School board member talks budget

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By Amy Ryffel-Kragh

Budget cuts and stimulus funds were hot topics at this month’s S.R. 200 Coalition meeting as Marion County School Board member Jackie Porter took to the floor.

The newly elected Porter discussed some of the challenges the district will face in the upcoming school year – like supplemental pay for teachers. Porter said School Supt. Jim Yancey had the extra money for teachers on the budgetary “hit” list.

Porter explained supplemental pay by using the example of an art teacher who has a program outside of their regular classroom. The teacher could receive about $550 a year for the additional work.

Porter called the payment “minuscule” compared to how much time the teacher actually invests in the activity, as well as the educational benefits the students receive.

To give back to Marion County public schools, Porter donated 10 percent of her $36,024 annual salary to the Public Education Foundation. “I just strongly felt like I could not stand by and let these supplements get cut from the budget. If they were going to be cut from the budget, then I wanted to institute a program with the Public Education Foundation to start raising funds to be able to help offset these supplements,” she said.

Stimulus funds

In addition, Gov. Charlie Crist has signed documents for the state to receive stimulus dollars, which are expected to bring about $32 million to Marion County for education. Of those funds, $13 million will be used for “stabilization.” The monies would be used to pay the more than 500 teachers who received their “pink” slips earlier this year. “The bulk of them are coming back,” she said.

But Porter said she has a problem with the stabilization money. She said the school district does not know what funds will look like in the future and there might be some of the “rehired” teachers who may lose their jobs during mid-school year.

About $19 million of the stimulus funds would be used for grant positions.

Though this would create jobs and programs, Porter said what would happen to those jobs once that money has been spent. “That is my biggest concern,” she said.

Porter also touched on the issue of increasing the educational impact fees, which will be voted on at an upcoming School Board meeting. In 2006, the educational impact fees were established to help with the cost of school improvements and additions to buildings due to growth, she said.

The impact fee for a new single-family home will be $4,109. The fee was $3,516 in 2006. Porter said impact fees are good because any newly constructed home is helping to pay for the corresponding growth it brings.

But, Porter has some concerns with that too. “It affects everyone in this county for work,” she said of the fees. She proposed having the fees suspended for six months to a year.

Those residents living in a new retirement community do not pay impact fees for edu-cation.