moving to the selling of Gilmer BOE bonds, no public comment has been presented in any recent Board of Education Meetings to oppose or support selling bonds for the series 2020 ESPLOST (Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funds.

Gabe Agan, Senior Vice President of Raymond James Georgia Public Finance, presented the final paperwork at a Called Meeting of the Gilmer County Board of Education on January 9, 2020. The Bond Yield is set at 1.53 percent for “All-inclusive True Interest Cost” with approval for up to $15 million in General Obligation Bonds.

The schedule is moving swiftly as the pricing was set on January 8, 2020. The Delivery Date is set for January 28, 2020. and Gilmer’s first Interest Payment date will be June 1, 2020. This debt will last through the next five years with a final Principal and Interest Payment date set for December 1, 2025.

BOE Bonds Gabe Agan, Senior Vice President of Raymond James Georgia Public Finance

Gabe Agan, Senior Vice President of Raymond James Georgia Public Finance, presents paperwork to sell bonds for the Series 2020 ESPLOST General Obligation Bonds for Gilmer County’s Board of Education.

According to the paperwork provided by Raymond James Georgia Public Finance, Gilmer is estimated to collect $24,302,765 assuming zero growth and report the school system’s final debt service to total $17,206,450.

This item was approved without contest in the Special Called Meeting for the Gilmer BOE before immediately moving to the Gilmer Board of Commissioners Meeting the same night for approval there. As with the bond sales, should ESPLOST not be enough to pay for the Debt service, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners will be set to impose a tax to cover the payments.

CTAE Local Plan and other Reports approved in August BOE

News

CTAE Local Plan

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education is moving forward with the first month of the new school year as they prepare last minute personnel, plans, and financial reports in the August Meeting.

The board approved personnel but could still see another hire next month as Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said they are looking at another Kindergarten teacher. As such, she did say she will be polling the board for this approval later. The poll will be later confirmed in the next meeting.

Approving the CTAE (Career, Technical, and Agriculture Education) Plan, the board presented a list of Federal and State Grants, along with local funds, to put into the program. The plan, according to Downs, is based on numbers provided by the state through the school system’s consolidated application. Board approval will now return the plan for finalization for these grants.

The plan is similar to last years according to Downs, combined with local matches, the application is an annual process that the board undergoes on routine.

Alongside the Financial Report, ESPLOST Expenditures, and Nutrition Finances, the board approved Purchasing Policy Expenditures including numerous purchase from the L4GA Grant.

Purchasing Policies

Additionally, a purchase came to re-order a maintenance truck from Ronnie Thompson Ford. According to the report, the purchase was originally submitted in FY 19, but the truck was not available by year end, prompting a re-submission now.

Another financial came with an adjustment to the Transportation Salary Schedule. According to Downs, they have been looking for a diesel mechanic for the buses for a long time. Downs said, “We are finally able to find someone, and in order to pay for his credentials we need to make a slight change to that salary schedule to add a supplement.”

Downs informed the board that approval would make the county fully staffed in mechanics. The school system would now be able to do all necessary work in house, excepting warranty work.

BOE Preps for 2019 with meeting dates and ESPLOST

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Despite only being halfway through the school year, the Gilmer Board of Education is already preparing for 2019 and the coming years with two resolutions in their December meeting.

Approving next year’s meetings sets the schedule for 2019 as the Board moves forward. With January set from last year, the board has added it as a note. Different from Monday’s meeting, the board change the work session to Tuesday for January 2020 as the original Monday date falls on Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. These Meetings are:

Additionally, the board has also formally approved a resolution to reflect the county’s elections in November. The results of 7,408 for and 4,432 against set the Board in position for the next ESPLOST Cycle. Though this resolution is officially the next step, Board Members have already discussed speaking with attorney’s about Bonding the next ESPLOST Cycle for the projects listed. As made public earlier this year, the survey results from the public are to also include the new performing arts center among a new elementary school and other projects.

