Friday, January 21, 2022
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Van Buren School Board Will Remain At Five Seats

Van Buren County will not expand its school board after about an hour of discussion during a Tuesday work session.

Commissioner Brian Simmons said he did not see a need based on feedback from residents in his district.

“At least 70 to 75 (percent) of my district would rather keep it at five because they’re concerned of tax dollars and that type of stuff,” Simmons said. “I mean they’ve even told me if it’s budget you’re worried about why would you want to attach additional money.”

According to Director of Schools Cheryl Cole, increasing the school board to 10 seats would at least cost an additional $12,000 a year. Commissioner Henry Seamons said he would rather see the commission work with the school board to address budget issues.

“What I would like to see happen is in January before we start our budgets, we get with the school board,” Seamons said. “We do a work session like this right here with the school board, and we go to the school board. Don’t have the school board come here. We go to them and sit down and discuss the issues we have.”

As a result of the work session, the December commission meeting was cancelled. County Mayor Greg Wilson said expanding the school board was the main item to be considered. The county will now move forward with its redistricting plan after no changes to the school board.

“For redistricting, that’s under a time frame that has to be in by January first, which y’all have already passed that,” Wilson said. “If you add to it or change anything about redistricting other than the commissioners… all I’m saying is it has to be in by January first.”

The possibility of expanding the school board was introduced by Commissioner William Maxwell at a November meeting. Maxwell sited concerns of budget oversight.

Maxwell said Tuesday that the main concern was the amount of money being spent. According to Maxwell, in June 2016 the school system had an end balance of some $4 million. Today, the budget has about $1.3 million.

Cole said the decrease over that time was due to multiple capital and school improvement projects as well as grant revenue not being accounted for.

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