Whitehall News

Armes will lead board; treasurer has eye on changes

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Veteran Whitehall school board member Walter Armes will serve as president of the panel for another year following a unanimous vote by his colleagues last week.

Armes has served as board president for more than 10 years.

Board member Blythe Wood will serve a second year as vice president.

The group met Jan. 9 for the first time in 2014 for a budget hearing, an organizational meeting and its regular monthly session.

The vote was brief and with little pomp and circumstance, as was the swearing in of three board members, a result of November's election. Armes, Wood and board newcomer Leo Knoblauch all were given the oath of office and will serve in their current seats for four years each.

The panel also agreed to continue meeting at 6 p.m. the second Thursday of each month, deciding to meet in the district's schools on a rotating basis. In previous years, meetings had been held in each of the district's five schools, but that tradition was halted once construction of the district's five new schools got underway.

Board members also unanimously agreed to continue a pay rate of $125 a meeting, not to exceed 14 meetings a year. If the group meets more than 14 times a year -- often required because of special circumstances such as the hiring of a new superintendent or for construction needs -- board members are not paid for those meetings.

Board members also were appointed to various committees and liaison positions.

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

"I'd say there are very few districts in the state of Ohio who can say this," he told board members last week.

The district went to voters in 2008, asking them to pass a 6.87-mill bond issue to build the district's five new schools. That money cannot be used in the day-to-day operation of the district, only for construction purposes.

McAfee pointed out a number of revenue and expenditure issues he will watch over the next year. Issues affecting the district coffers include a Franklin County triennial tax update this year, in which property values will be adjusted to reflect current market value (a $75,000 loss expected); a hike in state funding (a $2 million increase expected); contract negotiations, which likely will mean an increase in salary for staff members who have been under a pay freeze since 2011; an increase in health insurance rates (to the tune of $300,000); and new textbooks (about $350,000).

McAfee expects the district to end fiscal year 2014 in July with a $12,211,640 balance, and an $11,668,295 balance to end fiscal year 2015.

Also at last week's meeting, board members were treated to a lively presentation by the Whitehall-Yearling High School show choir as part of School Board Recognition Month.

Board members also received certificates of appreciation from the district, along with various goodies from the district's other four schools in gratitude for their service.

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