The Board also approved personnel for the month of December. Though many thought this might include a new football coach, none was included. However, Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs made a special address to the issue that later saw a Special Called Meeting for next week.

GHS renovations near completion

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – With the majority of the renovations complete and everything ready for the students, it is confirmed that the project will not reach 100% before Tuesday’s start of term.

However, the project has not moved construction into classrooms and only minor details remain in student areas. During a special called meeting of the Board of Education, Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs told the board that the biggest remaining item is that the staff furniture will not arrive before the start of school.

With that said, Downs informed the board that critical staff will be in the front office utilizing a built-in desk in the front office and utilizing what they have available as opposed to moving in older furniture just to moved out again.

With rising concern over the project’s student readiness, Downs assured the board that the student areas, as well as the secured, single-point entry, would be ready before Tuesday.

This means some administrative faculty will utilize the school’s media center while they await the new desks and furniture.

One minor setback saw relief at the meeting as well for the media center as the project survived a surprise rain during roof work. Insurance replaced the carpet after the area flooded. With the new carpet installed, the media center is already repaired and ready for use.

Walking through the building certainly shows the area with a feeling of an upgrade. The cafeteria and commons area have combined for an open space. The commons murals are gone, but as of this point, it is not certain if the school will repaint the murals or seek a different decoration for the area.

The commons area now caps with a centralized trophy case that will soon showcase all the trophies the school has acquired and those yet to come.

The new flooring and roofing reach throughout the administrative offices. A new administrative conference room and renovations to the nurse’s station are just two of the expansions allowed by pushing the offices forward against what used to be the glass of the entrance area.

With the new single-point, secured entrance, those taking the front entrance to the school will walk right past the Linda Miller Memorial Theater into the commons area. The other hallway students and visitors are used to traveling down now reaches a dead-end just past the back edge of the media center allowing an emergency exit onto the grass.

While talks continue about the next phase of renovations to come, exact plans have not been drawn, but discussion indicated a possibility to angle the corner of the media center and adding glass along the hallway, giving the media center more of an internet cafe styling.

As for this year, the construction is wrapping up in the hallways of the offices and awaits the last details and finishing touches to prepare for the students’ arrival in four days.

 

 

Enjoy the full album of photos on FYN’s Facebook Page.

Finance decisions dominate BOE’s July Meeting

News
closings

ELLIJAY, GA. – Casting the final vote for the coming ESPLOST, alongside votes on bids and lunch prices, set the theme for the Board of Education’s last regular meeting before school starts back.

As previously reported in last week’s BOE to call for an ESPLOST Election, the survey results were provided to board member along with the choices for the final item on the list of projects. While Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs reiterated that the priorities of the new ESPLOST will remain with the continuing technology, security, safety, and bus purchases, this sets two major projects into Gilmer County’s Educational future.

Those projects take up two of the five items as set on the official ballot question which reads as:

(a) upgrading the technology used to support teaching and learning at all facilities, including the purchase and
installation of computers, laptops, tablets, mobile devices, servers, wiring, wireless antennas, and other technology upgrades with necessary hardware, software, and programs; (b) the acquisition, construction, equipping, and installation of safety and security equipment to improve security in all facilities located within the School District (c) the purchase of new school buses; (d) the acquisition, construction, and equipping of a new elementaryschool to replace the current Ellijay Primary School; and (e) the acquisition, construction, and equipping of a new performing/fine arts center, all in accordance with the facilities plans of the School District…

The official resolution was approved in a 4-1 vote with board member Nick Weaver as the dissenting vote. With earlier disagreements on which final project was to be implemented and the polled decision leaning towards the Performing Arts Center, this vote count was not entirely unexpected as the board’s poll on the project inclusion was a mirror outcome.

Moving forward with the ESPLOST at this point will see the Board of Education formally submitting their Notice of Sales and Use Tax For Educational Purposes Election to Gilmer County Probate Judge Scott Chastain, as Election Superintendent, to have the referendum voted on by the public in the November 2018 elections. Citizens will take this opportunity to voice their opinions on the ESPLOST and decide on the continuing the already in place ESPLOST for another cycle with its new projects.

