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Hancock school board updated on several issues during workshop

NEW CUMBERLAND — The Hancock County Board of Education convened into a special work session Tuesday evening to discuss several ongoing issues within the county school system.

Tuesday’s agenda included discussions on five topics – student admission fees for events, attorney expenses, county construction projects, the upcoming excess levy and a possible update on Policy GCC. As three members of the five-member board were recently elected, officials wanted to provide an update.

“It was to bring everyone up to speed,” board President Chris Gillette explained.

The workshop originally had been scheduled for 6:30 p.m., but was changed to 5 p.m. during Monday’s regular board meeting. No public notice of the change was issued.

Levy discussions were focused on the proposed Amendment 2, set to go before voters during the November election. Dubbed the Property Tax Modernization Amendment, it would allow the state legislature to eliminate property tax on machinery and equipment directly used by businesses and on motor vehicles owned by businesses and residents.

School officials, though, note if the amendment passes, it is anticipated the school system would lose more than $3.2 million from property taxes. The school district has a $58 million budget, according to Superintendent Dawn Petrovich.

“That would be a significant loss,” Petrovich said.

Policy GCC which focuses on professional and service staff leaves of absences without pay, and Petrovich will be proposing some changes in the number of so-called “dock days” available. In particular, the proposal would eliminate the five “dock days” without pay per year. Leaves could still be granted for unforeseen circumstances. The policy proposal, once completed, would go out for public comment.

The board has been discussing the possibility of discounts for student admission fees to events.

“We were thinking of a way to get the kids to the events” Gillette said, explaining, though, discussions with some of the schools resulted in the realization of several thousand dollars in revenue could be lost if such fees were to be reduced or eliminated.

“If you take that money away, you have to reimburse them,” Gillette said, noting Oak Glen High School alone had reported $15,000 from athletic and event ticket sales.

Attorney expenses have been an ongoing discussion, with Petrovich previously provided reports to the current and previous school board.

“It was to eliminate some of the misconceptions,” Gillette said.

In particular, Petrovich showed a listing of payments for legal services between the 1995 and 2019 fiscal years, which included fees paid when the school board used the Hancock County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

“It was not free,” Petrovich said, noting an expense of $15,000 for some years in the 1990s.

During the last three years, Petrovich reported expenses of $25,600; $29,800 and $33,500 for general legal expenses, with additional expenses realized when specialty services were needed.

Updates on previous and ongoing construction projects, including the planned baseball and softball fields at Weir High, expansions for physical education classrooms at Weir High and new lockers to be installed in October at Weir and Oak Glen high schools also were part of the workshop.

The Hancock County Board of Education will next meet in regular session at 6:30 p.m., Aug. 22.

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