The Bell County Board of Education voted unanimously to keep their tax rate on personal and real property at 70.2 cents per $100 of assessed value at last week’s meeting.
Finance Director Steve Silcox explained to the board that because property values across the county have decreased by about $6 million over the last year, the state was recomending a compensating rate of 72.9 cents per $100.
“I hate to have to come before the board and mention that the compensating rate is going up, but I have to. It’s part of my job,” Silcox said. “I have to tell you that if you don’t take the compensating rate you’re going to lose $117,000 this year. It’s up to you all to decide the rate you’re going to adopt.”
Supertendent Yvonne Gilliam told the board the state commissioner recommends going with the compensating rate.
“With all that said, can we survive if we just leave it at what it was last year? Absolutely,” she said. “Our budget is built on that $117,000 being in there. . . (but) it’s hard to raise taxes right now and we can afford to not raise taxes.”
In other business, the board also approved a memorandum of understanding with the Bell County Sheriff’s Department to contract for a school resource officer that will rotate at all of the county’s schools.
Former Middlesboro Police Officer Wade Barnett has been hired by the Sheriff’s Department for the postion. The School Board has agreed to pay over $38,000 to the Sheriff’s Department to cover 175 days fo Barnett’s salary and benefits. In addition, the board will furnish a vehicle and uniforms (up to $500 per year).
Silcox informed the board that he had spoken with the City of Pineville and a older model police cruiser that is in good condition was available for $5,000.
The board voted to approve the memorandum of understanding as it was presented and to purchase the vehicle. Burnett will be at the high school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday and rotate amone the elementary schools on Tuesday and Thursdays.
Also, the board instructed Gilliam to present Sheriff Mitch Williams with a recommended schedule for former SRO Max Graves. Graves serves as a resource officer paid for by the Sheriff’s Department when he is not on other active calls.
In other business, the board:
— approved adding preschool units and personnel at Yellow Creek, Bell Central and Right Fork. Each unit will include one teacher and one aid, making the cost about $50,000 per site.
— hired Chris Douglas as the new school board attorney following the resignation of Shae Yoakum.
— approved the purchase of ‘In God We Trust’ signs to be added near the entrance of each school. Local artist Russ Mills is making the signs.
— voted to again have regular work sessions on the third Monday of each month at 6 p.m.
— heard from Technology Coordinator David Smith, who gave the annual update on data security.
— approved Knox CAM Ministries to again put on a religious play/concert at the Bell High gym this fall.