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School Board may reactivate citizen panel

April 21, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

A citizen committee that was put on hold by the Washington County Board of Education this year may be reactivated by summer, Vice President Paul Bailey said Wednesday.

The School Board created the Budget Advisory Committee to "involve the public in the development of its annual budget," according to the panel's mission statement.

In a January work session, committee members asked the School Board for guidance. They said the board did not communicate with them and they were frustrated by the lack of feedback.

The board put the committee on hold, asking its 12 members to stop meeting.

As a result, the committee had no input on the budget for the first time in 24 years, according to School Board member B. Marie Byers, who did not agree with the decision to suspend the committee.

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She said the move was a ploy to get rid of the group and its influence.

At the time, School Board President Edwin Hayes said he wanted to change the committee's role. "It needs better vision and direction," he said in February.

Bailey and School Board members Andrew Humphreys and Herbert Hardin drafted a new set of guidelines for the panel, which they renamed the Budget Advocacy and Review Committee.

Bailey took the matter before the full School Board on Tuesday. Although the name is different, the group's mission statement and other aspects remain the same.

As before, the group will have no more than 15 members, including representatives from the Washington County Citizens' Advisory Council and Parent Teachers Association.

One new addition is the School Board's Director of Finance, Chris South. In the past, South was not a voting member but provided assistance.

The new charge says the committee will report to the School Board at least twice - after the superintendent presents his operating budget to the board and again before the adoption of the Capital Improvements Program budget.

The group will be asked to provide an independent response in several areas, including the budget's consistency with the strategic plan and assessment data, cost effectiveness and balance between systemwide and individual school needs.

Bailey said the charge will provide more structure for the committee. The School Board is expected to discuss the matter further in a May 4 work session and adopt the new guidelines thereafter.

School Board members seemed to like Bailey's proposal.

"I like this setup. I think it's very clean," said Doris J. Nipps.

"This is very, very good," said Byers.

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