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Tightening the belt in South Henry

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

When times get tough, leading by example might be the best move.

The South Henry School Board is doing their part to help with school finances by taking a cut in pay this year.

“I personally would like to see it (the annual stipend) lowered,” school board president Casey Carmichael said. “We are facing a very tight year.”

The school board voted unanimously Tuesday to lower their annual stipend to $1,000.

Carmichael thanked his fellow board members for voluntarily taking less pay in 2019.

“It is going to be a little tough with enrollment being down,” Carmichael said. “I think it’s the right thing to do in this situation.”

Business Manager Amy Milner told the board they stayed within their means last year.

“We did not overspend,” Milner said.

Milner also thanked taxpayers in the South Henry school district for paying their property tax bills fully and on time. It is giving Tri schools about $200,000 more than they expected to receive this year.

Even so, education dollars are tied to student enrollment. Because enrollment is down this year, so too is the budget.

South Henry’s budget concerns came up during a discussion about new school buses.

The board considered delaying a vote Tuesday on new contracts with private bus drivers after seeing what it would cost to buy new buses.

“We’re trying to shave dollars and cents,” South Henry Superintendent Wes Hammond said.

Each bid called for a new bus that includes built-in seatbelts and stop-arm cameras.

Board member Terry Irwin particularly wanted to keep the cameras in the bid so the drivers could better identify people who run the sign while Tri kids are getting on or off the bus.

There’s also proposed legislation to make seatbelts mandatory on school buses.

The bus drivers anticipated leaving those upgrades out of the new vehicle order could cost more money later if South Henry decided to retrofit the vehicles.

After discussing the bids and bus specifications with the drivers, the South Henry School Board voted 6-0 to accept the bids as submitted.

There was also discussion about whether or not to continue using the Accelerated Reader program at Tri Elementary and Tri Jr/Sr High Schools.

The contract ended in December.

Hammond thinks it may be time for the school district to “find something more robust” for students.

The school board gave Hammond the go-ahead to try negotiating a six-month contract so Tri English teachers could finish the year using AR and then use something else next year.

In administrative business, Carmichael will continue as board president for 2019. Randy Paul will serve as vice president and Beth Carr will be the board secretary.

The South Henry School Board will continue to meet at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month in the Tri Jr/Sr High School library, 6972 S. Ind. 103.

The South Henry School Board is planning to have a special meeting to discuss upcoming projects and finances before their next regularly scheduled meeting in February.

A date for that special meeting had not been decided as of press time Thursday.