Last updated on December 28, 2022
*This is one of several articles that will be written as a result of the December 21, 2022 joint meeting between Macon County Commissioners and Macon County Schools.*
Ensuring that the infrastructure of Macon County Schools stays current, affording its students the best educational opportunities possible is something members of the Board of Education and Macon County Commissioners work together on each year. In addition to the operating expenses that Macon County Commissioners allocate to the school board each year, commissioners provide the school system with a $1 million capital outlay budget, with $600,000 earmarked for technology, to complete needed renovations and improvement projects throughout the district.
Each year, every school in Macon County submits a capital outlay request to the central office. That request is all-encompassing and includes every need, both big and small, within their respective school site. Some years, that list exceeds $10 million in requests and has previously been referred to as a “wish list’ for schools.
After central office staff receives the requests from each school, then, the Macon County Board of Education meets to prioritize the district’s capital outlay requests. Board members are presented with a spreadsheet featuring each and every request which includes a range of items from vehicles, furniture, technology, and safety, to structural needs such as new windows and doors throughout the entire district.
Prior to 2015, the board of education would then take that list and prioritize it, ranking each request and putting them in order of need, urgency, or importance. Sometimes, the list could be paired down based on departments such as IT or maintenance having the existing materials or resources for a request or if grant funding was known to be available. After that list was finalized, the board of education would send their full capital outlay request to commissioners. Commissioners would receive the request, then inform the school district how much money they would be allocating that year for capital outlay needs and then send the list back to the board of education to re-prioritize the list based on the available funding. At some point, around 2016, the boards would skip a step, and instead of sending the entire list of school capital outlay needs to the county, the board of education would debate the projects and prioritize them based on the available funding before sending that list for the final approval of commissioners.
Records currently available to The Southern Scoop News includes information dating back to 2016 when that spreadsheet featured 74 different needs, totaling $9,389,389.20, which left board members having to prioritize the list based on the allotted funding for projects. Of the projects presented in 2016, 24 projects were carried over from 2015, when they did not make the final cut for funding, but were still considered a need. The 2016-17 Capital Outlay Proposal sent to commissioners paired down the original 74 items and $9,389,389.20 in needs to just 10 projects or purchases for a total of $499,978.
Following the 2016-17 budget year, the obvious growing need for additional technology support within the school system resulted in the school system’s capital outlay budget being increased to $600,000 — $300,000 for general needs and $300,000 for technology. Even with the increase in funding of $550,000 for general needs and $600,000 annually specifically for technology in the 2018-2019 budget year, capital outlay requests exceeded $3 million, with around $1 million being identified for school security, something that took precedent that year due to school safety concerns across the nation.
2018 also marks the first year significant renovation/repair needs at Franklin High School were not included in the general capital outlay requests and instead separated out for different discussion with the county. The Franklin High School expenditures were removed from the capital outlay list in 2018 because at that time, commissioners had informed the board that a separate discussion was taking place on the future of Franklin High School and the possibility of relocating or rebuilding the facility entirely.
The more than $10 million in capital outlay needs identified in 2016-2017 came after the county’s capital outlay budget for Macon County Schools was zeroed out with no capital outlay funds provided in 2010. For the 2011-2012 year, the district received just $250,000, followed by $256,000 the next year, and just $99,000 during the 2013-14 year. Just under $200,000 was allocated for capital needs during the 2014-15 year followed by $300,000 the next year. According to Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin, the district is still working to recover from the years with virtually no capital outlay allotment.