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Teachers getting raises; board wonders where money will come from

By Staff, 02/26/19 11:49 AM

PRESCOTT – Where will the money come from?

This is the question the Prescott School Board was presented with at its February meeting Monday night. Robert Poole, superintendent, said Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed a law requiring all districts in the state to increase teacher’s base salary to $36,000 in four years. The state, he told the board, has a pot of $60 million to help districts reach this goal, but, the problem is, after four years the districts will be required to fund the increased salaries from their existing budgets. For the Prescott School District, Poole said this will amount to around $500,000, and he has no idea where the money will come from.

This situation has been discussed with the teaching staff, he said, but this law will dictate what the district can and can’t do. If the state doesn’t help find the money, the district will have to cut it out of its budget, he added. “It’s not a matter of want, but of must.”

The first step, Poole told the board, will be to start cutting back next year. The teaching and coaching staffs have been told to ask for what they want and need this year because it may not be possible to get anything later one. “We’ll know more after the state has its adequacy meeting, but we don’t know when that will be. It will be impossible for some schools to make it.” Those schools unable to maintain the required salary and a healthy financial balance will, he said, likely be required to consolidate.

“We’ll do what we have to do. There’ll be a lot of tight fitting the next couple of years.” Poole told the board superintendents across the state are talking with members of the Legislature every day, trying to get help or at least more information to help them plan for the mandate. “This is a done deal,” he said, “the good thing is teachers will be getting more money.”

The board approved the transfer of two students from the Prescott district to the Blevins School District. It also approved the proposed changes to the 2019-2020 calendar, moving spring break, the parent-teacher conference and the end of the third nine weeks. The first day of school for the ’19-’20 school year will be Aug. 13.

The panel also approved the classified personnel salary schedule, along with a resolution for the district’s disbursing officer.

Enrollment in the district dropped 13 students from January to February. Prescott Elementary School has 350 students, with 327 in Prescott Junior High School and 289 in Prescott High School, for a total of 966.

The board approved the annual resolution for school choice.

Poole said the regional basketball tournament, held last week, was a success and brought in around $11,000 from gate receipts and around $10,000 at the concession stand. This means the booster club made a profit of around $7,000 from the concession stand with the money to be used for things like letter jackets for the student athletes. According to Poole, around 4,000 people attended the tourney during the week.