Financially, the board is estimating $28 million in collections but is aiming high so as not to have an interruption in collections during the cycle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finance discussions continued through the meeting during the board’s nutrition and financial reports. The board voted unanimously to support a recommendation by Director of Nutrition Services Linda Waters to increase staff lunch prices from $3.50 to $3.75 and visitor lunches from $4.00 to $4.25. The quarter increases on each of these follow federal regulations which Waters’ recent changes to menus. She stated in the work session, “By Federal Regulations, we have to charge what it costs us to produce a meal.”

Additionally, the July meeting saw the board vote to approve fuel bids for the year. They awarded Petroleum Traders Corp the bid for diesel and gasoline at $0.0315 over costs of diesel and $0.0196 over costs of gasoline. They also awarded Thomas Oil for Propane at $0.95 per gallon.

BOE to call for an ESPLOST election

Election, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education has debated their plans for the future of Gilmer’s ESPLOST. Debating about the final item in plans for construction as well as bonding projects for the coming cycle.

While no official motion could be heard for the item as it was only the Board’s work session, the did take time to debate the issue with one member having to conference call in to join the discussion. Three major points of the plans to continue the county’s ESPLOST into another cycle were agreed to during the meeting.

With the results from the survey put forth by Gilmer County Charter School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, the clear winner within the community became a Performing Arts Center.

Collecting more votes than the other two options combined, the Performing/Fine Arts Center (on GHS Campus) reached 1,069 votes. The multi-use Sports Facility collected 684 votes and the Indoor Swimming Pool collected 282 votes.

Downs presented this information to the Board on Monday, July 17, along with the three options for a final decision by the Board as a whole on which item to add to the ESPLOST referendum.

As the members considered the option, most agreed that they wanted to follow the survey.  Board member Jim Parmer said, “People have had a choice in making a decision and voting. I think we need to be open and transparent if that’s what they want.”

The only member who didn’t agree on the Performing Arts Center was Nick Weaver who said, “There was a lot of money spent the wrong ways before I got here, on the football stadium and everything else, and I think there’s a sports program out there that deserves and earned things and they’ve not gotten anything.”

An informal poll of the board went for the Arts Center with on Weaver as a dissenting vote. However, the final motion and decision will be made on Thursday, July 19, at 6 p.m. during their Regular Session meeting. The final vote will come on a final resolution drafted by the board’s attorney to include this as well as bonding and collection caps.

Those other items were also discussed during the work session as the board will be looking to bond the project for a new Elementary School on the board’s Clear Creek property. The board indicated this project would be bonded while all of the other projects will be done as collections reach the necessary point for them. A maximum bonding of $15 million was placed, but Downs noted they could lower this later if the entire amount was not needed.

The collection cap is an indication of the maximum amount collected by the ESPLOST during its cycle. Downs noted for the board that if they do not meet the maximum collection, there is no penalty, but if they do meet the maximum collection before the end of the cycle, they will be forced to stop collections early. Originally planning on a maximum of $25 million, the board discussion looked at the county’s growth and decided to stretch the maximum collection to $28 million to cover the potential for high growth in the county over the ESPLOST cycle.

As the board put these notes to its lawyer, Attorney Herman Clark, they will be officially looking at their official “Call for Election” on Thursday night to meet an early August deadline to be put on the November ballot for citizens.

ESPLOST Survey results in clear winner

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – With almost 2,000 people responding to their ESPLOST Survey, the Gilmer County Board of Education released the results at their June Meeting.

The choices include a Performing/Fine Arts Center (on GHS Campus), a Multi-use Sports Facility (Gym, Weight Rooms, wrestling center, batting cages, track), or an Indoor Swimming Pool.

Collecting more votes than the other two options combined, the Performing/Fine Arts Center (on GHS Campus) reached 1,069 votes.

Multi-use Sports Facility collected 684 votes and the Indoor Swimming Pool collected 282 votes.

