FCHS to get Army JROTC in 2011-2012

Board skittish to add estimated $125K cost, but vote was unanimous

Fayette County High School is on its way to getting an Army JROTC unit for the 2011-2012 school year.

The projected cost, based on what has been spent on the Air Force JROTC program at Sandy Creek High School, is about $121,000 for salary contributions and an unknown amount for renovations at the school if they are deemed necessary.

The Fayette County Board of Education voted unanimously last night for the system to start the paperwork process, knowing that the funds would be programmed into the budget for next school year.

Although each board member acknowledged the positive benefits of a JROTC program, particularly in light of the success of the one at Sandy Creek, the only significant hesitation from board members was due to the cost.

The school system cannot enact a property tax increase to cover the cost because state law limits schools to a maximum millage rate of 20 mills, which is the current rate adopted by the board.

Furthermore, county officials are predicting another property tax reduction this year due to falling property values, particularly in the commercial sector.

On top of that, state education officials have warned the school system to expect another reduction in state revenues also this year.

For Sandy Creek’s AFJROTC program last year, the school system received $66,500 in federal funds to go along with the school system’s $121,000 contribution, noted comptroller Laura Brock.

School board member Janet Smola suggested the funds could come from savings the board is achieving via a $4.25 million federal jobs grant that will be realized over the next two months.

Brock reminded the board that this year’s budget shows a $5 million deficit. Also, earlier in the meeting, Board Chairwoman Terri Smith noted that state board association officials are recommending the savings from such federal grants not be considered “windfalls” but instead should be saved to offset future funding cuts.

Though most of the board expressed concerns about the cost, there were positive comments offered about the program at Sandy Creek and the potential affect a JROTC unit could have on the entire school at FCHS.

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity, especially when college is becoming so much more competitive,” said Board Member Janet Smola. “This gives kids another career avenue.”

The board had the option of postponing the implementation of the JRTOC program at FCHS for either of the two following school years, but after some discussion the decision was made to implement it for the 2011-2012 school year.

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