Bibb Schools’ financial cushion threatened by governor’s proposed budget

Bibb+County+School+Board+elected+Juawn+Jackson+as+its+president+for+2023.+Jackson+was+elected+to+the+board+in+2020+and+represents+the+countys+west+side.

Screen Shot | Bibb Schools Youtube

Bibb County School Board elected Juawn Jackson as its president for 2023. Jackson was elected to the board in 2020 and represents the county’s west side.

Bibb Schools is in a better financial position than it anticipated – but this financial cushion may well deflate as the governor’s budget includes a 68% increase in what school districts will have to pay for some employees to have health insurance.

During Thursday night’s school board meeting, Bibb Schools Chief Financial Officer Sharon Roberts said the employer’s cost of health insurance for one certified employee for one month is $945 but that will go up to $1,580 if it passes the state legislature as proposed. Additionally, the district may have to pay for the $2k pay raise for teachers also part of the governor’s budget.

The news put a damper on an update about the district’s fund balance being up to $56.8 million, an increase of nearly $8.1 million. The increase is attributed to the reinstatement of $4.5 million in austerity cuts and more tax revenues than anticipated.

The board unanimously approved a budget amendment that accounts for a $2 million increase in spending. A bulk of those expenses, about $1.5 million, is attributed to a change in how the district pays for its VIP Virtual Academy. The VIP Academy was funded by American Rescue Plan money but is now paid for with general education dollars, according to board documents.

Nearly a half million of the additional spending was attributed to contracts Superintendent Dan Sims entered into with consultants including EAB Global, The Hanover Research Council, Gallup Inc., K-12 Leadership Matters and Engage!Learning LLC, according to the CFO’s report. All of the companies except Gallup were contracted for less than $150,000, the threshold for which board approval is needed.

The board also heard the district received a “clean,” unmodified opinion on its 2022 audit.

In other business Thursday, the school board took three votes before electing its new president.

Board member Juawn Jackson will serve as the board’s president, the board decided after consecutive 4-4 votes in which he was tied with board member Lisa Garrett.

The board elects officers in January each year with nominations being made during the meeting. Last year, board member Thelma Dillard served as president.

Jackson, 29, was nominated by Myrtice Johnson and has represented the county’s west side since being elected to the board in 2020. Garrett, 68, is serving a fifth year and second term as an at-large board member.

The board was split along racial lines in its first two votes with board members Kriston Hanlon, James Freeman, Daryl Morton and Garrett voting for Garrett and board members Sundra Woodford, Johnson, Dillard and Jackson voting for Jackson.

After a second tie, Freeman said he wanted to hear from both why they wanted to serve as board president. Dillard agreed.

Jackson spoke first and read from a prepared statement in which he highlighted the need for strong leadership this year as the district works to create a strategic plan that will guide it for the next five years.

“We must have a board president who can work alongside our superintendent, particularly in leading our governance team to ensure efficiency in our practices and effectiveness in our oversight and policy-making duties,” he said.

The board was split on its vote to hire Superintendent Dan Sims last year. Jackson voted to approve the hire and Garrett voted against it.

Garrett said she didn’t have a prepared message but spoke about her years of service to the school system as a retired teacher and principal and school board member. She mentioned she attends more school board governance training than is required and wants to “continue to be a champion for all our children.”

“I am excited about what our superintendent is bringing us,” Garrett said of the strategic plan Sims is spearheading. “Although I might have been a ‘No’ vote, (Sims) knows he has my support and he’s had it since day one.”

The board voted 6-2 for Jackson. Hanlon and Freeman voted for Jackson.

Johnson was nominated to serve as vice president and Hanlon was nominated for treasurer. Both votes were unanimous.

Bibb families can pay less for home internet

Families of students in Bibb Schools will soon hear more about a program to save them money on monthly internet bills.

The Bibb County Board of Education is working to help more families enroll in a federal program that applies a $30 monthly credit on internet service bills for low income households.

The Affordable Connectivity Program, administered by the Federal Communication Commission, is a $14.2 billion effort approved by Congress about a year ago as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The long-term program replaces the federal Emergency Broadband Benefit Program created in response to disparities in internet connectivity that deepened as the pandemic forced work, school and healthcare appointments to virtual settings.

The Georgia Board of Education approved a $1.6 million contract in August to help local school districts like Bibb Schools promote, train and enroll more families in the program.

For information about eligibility and enrollment, visit https://www.fcc.gov/acp.

For help with enrollment, call the Georgia Student Connect Program at 470-500-1903 or visit gastudentconnect.org.

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or email [email protected]