Though seen as a somewhat surprising result according to Gilmer County Charter School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, she encouraged the Board to bear the survey’s results in mind as the moved forward with preparations for the ESPLOST referendum. While it is likely this vote will be seen as early as this November on the ballot, the ESPLOST cycle would not take effect until 2020. With the five-year cycles, the Board is attempting to plan several years ahead as they or only now at the midpoint of the current cycle.

While this may seem far off, officials say it is imperative to begin preparations now so that the voting, investigations, and preparations are in place when the 2020 cycle begins to move forward with the work as quickly as possible.

This does mean, however, that as the Board contemplates their survey, if they move forward with the Performing Arts center included as it seems they will, there are currently no plans setting when they will begin the project within the five-year cycle.

The project would stand next to others like the construction of a new Elementary School at the Board’s Clear Creek Property to replace the aging Ellijay Primary School currently in town on McCutchen Street.

Check out the Survey Results for the full tally and comments.

BOC discusses new school zoning for BOE

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – During their June meeting, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners saw an item requesting a rezoning to PI-1 for the Gilmer County Board of Education.

This item is a part of planning and preparations for a new school to be built on the school’s Clear Creek property next to Clear Creek Middle School (CCMS). The school is set to replace the current Ellijay Primary School (EPS) as part of a plan to reorganize the school system.

This item is far ahead of any concrete plans on construction as the BOE is awaiting approval of a new ESPLOST referendum before they could move forward with this construction project.

During their work session, the Board of Commissioners discussed the item. With all three in favor of the school, the only discussion came from understanding what impact the project would have on the counties surrounding infrastructure. Post Commissioner Dallas Miller asked what changes would need to be done to the roads like Clear Creek Road and Yukon Road. Miller inquired if they would need deceleration lanes or traffic lights. While no solid answer is available at this time due to the project not even being out of idea stages without ESPLOST money to support it, there did become an understanding between the two entities for continued communication.

With CCMS already at the location, there may not be much, if any, change in school vehicle traffic like buses on the road, however, effectively “moving” EPS to the new location would obviously increase traffic on Yukon Road and Clear Creek Road from staff and parents.

While the BOC did approve the rezoning request, Miller’s comments at the work session made it apparent that they will be looking for constant communication on the project so that they may prepare the streets accordingly. Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs and two members of the Board of Education, Chairman Michael Bramlett and Vice Chair Ronald Watkins, were on hand during the BOC Regular Meeting to speak with the Commissioners before the meeting.

FYN’s current understanding of the project is that discussion is still going on how to maintain the communication. There is no information yet on if this would take the form of a report during commissioner’s meetings, a liaison between the two boards, or something else.

Gilmer ARTS endorses Arts Center in ESPLOST survey

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer ARTS program has weighed in on an ongoing survey from the Gilmer County Charter School System.

The survey is for options on an upcoming Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) cycle starting in 2020. As FetchYourNews previously reported in “BOE asks for citizen input on 2020 ESPLOST,” the options include a performing/fine arts center (on the Gilmer High School campus), a multi-use sports facility (gym, weight rooms, wrestling center, batting cages, track), or an indoor swimming pool. There is also an option for citizens to forego these options and write in their own suggestion in an “other” box.

Now, Gilmer ARTS has endorsed the option for a Performing Arts Center noting, “The options included a much overdue and badly needed performing arts center. Gilmer is far behind our neighbors in Fannin to the north and Pickens to the south. Both counties have wonderful performing arts facilities that enhance the performances of not only school system student programs but also community use for concerts and events.”

Gilmer ARTS also noted their partnership agreement with the school system and the hard work that the students have put in for some of the most successful programs in the high school. In their official release, Gilmer ARTS stated, “We have competition-winning programs in our schools with art, instrumental and choral music and have had for many years (Champions if you will).”

With little time left for the survey, the release asks for all citizens to either follow the Survey link or log on to the Gilmer Schools website and click the survey link at the top of the page, so they can offer their voice and vote on the possible options.

