The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

August 21, 2013

County schools grant writer hire to help boost revenue

By Kim West

— Saying that revenues have flat-lined, the top Limestone school official plans to add a part-time grant writer to the central office staff in an effort to find additional funding sources.

Limestone Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk described the grant writer as “an investment” during Tuesday’s board of education meeting, with the expectation the new hire will become self-supporting by bringing in grant money.

The position has not been filled, and interviews will be held next week.

“We have a number of central office employees that have written grants because they recognized that revenues have flat-lined,” said Sisk. “We’ve had outstanding people apply for this — people with a proven track record … at a later time, this could be a full-time position but we’re asking for half time.”

The grant writer will work 20 hours weekly under the supervision of Mary Robinson, director of federal programs. The part-time position will be year-round with no benefits.

Board member Charles Shoulders asked whether the grant writer could be expected to train other employees to write grants. The superintendent said the position’s primary focus would be on grant writing.

The job description adopted by the board outlines two goals for the grant writer — “to facilitate the acquisition of new money to support district initiatives” and to search out funding sources to fulfill the needs of the school district.

Budget hearing

A 15-minute budget hearing preceded the board meeting as Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Craft gave a preview of the proposed $89.9 million budget, which will take effect Oct. 1.

Among the projected expenditures of the new budget are $60.2 million for personnel, $8 million for capital outlay, nearly $3.4 million for debt services and $2.1 million for utilities.

Craft said the system, which has increased by nearly 400 students since 2008, currently has about 1,075 full-time employees. Personnel costs, including salary and benefits for 551 teachers, 378 support staff and 42 administrators, comprise almost 71.4 percent of the overall budget.

Some of the major sources of forecasted revenue are $51.9 million from the state — 63.7 percent of the budget — and $6.3 million in federal funds, while the local contribution is expected to be slightly more than $21 million.

Local funding, or 28.2 percent of the budget, is expected to include $4.1 million from ad valorem taxes and $10.8 million from county sales taxes.

The current operating budget is $80.3 million. In March, the board approved a two-phase, $26.1 million capital improvement plan. The plan’s $13.6 million Phase I is underway, with a groundbreaking ceremony held Monday at Ardmore High School for the school’s $4.2 million new gymnasium and classrooms. The $5.4 million renovations at Clements High School are expected to begin in October.