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School board votes to declare McKinney Elementary surplus property

STANFORD — The doors to McKinney Elementary School were closed at the end of the 2018-19 school year and, in its meeting Thursday, the Lincoln County School Board voted to declare the school surplus property.

The board voted 3-2 to approve the action, clearing the way for the McKinney school to be sold.

Ricky Lane made the motion to declare the former elementary surplus property and Win Smith seconded the motion. Lane, Smith and board chair Tom Blankenship voted yes. Alan Hubble and Bruce Smith had the no votes.

“I’ve spoke with the Kentucky Department of Education quite a few times, talking about what it would take to get a clear title to McKinney Elementary School. I received word later this week that everything’s up to par so far,” Superintendent Michael Rowe said. “The one thing that is lacking is the action from the board to declare McKinney Elementary as surplus property. In the resolution that we approved earlier, we talked about surplus property but that was for financial reasons only dealing with bonds. This is actually for the physical property. That would be the last step.”

“I recommend we do that.”

After Blankenship got the motion from Lane and the second from Win Smith but before it went to a vote, Hubble spoke up.

“I understand it’s closed. I’m not saying we’re going to open it back up,” he began. “We’ve waited 20 years on Kings Mountain and not done a thing on it. And here we are six months down the road from the time we shut the doors on McKinney Elementary and we’ve got to get it sold. I’m in business and, when deals like that go through, it makes me think there’s somebody that’s either wanting it real bad or we’ve got some reason we want to get rid of it. I guess that’s my only question.”

“And we’ve basically only saved about $64,000 by closing that school. And have spent well over that on other items,” Bruce Smith interjected.

“I have to disagree with the $64,000 comment,” Rowe immediately responded. “Marsha (Abel, Director of Finance) and I were in a meeting earlier this year and we were talking about $100,000 we’ve saved on personnel alone.”

Smith cited information on documents provided to the board that showed salaries and operational costs and that the totals figured $64,320.22.

“When we have positions that come open in the district, we have transferred those. We have been very strategic about transferring individuals into those or, if somebody retired,” said Rowe.

“We no longer need custodians because we don’t clean the building,” added Abel. “We no longer need a bookkeeper or a secretary. So we have saved money by closing the school in those positions.”

Smith had actually tried to get Action Item 14a., which dealt with action on declaring McKinney surplus property, removed from the board agenda at the top of the meeting when the agenda is set. He also wanted to have items 4-10, which dealt with the Local Planning Committee’s opinion on McKinney’s status and resolutions to remove liens on McKinney and to have the property removed from district leases and mortgages.

“Since this seat was vacant during the closing of McKinney Elementary, I’ve been doing some research. I’ve found several findings myself and have some concerns about the actions that are going to be taken tonight,” Smith said. “So, I’d like to make a motion that we table items 4-10 and also 14a until we have further time to look into this.”

Hubble responded when Blankenship asked for a second. But Smith’s motion failed with three no votes (Lane, Win Smith and Blankenship) to his and Hubble’s yes votes.

After the vote, Rowe proceeded to present the opinion of the Planning Committee.

“On Tuesday, Dec. 10, the Local Planning Committee convened to discuss the finding and their vote on it was 10-1 to change McKinney Elementary from a permanent center to a transition center,” he said. “We’re asking the board to approve that also and then send that to KDE for them to approve on their end to make that happen.”

Rowe’s remark prompted a quick response from Bruce Smith.

“Can I also address the findings with concerns that I have,” he asked. “Okay, when this District 3 board member resigned and the Department of Education was in the process of appointing a person to that position, a recommendation was made to close McKinney Elementary, thus, being voted upon to close. Several people believe that the recommendation was another rush job by the Board of Education since District 3 had no representation or voice on the board when the vote was taken. Because, back in February of 2018, this board was looking at making cuts during a working session and the board did not want to close McKinney Elementary at that time.”

Smith also brought several questions before the other board members, such as, “Were new attendance boundaries approved with the closing of McKinney Elementary? Are the capacities of the schools correct on the current facility plan? Do we meet the permanent center criteria of a one-way transportation system of allowing the maximum of a 45-minute bus ride for 75 percent of the students in primary through fifth grade with the closing of McKinney Elementary? Was the inventory declared surplus, beside what was moved to other schools? And, are all other schools in the district correctly designated in the plan as being permanent centers?”

“I was always under the impression that McKinney was a transitional center because nothing was being done to that school. Also, I noticed in looking over this information that we get, that the boiler had to be changed at Stanford Elementary. This was a big concern at McKinney,” Smith said. “There are some other documents that I was not able to find that I would still like to review. Because, when you close a school, there is a form that you have to submit to the state. So I would like to request the district school collection repository form to see what was turned in when the school was closed and sent to the state.”

Rowe provided the document to the newspaper.

“So, with all of those questions and concerns, I think it’s another rush decision just like we did, or the board did when they voted to try the nickel tax because there wasn’t a plan and there’s a lot of unanswered questions and there was no one in this seat to have asked questions,” Smith continued. “Thank goodness for Mr. Hubble. He did try to get the board not to take the vote. So, again, I think it would be premature for us to make these decisions concerning McKinney Elementary tonight.”