BOE asks for citizen input on 2020 ESPLOST

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education is almost halfway through its current ESPLOST plan completing projects like the renovations on Huff Mosley Stadium, building a new Agriculture Education center, and the current renovations to Gilmer High School.

However, anticipating the process needed to prepare for continuing the ESPLOST after this one ends in 2020, the board is already moving into discussions for that next cycle. As a part of that process for ESPLOST, the board must have planned projects they intend to use the money for.

In that discussion, Gilmer County Charter Schools System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs has turned to the citizens by placing a survey on their website. The board already has certain plans for projects to continue to upgrade technology, improve safety measures, purchase buses, and build an elementary school to replace Ellijay Primary.

However, the survey itself is intended to add more to the list with citizen input on three additional suggestions for the ESPLOST cycle. The choices include a Performing/Fine Arts Center (on GHS Campus), a Multi-use Sports Facility (Gym, Weight Rooms, wrestling center, batting cages, track), or an Indoor Swimming Pool. There is also an option for citizens to forego these otpions and write in their own suggestion in an “other” box.

Citizens can either follow the Survey link or log on to the Gilmer Schools website and click the survey link at the top of the page to offer their opinion as well as speaking at the next meeting of the Board of Education.

Financial Decisions Dominate June BOE

News

The running theme for the Board of Education’s June meeting brought financial decisions to the forefront as they prepare for their next fiscal year.

One of the major decisions came with awarding two of four bids for Fuel/Oil Products. Awarding Fuel Supply to Petroleum Traders, the BOE’s set price for the year will be $0.0278 over rack price for Unleaded and $0.0329 over rack price for Diesel. The second award went to Appalachian Propane at $0.848 per gallon of Propane Fuel.

The one bid received for Automotive Batteries from O’Reillys was declined with a comment that these will be purchased as needed for the year. Towing Services for the schools will also be called on as needed as that received no bids.

Right after awarding the bids, the Board discussed a proposal for school lunch prices increases. According to the proposal, the USDA is requiring school’s charging less than $2.86 to recalculate their prices. This will put the Primary, Elementary, and Middle Schools on a 10 cent increase to total $2.10 per meal. The High School will see a 25 cent increase to total $2.25. The Boards approval also set the reduced meal price at $0.40.

Along with the 2010 ESPLOST, 2015 ESPLOST, and Financial Reports, the Board received a report on recent Expenditures and Board Approved Purchases including the changes coming to the School Resource Officers after the recent changes to the budget when the Board agreed to a request from the Board of Commissioners to increase their funding of the Officers.

The changes to the budget, having gone through one meeting in March and another in June, were adopted at the June Regular Session to prepare for July as the beginning of FY 18. The budgets details can also be found in FYN’s recent article: “Gilmer Schools Adopts Budget

Also in preparation for FY 18, the Board made final approval for a new Pre-k and State Salary Schedule.

BOE Moving To Tech Up 2017

News
closings

The Gilmer County Board of Education is looking to the second half of its Fiscal Year with tech on the brain.

Discussions are rising on incorporation of new simplifying technology including digitized application forms for the internal and external applicants to the School System. According to Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes, this new form of applying will not only incorporate better collection and record keeping through the digital format, but services could also allow applicants to be notified for other similar or non-similar opportunities opening in the system or be notified of a need to reapply.

This would tie in with Substitutes as well as the Board is moving forward with an option for online absence reporting for its teachers. The system will handle situations such as the case of a current teacher suddenly or preemptively needing to call out, say a sick child or sick themselves. Instead of physically calling substitutes trying to find someone to cover them, the new system will incorporate an automated call to a pre-made list of substitutes where they can respond yes or no to cover. The system also automatically removes subs from the list if they accept a position for the day. When they do accept, Dr. Wilkes stated the teacher will receive a message that their day is being covered. Additionally, the system will allow teachers to request specific substitutes for one or several days as well.

The Board is also carrying over their infrastructure project from the E-Rate Federal Grant for which the school had previously applied. The project is set to upgrade and improve the school systems network infrastructure.

