School board discusses pension issue

By Mark Bell - For the Enterprise

Classified employees of the county school system who are nearing retirement age should be taking a much closer look at the state of their future finances.

During a recent meeting of the Harlan County Board of Education, CPA Artie White delivered his audit report of the district’s 2014-15 finances and noted a $107 million unfunded liability.

Under current state law, school districts are required to report these deficits even though the district has no authority or control over these funds, White said.

The same reporting requirement does not hold true for the teachers’ retirement system, he noted.

“This also has no implication to the district’s general fund operations,” White told the board while complimenting the members on the otherwise healthy financial condition of the local school system.

That large a deficit in the state’s pension liability for some of the Harlan County’s school system employees and retirees can give everyone an idea of the scope of the problem across the state that the legislature is set to tackle during the upcoming session in January.

“Probably what you’re going to be seeing is benefits decreasing for new hires in the education system,” White told the board members. “There is a big concern that this situation is going to have a negative effect on the future quality of education in the state, particularly in the recruitment of staff.”

The solution to the problem lies with the governor and state legislature, White said, “but just the news of recording it brings awareness.”

The recent phenomenal success of Jordan Smith and the national acclaim this talented graduate of Harlan County High School has brought to the area was noted by the school board.

Chairman Gary Farmer requested the administration send a letter to WBIR-TV for the amount and quality of the news coverage they have given to Smith, to the school system, and to the entire community.

“They have been very kind to our county,” Farmer said.

The board immediately discussed the possibility of expanding the choral program in Harlan County in order to better prepare students interested in music for an increasingly successful high school program.

Board member Myra Mosley said the schools should do more to prepare all children for their futures and make the most of “a lot of talented people here.”

Athletes receive substantial support in facilities and funding, but very few students will pursue a future in athletics, she noted.

“Music can always be a part of your life,” Mosley said.

In other action, the board:

• Heard the KSBA First Degree College Scholarship Program nominees for Harlan County are Samantha Howard and Tyler Paul Saylor;

• Accepted the superintendent’s employment report of two certified staff hired, one certified staff transfer, one classified hiring and one classified resignation;

• Approved the payment of claims totaling $1,023,294.84;

• Approved the monthly financial report;

• Approved a request to advertise for bids for temperature monitoring systems;

• Approved a request to advertise for bids for twin kettles for HCHS cafeteria;

• Approved the scheduling of the “FOODPLAY” assembly program for all elementary schools;

• Approved a trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for Rosspoint’s second, third and fourth grades and the seventh and eighth academic team;

• Approved the Evarts elementary request to apply for Laura Bush Foundation grant;

• Approved the high school JROTC Trip to Sevierville, Tennessee;

• Corrected the Director of Maintenance salary table to be the same as Director of Food Service and Transportation;

• Appointed Franklin Bank and Trust as paying agent and registrar for bonding services following the loss of those services from Monticello Bank;

• Approved a change to the elementary and middle school athletic policy concerning training for coaches on concussions;

• Held a 30-minute closed-door executive session on litigation;

• Conducted closed-door expulsion hearings for two high school students.

By Mark Bell

For the Enterprise

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