Monroe County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Hickman will get a $3,000 raise next year along with teachers and other administrators in the school system. He will also get a 2 percent raise, which will add a total of $5,900 to his base salary of $145,000. Board of Education members approved the raises in a called meeting on Tuesday, June 25 when they also approved the $44 million budget for the 2019-20 school year.

The Georgia legislature initiated a $3,000 raise for teachers in 2019-20 statewide. The Monroe County school board decided to extend the raise to other certified personnel not included in the state raise, like principals, assistant principals, counselors and central office department heads. Monroe County’s budget for the next school year includes a 2 percent raise for most non-certified employees and a 5 percent raise for paraprofessionals. 

BOE chair Nolen Howard said that Hickman’s contract, which extends through June 2021, does not include raises; so the board amended the contract to allow the $5,900 raise. Howard said this is the first raise Hickman has received in three years. The board’s action, which was unanimous with all seven board members present, followed its annual review of Hickman. The review follows the guidelines of the Georgia School Board Association. The board held a closed door session of an hour and 20 minutes to complete the evaluation. 

Hickman thanked the board and said he is proud to serve Monroe County schools.

No one from the public attended hearings on the budget, and it passed unanimously. The $44.2 million budget is an increase of $2.9 million over last year, with 87.6 percent of the budget devoted to personnel, including salaries and employee benefits. Assistant Superintendent Jackson Daniel said he does not expect any request for a property tax increase. 

At the budget public hearing on June 18 Monroe County Schools Finance Director Chris Johnson said Monroe County is one of only 17 public school systems out of those in Georgia that spend more local funds than state funds in their budgets. It is able to do so because of the taxes it receives from utilities. For Monroe County Schools 54.1 percent of revenue came from local sources and 45.9 percent came from state or federal sources last year.

“This board has said we value education enough to spend more than the state has given us,” said Board Chair Nolen Howard.

“If we consider personnel as a fixed expense and other fixed expenses, only 5 percent of the budget has some level of latitude,” said Daniel. “When you’re in the people business like us, you have to make a cut of people to make a difference.”

Board member Greg Head asked which utility companies serve the school system and whether the school system has any choice in its utility providers. Facilities director Roger Onstott said Southern Rivers Energy serves Hubbard Elementary, Central Georgia EMC serves T. G. Scott Elementary and Monroe County Middle School, and the City of Forsyth serves the other school facilities. He explained that only customers at a certain level of use have a choice in their providers and it is a one-time choice that is made when they first contract for electricity.

Daniel said he does expect the need for a tax anticipation note (TAN) in the fall. When the school system is short of cash before tax payments start coming it, it borrows on the revenues it expects to receive as a TAN to pay salaries and other expenses until it gets tax revenue. Daniel said Monroe County schools operated without a TAN for about three years, but whether it can do so primarily depends on when the tax deadline is. 

In personnel actions on June 25, the board promoted Christina Chapman from instructional coach to assistant principal at Monroe County Middle School. She will fill the position of Patricia Napier, who was promoted from Monroe County Middle School Assistant Principal to system Director of Student Services. Napier will fill the position of Dr. Marcy Hunt-Harris, who retired.

On June 25, the board awarded Dr. Jim Finch a two-year contract from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2021 as principal at Mary Persons. It hired David Riggins as a school based technology specialist. It took the board only 16 minutes in closed door session to complete the actions. 

 At the called meeting on June 18, the board hired Vickie Nickel as parent-family engagement specialist at Monroe County Middle School and T.G. Scott Elementary. She will fill the position from which Ginger Maddox resigned at the end of the school year. The board accepted the resignation of new hire Catherine Turner as a teacher at Mary Persons. The board didn’t go into closed door session for these actions. 

Monroe County Schools central office and all schools will be closed July 1-7, re-opening on Monday, June 8 to resume the summer Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. schedule that will continue through July 19. The next school board meeting will be Tuesday, July 9 at 5:30 p.m. at 25 Brooklyn Ave., Forsyth.