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Madison schools grow with the community

By By Tracy L. Brady
Record Reporter
The Madison City Schools System is financially sound and projections say it will stay that way for at least five more years.
The first of two public hearings to review and approve the proposed 2002-03 system budget was held July 11. Superintendent Dr. Henry Clark and Executive Director of Finance and Business Mike Weaver presented the budget to the Madison City Schools Board of Education and the public.
According to Weaver, the proposed budget has been in development for six months and is the sixth budget compiled since the conception of the school system.
The budget provides for improvements in staffing, staff development, curriculum and instruction, instructional materials, technology resources, instruction uses of technology, technology at local school level, career/technical program, incentives and benefits for employees, custodial services, plant management, and transportation.
All of this and a projected year-end balance of $11,958,977.
Highlights of the improvements include:
* Full-time elementary reading specialist.
* Implementation of the Alabama Science, Math and Technology Initiative at Discovery and Liberty middle schools. This $3 million pilot program will be the first and only in North Alabama.
* Reducing fees paid by middle and high school students for required academic classes.
* Installation and implementation of video production programs at all schools.
* Installation of 56 new computer workstations for middle school resource labs.
* Continued improvements in the career/technical program with access to industry certified courses at Bob Jones High School.
* Up to four permanent substitute bus drivers.
"As the community grows, we will too," Clark said.
Clark and Weaver also presented projections for the next five years including $21 million in major capital projects.
"We crunched the numbers and we know we can afford it," Clark said.
The BJHS addition, currently under construction, was the first of these major capital projects. Clark said construction is ahead of schedule and may be complete and ready for move-in this November. The projected completion date was January 2003.
A $4.5 million addition to Discovery Middle School is scheduled to be complete in June 2004.
"This means we will have to rezone our middle schools," Clark said. "Get ready for it folks, it's going to happen."
A much awaited and controversial system-wide stadium is included at a cost of $3 million and is scheduled for completion in July 2004. Clark said the system is close to closing on a land deal for the stadium.
A new $9 million elementary school, scheduled for completion in June 2005, and $1.75 million central office and teacher resource center, scheduled for completion in July 2004, will be located on the same land as the stadium.
All of this, and a projected 2006-07 year-end balance of $10,890,852.
Clark commended Weaver and staff for the time and effort invested in the budget proposal and projections.
"Few systems project out five years," Clark said. "And few are as accurate as this."
Weaver said the goal of a five-year plan is to maintain flexibility.
"This is not a bare-bones projection," Weaver said. "I am very conservative in my estimates. A five year plan allows us to be much more flexible for unseen expenses than most systems."
Since the establishment of the school system, Weaver said the assessed values of taxable property in the City of Madison have increased in four years what had previously taken 10 years.
The value per mil has also increased from $175, 000 to $275,000 in those four years.
"A good school system increases property values," Clark said.
Don Spencer, board president, said he and the board are "very pleased" with the budget and the five-year projections. He also agreed with Clark that Madison does indeed have a good school system.
Copies of the proposed budget and comment sheets will be available at the front desk of each school in the system and at the Central Office until Aug.1.
Comments must be received before Aug. 1 to receive a response from Weaver.

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