Whitehall News

School board

Armes, Howard elected president, VP duly

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Whitehall Board of Education veteran member Walter Armes will serve as president of the panel for another year following a unanimous vote of confidence by his colleagues last week.

Board member Ronda Howard will serve as vice president.

The group met for the first time in the New Year on Jan. 10 for a budget hearing, an organizational meeting and its regular monthly session.

The vote was brief and with little fanfare. Both thanked their fellow board members for the vote of confidence once again.

The panel also agreed to continue meeting at 6 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at the district's administrative offices, with the occasional visit to one of the district's new school buildings. In previous years, meetings had been held on a rotating basis in each of the district's five schools. But that tradition was halted after construction started.

Board members also unanimously agreed to continue a pay rate of $125 per meeting, not to exceed 14 meetings per year. If the group meets more than 14 times in a year, as is often required because of special circumstances like the hiring of a new superintendent, attendance is gratis, meaning it is without requirement and without pay.

Board members also were appointed to various other committees and liaison positions, with Armes carrying most of the weight of those duties.

During the board's budget hearing, district treasurer Steve McAfee gave those in attendance a 30-minute overview of Whitehall's financial status. He congratulated the district and board for staying off the ballot since 1995, when Whitehall last asked for an operating levy. He said the feat is quite remarkable.

"Eighteen years -- that's an incredible run," he said. "But unfortunately, that run will probably come to an end in a few years."

The district approached voters in 2008, asking them to pass a 6.87-mill bond issue to build the district's five new schools. Such funds, however, aren't permitted for use in the day-to-day operation of the district. They must be used only for construction purposes.

Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy said she would venture to guess that no other district in Ohio could boast of such a record -- 18 years and no new levy.

McAfee pointed out that revenues are not expected to increase in the near future, though. In fact, a new state funding formula is expected to be introduced by Gov. John Kasich by July 1, and districts are unsure how his proposed formula might affect district coffers.

"We have no idea what this formula is going to look like," McAfee said, adding that the mystery makes it difficult to forecast for the coming year.

Federal funding also has been cut, McAfee said. Moreover, he said, the $65,000 coming to Whitehall from state gambling profits likely would be offset by other state budget cuts.

According to McAfee's figures, the Whitehall school district will end the current fiscal year June 30 with a general-fund balance of slightly more than $11.5 million. That will drop to about $8.6 million by the end of fiscal year 2014, he said.

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