Although approved for Category 1 E-Rate Grants involving basic communications and network costs like monthly bills, Gilmer County’s Board of Education is still waiting for the Category 2 Grant specifically designated for the upgrades to the School System’s 6-year-old network. These upgrades will allow for greater loads and more stable connections, especially important as Gilmer County’s standard testing is being done online now.

Due to an issue on the Federal level, last years application has not completed the cycle from our school system. However, anticipating the possibility of the reimbursement funds arrival before next month, the Board pre-approved spending $658,000 on the improvements to the School System’s internal network and wireless infrastructure. Dr. Wilkes assured FYN the approval is based upon the grant approval and will not be spent without the estimated $588,000 maximum reimbursement ready. Tom Ocobock, one of the two newest members to the Board, noted on the Grant and the approval, “I think this is very, very important for the school system to get up to speed on technology. I’m in a high tech job, and we need people. So, the quicker we get our kids trained up on high tech stuff, the better jobs they’re going to have here, not necessarily leaving Gilmer County.”

However, Technology wasn’t the only thing on the agenda for the night. The Board approved several organizational details for the new physical year including the election of Officers, which they voted to keep the same officers of Jim Parmer as Chair and Michael Bramlett as Vice-Chair, as well as the Meeting Dates for 2017.

Additionally, the Board’s usual report and votes on policy changes included First Readers for BBA Board Officers, BBD-R(1) Board – School Superintendent Relations-Protocols, IDE(3) Competitive Interscholastic Activities, Grades 6-122, and LA Inter-Organizational Goals and Objectives as well as Rescinding BBD-E(1)  Board – School Superintendent Relations-Protocols. Second Readers and adoption came for BCBI-R(1) Public Participation in Board Meetings, EE Food Services Management, EEE Wellness Program, GBC Professional Personnel Recruitment, IBB Charter Schools, JCDAE Weapons, and JGFGB Concussion Management as well rescinding BBFB Governance Teams.

The BOE also spoke on its Financial Efficiency Star Rating for 2013 – 2015. This Rating is used by the State Board of Education to track, on a scale from one-half star to five stars, the Financial Expenditures for School Systems and Per-Pupil Expenditures against their CCRPI Test Scores for an “estimation” on how efficient a school spends its money for student achievement. This State will also use this as a part of the school system’s CCRPI.

Our school system’s rating has averaged around 3-stars looking back at the last three years, according to Trina Penland, Chief Financial Officer for Gilmer County Charter School System. It is also estimated to remain at 3-stars for the next report, though Dr. Wilkes did note that government financial grants are now accounted for the spending rather than just focusing on the Board’s basic budget. This means that projects that have received additional outside funding, such as the School’s cannery at the new Agriculture Center by Clear Creek Middle School, could in fact hurt the school’s rating by being counted as “school spending” even though it may be state or private funds. For more financial information on the school, check out the Financial Summary Report, 2010 ESPLOST Report, and 2015 ESPLOST Report.

 

Dr. Webb’s Contract Explored

News

At a special called meeting Thursday, August 20, FYN had a chance to learn more about construction projects with the Board of Education.

As Dr. Charles Webb is beginning his new contract with the Board of Education, these projects are continuing to move expeditiously through their individual steps. Through his new contract, Dr. Webb’s main purpose now is to continue overseeing these projects as a sort of “Manager.”

Many will recall Erick Hofstetter previously fulfilling these duties. A position now left open after his departure. As the projects were in need of immediate attention, the Board decided to temporarily fill this void with Dr. Webb as he fulfills the needs of education and construction experience while also bringing a benefit of experience with Gilmer County specifically.

Dr. Wilkes states as it is so late in the summer, most people who would properly fit the role left by Hofstetter would already hold positions at other places. However, they will be looking into permanently filling the position next summer.

Until then, they will continue to utilize Dr. Webb as part of the ESPLOST construction projects, because of this Webb’s contract pay will come out of ESPLOST funds for all of his construction advisement and managing instead of the general fund.

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