, 2014

Upcoming joint session on school
budget catches some officials by surprise

by Audrey Thomasson

KILMARNOCK—Superintendent Dr. Daniel Lukich last week riled several members of the school board and Lancaster board of supervisors after he advertised an invitation in their names asking the public to participate in a dinner meeting over the proposed fiscal year 2013-14 school budget.

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They also were upset that Lukich changed the established budget process without discussing it with the school board.

“The invitation was the first I heard about it,” said District 3 member and school board chairman Alex Fleet. “I’ve received a call from a school board member about this...and I’m going over to the school board office to talk with Lukich.”

After the meeting, Fleet reported the public meeting will still be held at 4 p.m. on Monday, February 11, before the school board’s regular monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. Both meetings will be held at Lancaster Middle School in Kilmarnock.

“But there will not be a dinner,” he added.

Fleet said he did not object to Lukich changing the budget process to a public meeting since that was the way he handled the budget as district superintendent in the late 1970s through mid-’80s.

“It’s a board approved meeting,” Lukich said. He claimed the process was approved by county administrator Frank Pleva months ago and the school board approved the budget schedule at its January meeting.

Pleva denied any knowledge of Lukich’s claims.

“That is absolutely false,” he said. “How do you set a meeting with (supervisors) when you haven’t talked to them about it?”

Pleva said he talked to Lukich about how other counties handle the budget process but did not give approval to change Lancaster’s.

“I wouldn’t do that without taking it to the board of supervisors,” said Pleva.

While three members of the school board missed the extension of the meeting time to a 4 p.m. start when they approved the annual meeting schedule, there was no mention of a public meeting with supervisors or a change in the process.

School board members Ella Davis and Don McCann said they noted the time and date prior to approving the schedule. However, other members said they were not aware the meeting would extend the three-hour school board meetings by another two and a half hours. In fact, several members said they have repeatedly told Lukich to shorten the meetings.

School board member Patrick McCranie said he has voted against the long agendas in the past and will continue to vote against them.

When Lukich heard of Fleet’s claim to know nothing about the meeting or the budget process change prior to receipt of the invitation, Lukich replied, “That’s not true.”

McCann said Lukich was within his right to change the budget process because it is not “set in stone. There’s no set protocal,” he said.

According to board of supervisors chairman Butch Jenkins, over the past several years, the budget has been framed by an ad hoc committee made up of two members from each board, the superintendent and county administrator and the finance directors from the school and county.

“It’s too early in the process for the two boards to be meeting,” he said. “Lukich is putting the two boards in front of the public without giving them any information. We have a blank piece of paper in front of us. Issues could come up that neither board could address. This will be hitting us cold in a public meeting in which some members of the public may have prepared statements.”

Jenkins called Lukich’s move unilateral. “We’re supposed to be working partners with the school board.”

Lukich said he plans to present his preliminary budget to the two boards on Monday and will mail out advance copies to the school board this week. When asked if he planned to mail advance copies to the board of supervisors, he replied, “I can.”

Referencing the invitation, Jenkins said, “It’s hard for us to invite everybody when we don’t know there’s a party. Would you do this without checking with your school board? We don’t need an employee of the school board organizing his own show.”

School board member Bob Smart was also surprised when he received the invitation.

“I found it astounding that the invitation was sent out without the board approving the meeting,” he said. Smart noted that he and Davis were the designated members of the ad hoc committee. Since they were not replaced at the January restructuring meeting, he said they continue to represent the school board in preparing the budget with the county.

“No vote was taken to change the structure of the committee or dissolve it. They can’t just go in there and abolish the ad hoc committee,” said Smart.

Also, he said it was inappropriate of the superintendent to offer a dinner for attendees at taxpayer expense.

“Lukich has not informed the board of this....he continues to keep us in the dark.” Reading from Lukich’s contract, Smart said, “...the superintendent must keep all members of the board informed of information that is relevant to the board.”

The Lancaster school board planned to meet in a closed session February 6 to review Lukich’s performance. Fleet said he would not be making any announcements of the outcome of that meeting until several days after the regular school board meeting.

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