County to look into how coal severance used at schools
by Bailey Richards
HAZARD — Members of the Perry County Fiscal Court agreed to evaluate the needs of local schools following a discussion on how coal severance funds are being used in the Perry County School District.
The fiscal court has for the past several years allocated coal severance funds for the school districts in Perry County. However, in the last few years, the fiscal court claims, much of the money going to the county district was not making it to many of the schools.
During the last several years, money meant for the Perry County School District was given directly to the central office, but in the past, the fiscal court has taken over determining where this money went. Members of the fiscal court on Tuesday said that they have received several complaints from people at individual schools over the last few years about money not being made available to them for repairs and necessary upgrades.
In some of these cases the county has completed these repairs themselves, according to Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble. “They couldn’t get glass put in their bathrooms (at one school), and they had glass broken out in the kitchen and they had birds flying in,” said Noble. “The fiscal court replaced it, we went over and did that.”
Noble said that they receive complaints nearly all the time from school officials and parents about problems at some of the elementary schools, and they want to make sure that the money given to Perry County Schools is getting to as many of the schools as needs it.
Jody Maggard, the school district’s financial officer, attended Tuesday’s fiscal court meeting, and said that the money they expected for this year has already been promised to just one project. District officials spent only $75,000 of the coal severance money from last year in anticipation of saving $200,000 for this same project.
“We wanted to take that with the $275,000 we had coming this year, and put turf on the football field at the new athletics complex at the new East Perry Elementary,” Maggard explained.
Work preparing the field for turf has already begun, and without the money they would not be able to complete the complex.
While the judge and magistrates all agreed that with the amount of money that is made and people that use the field, turf would be a good investment. However, they said that the first priority for this coal severance money needs to be to give the schools what they need.
“I feel like all of the schools need a little bit of the pie,” said Noble.
Maggard said since the district had expected the money, officials had already allocated it toward the field. “We have $275,000 that we of course thought was coming to us because in the last few years it has,” said Maggard. “We thought things were going to continue.”
District 3 Magistrate Earl Brashear said that with so many of the complaints they have received stating that the money is always being spent at just one or two schools, they were not sure if putting all of that money toward just turf on one field was a good use. He suggested splitting the money evenly, with each school getting $25,000.
Maggard said that in the past they have used this money for several different schools, and that they have documentation of where each dollar of the coal severance had gone.
District 1 Magistrate Frank Hurley remarked that they would like to see the new field get turf, but added that the school district may have to get donations or fundraise for the rest of it.
After around an hour of discussion, the fiscal court decided on having the magistrates in each district go with school representatives to each school in their district and ask what each school needs. Once those needs are met, the additional money can be used towards the turf.
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