After listening to Smith speak, Lane turned to his fellow board member and asked, “Are you aware that I spent countless hours fielding phone calls and making visits to people in McKinney? You’re going to sit here and say they didn’t have representation or somebody fielding the conversation. Mr. Smith, there may not have been somebody in that seat, but there was somebody in McKinney doing work for McKinney from other parts of Lincoln County.”

“I heard you make comments at some of the meetings,” Smith responded. “But, as you can see, there’s a lot of ….

“Ask your voters if I was there,” Lane said.

“There’s a lot of discrepancy and a lot of data here that really caused some issues,” said Smith.

Blankenship interrupted the exchange to ask for any other comments and then turned to Rowe to confirm that the facility committee voted unanimously to move from permanent to transition and to ask if that was his recommendation. He answered in the affirmative to both.

Lane made the motion to change McKinney from permanent to a transition center and Win Smith seconded the motion. The motion passed 3-2 with Lane, Win Smith and Blankenship voting yes and Bruce Smith and Hubble voting no.

Earlier in the meeting, the board, acting as itself and in the capacity of the Lincoln County School District Finance Corporation, adopted resolutions to clear the way on the property. The board cannot incur debt itself so it has to use the Finance Corporation to allow the board to do it’s own borrowing.

The first resolution by the board authorized the finance committee to release the liens on the property.

McKinney and Lincoln County High School were tied in together on two bond series, borrowing money for improvements at the same time. Ninety-eight percent of the money went on the high school and about 2 percent on McKinney.

“Not meant to be smart in any way, but, if it’s so easy to swap over what we still owe on McKinney, why have we still got a bond on Kings Mountain school that’s been closed for 20 years?” asked Hubble.

The answer given was that, because it was such a small amount on McKinney, that the district wouldn’t have to come up with the money to pay it off. The collateral on the mortgage could be switched over to the high school because 98 percent of those two bonds was on the high school to begin with and that the school was worth well more than the loans taken on it.

After a Win Smith motion and Lane second, the resolution passed 3-2 (Nos from Bruce Smith and Hubble) to release the liens.

The regular meeting adjourned to begin the special-called meeting of the Finance Corporation.

As the Finance Corporation, the five sitting board members voted 3-2 to change all lease and mortgages and put all the collateral on the high school.

The vote was the same, 3-2, to adopt te resolution.

The regular meeting reconvened after the vote and adjournment of the special-called meeting.

In other business

* Board heard from LCHS assistant principal Kyle French on the district reimbursing dual credit teacher education to help add to the different dual credit courses offered. English is currently the only dual credit course taught at the high school. French noted that a teacher wanting to teach a dual credit class would have to have 18 hours of graduate credit in that area. The costs ranged from around $9,900 at Eastern Kentucky University and over $13,000 at the University of Kentucky. The board suggested that a stipulation be put in place to require a dual credit teacher to remain in the system for at least five years or they would have to repay the debt. The topic was a discussion item so no action was taken.

* Recognized Marsha Abel, Director of Finance, who is retiring at the end of 2019 and introduced Lee Ann Smith who was hired to replace her.

* Gloria Sneed read an email she received from Rep. David Meade after contacting him following the Nov. 26 special-called meeting on the recallable tax vote. “Thank you for reaching out to me with your question about what taxes the school board can assess, and who can assess an insurance tax. From my understanding, from the conversations I have had with staff in our budget office, the school board has very limited options when it comes to taxes. The only tax control the school board has is through property taxes. They can not assess insurance taxes. Only the county or the city can assess an insurance tax or something similar. Again, I appreciate  you contacting me. I hope this information is helpful.”

* Approved creating a throws coach position for shot put and discus in track and field. No cost to the board. Booster Club would make donation of $1,000 at start of year when salary schedules are approved. Stipulation by Hubble, who made the motion, was that the position be terminated if funds are not there.

* Approved copier maintenance contract for Waynesburg Elementary. The full-service contract for $3,840/year for 640,000 copies includes all emergency calls, time travel, parts and labor.

* Heard Wellness Report from Cathy Hettmansperger, Lincoln County Food Service Coordinator. 

* Approved change in job descriptions for coaches to include list of training required before the start of a season.

* Approved request from Christine Killen, Early Childhood Coordinator, for child safety restraints waiver on buses from National Head Start Center.

* Approved Early Childhood Teacher Tuition Reimbursement Agreement to protect local federal dollars for education reimbursement. Those receiving certification or a degree would have to work at least four years in Lincoln County.

* Approved contract with the Lincoln County Health Department for lead testing. Not a high risk in the county but McKinney area is considered a potential high risk because of the railroad tracks there.

* Shortened school day/week for some students at LCHS, LCMS, Stanford Highland and Crab Orchard. These students, as part of IEP, need shortened school days for therapy that the district does not offer. Is on a temporary basis.