Budget talks heat up board meeting

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By Jennifer Caldwell

 Budget negotiations have yet to begin, however, money talks had tempers flaring at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.

While County Finance Director Jeff Marlow’s explanation of the development of the school system’s upcoming budget seemed to satisfy most board members one member appeared to remain appeased.

When Chairman Eugene Lawson questioned the finance director about what happened to the interest earned on the more than $2 million in the undesignated fund balance he did not like Marlow’s response.

According to Marlow, interest earned on the money is returned to the county for service of debts.

Lawson vehemently defended his position that the money belonged to the board and should return to the board’s budget despite Marlow’s explanation that the county commission is the funding body for the school system.

Still in the hot seat Marlow listened as Lawson accused him of failing to look out for the best interest of school system employees.

“It seems like every time we talk you are defending the county commission. I feel like sometimes we don’t have enough people fighting for the school system,” Lawson said with his voice rising.

In response, Marlow offered that he displayed no preference toward either body, but was simply working for the good of the county as a whole.

“I represent the entire entity and I make sure each part gets its fair share,” Marlow explained adding if the board wanted more money it was their job to approach the commission with such a request.

Not ready to let the issue die, Lawson continued to press Marlow on the matter.

“I want to know when you’ve ever recommended a raise for our teachers,” Lawson boomed.

“That’s not my job,” Marlow responded.

Lawson continued to hammer away at Marlow suggesting he was working to prevent pay increases for teachers.

“We think you’re smart enough to keep the teachers from getting a raise,” Lawson announced.

An incredulous Marlow then turned to Sharon Marlow, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) representative, and asked for confirmation of his position.

“Sharon, do you think I have ever tried to keep teachers from getting a raise,” Marlow asked getting a no response from Sharon Marlow.

When board member Faye Heatherly asked Lawson to move on the chairman refused to drop the issue.

“I’m trying to ask direct questions,” Lawson told Heatherly.

“I’m trying to give direct answers,” Marlow responded.

“Well, I’m not satisfied with your answers,” Lawson said as the discussion concluded.

A packet containing the proposed 2009-10 budget was distributed for board review. Members will meet next Tuesday at 5 p.m. to discuss and vote on the instrument.

Before the fireworks Dr. Michael Martin attempted to shed some positive light on the system by presenting the first Make a Difference award to Robbie Heatherly, Campbell County High School principal.

An emotional Martin told the group Heatherly had gone above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of students during the past year.

“This guy is pretty special to me,” a choked up Martin said as he called Heatherly to the front.

Heatherly accepted the honor offering credit to Martin for many of the school’s recent achievements.

“We had very high standards set forth by this man (Martin),” Heatherly said.


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