Commission, school system wrangle over how capital improvements are used

JACKSON, Tenn.-After weeks of back and forth, Tuesday, the Jackson-Madison County School District learns how much money it will receive for capital improvements over the next fiscal year.

At $2.8 million, it is well below the $5.1 million originally requested by the district. But overshadowing the amount is a stipulation.
Commissioners said before a dime is spent, the district must ask for permission to use the money.

Besides buying buses, the Madison County finance committee voted Tuesday that the school district must ask for permission to spend money from the district’s capital fund. Superintendent Verna Ruffin said the schools could suffer.

“They are desperately in need of some improvements on roofs and HVACs, so any delays to those projects will complicate the problem and will only put us in crisis mode as we continue, said Dr. Ruffin.  Commissioners said, ‘too bad’.

“It’s not the end of the world. They meet with us regularly anyway. They come to the financial management meeting every month so this is just kind of a little more bureaucracy but its not a major problem,” said county commissioner Larry Lowrance.

Commissioners sadi this decision is because in the last fiscal year the district asked for money for improvements to the North Side High School stadium, but never spent the money.

“Legally, the commission hasn’t done anything yet. All these are negotiations and recommendations,” said county attorney Steve Maroney.

Maroney said commissioners are within their rights to ask where the money is going, but can only legally stipulate how funds are used if the district requests more money that it has allocated. He said once the district is given funds, it is solely up to the school board to determine how it is used.

“The commission can’t say ‘this money is allocated, but only if you do certain projects’. But what the commission can say is, ‘we’re allocating a certain amount of money for you, and if you want money over and above that, you have to come and request it’,” said Maroney.

The full commission still must vote on the entire budget by the end of this month. Commission chairman Gary Deaton said the suggestion to add this stipulation will hold the district accountable and insure projects are actually completed.


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