The Monticello Independent Board of Education held a special work session Wednesday, January 23, to discuss the impact of state management and to discuss the upcoming hearing before the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE).
As the work session got underway, Gail Binder, a representative with the Kentucky Department of Education, noted that the KBE will take action regarding the board’s request for state management during their meeting on February 5.
Binder stated that there must be a 20-day window between the time when the Commissioner of Education received the request for state management and the first day that a hearing in the matter could be held. This will give everyone involved the opportunity to coordinate their schedules and it gives the local board time to discuss their presentation for the hearing, she added.
The hearing will likely be held later in February. Binder emphasized that the hearing will only address the matter of state management. It will not deal with the issue of a merger of the two local school districts.
She noted that once the request for state management is approved, a state manager will be placed in the school district by the Kentucky Department of Education. Once the state manager is in place, the school board will assume an advisory role and will not be taking any action, she added.
Binder reiterated that if Monticello becomes state managed, there will be an infusion of cash from the state to cover the district’s financial obligations for the remainder of this school year. She also reminded the board that without that infusion of cash, the district will not be able to make payroll at the end of February.
In addition, Binder informed the board that the state manager appointed to the district will not make any decision about the fate of Monticello Independent, including whether the school will close or if there will be a merger with Wayne County. She added that the KBE will issue the directive for the district about closing, merger or other action.
Board Attorney Winter Huff reminded the board that a decision to be a state managed district is not the same as saying they will move forward with a merger. She added that the board would need to meet again to specifically prepare for the hearing with the KBE.
As the work session continued, board members discussed some options for raising revenue and cutting expenses.
One option the board considered for bringing more revenue into the school district was to raise taxes. However, Bill Boyd, finance officer for the district, noted that the board can only levy enough taxes to receive four percent more than they did the previous year. He added that four percent is the maximum tax that could be levied without being subject to a recall vote.
He also addressed the possibility of a payroll tax. Boyd stated that a payroll tax would double the tax base but it would not increase revenue. He noted that the payroll tax would still be subject to the four percent limit on revenue.
Boyd noted that as local revenue increases, state revenue decreases. He stated that raising taxes is not going to raise a lot of money so the savings in the budget have to come from cuts somewhere else.
The board also discussed the possibility of annexing everyone in the city into the Monticello School District. They were reminded that if both Monticello and Wayne County did not agree to this, the matter would go to a vote and it would have to receive 75 percent of the vote. This would be a lengthy process.
Board members also talked about cutting expense in payroll, considering options such as pay cuts and reducing personnel.
Superintendent John Hurt commented that board members would need to have another meeting to prepare their presentations for the state board hearing.
Since the meeting was a work session only, no action was taken.
Sumerset Houseboats lives on…in Wayne County.
Shawn Heinen, president of Thoroughbred Houseboats, said that while his company bought the rights to the iconic Sumerset Houseboats name, they won’t be making use of the facilities. However, there are other resources Sumerset has to offer.
Thoroughbred–a Wayne County-based company that’s been in operation since 1996, purchased the Sumerset brand in April of 2012.
Recently, the company put a notice in industry publication Houseboat Magazine notifying customers of the change. Sumerset went up for sale in 2010 following a shut down the previous year.
“We’d talked about it for a year,” said Heinen of the decision to buy Sumerset. “We have two dealers that had really pressed us to buy them. They’d sold a lot of (Sumerset houseboats).”
Before that, Sumerset had been one of the true leaders in the industry, a staple in houseboat sales for more than 40 years. But business declined along with the economy and the houseboat market, and operations at the state-of-the-art 200,000 square-foot facility in Pulaski County came to a close.
“At one time, Sumerset built 100 boats a year,” said Heinen. “They were the biggest in the industry…now that’s all dried up.”
Heinen said that Thoroughbred has no plans to do anything with the building on Parkers Mill Road–at least nothing in the foreseeable future–and that the property is still up for sell by Citizens National Bank.
Along with the Sumerset brand, however, is a distinctive style of boat design that still carries a lot of weight with customers.
“Besides their name, they have a few other features,” said Heinen of Sumerset. “It’s more of a look thing.”
“Sumerset boats have a specific forward curve bridge part, a fly bridge part,” he said. “A marine lit-up panel. Water manifold. They gave a curved front glass wall that’s exclusive. They have a lightly rounded front deck that’s a Sumerset tradition.
Four Sumerset boats have been contracted for production under the Thoroughbred umbrella so far, said Heinen–two have shipped out.
Thoroughbred expects to produce 16-18 houseboats this year, with about four or five of them being Sumerset models. Next year, Heinen hopes to move up to 24 boats, with approximately half of them being Sumersets.
“I think it will make an impact,” said Heinen of the effect the Sumerset name will have on Thoroughbred, which started in Albany, before moving to Wayne County. “Hopefully, we’ll sell more, and be able to increase personnel, and hire more people from Pulaski County as well as Wayne County.”
That hiring, noted Heinen, would likely be former Sumerset employees who are well-acquainted with the product Thoroughbred is now producing.
The goal is to bring another 10-15 people on board this year and the same number next year, he said.
And maybe, Sumersets might one day be made in Somerset once again.
“In the future, we would consider expanding out of town,” said Heinen, “when the time comes that we can support that.”