School Board Seeks Clarification On Ownership, Usage Of ‘City Lights’ Funds
By Brandon Reed
The Commerce Board of Education is trying to figure out how to handle the money raised by the City Lights Festival.
According to finance director Ann Stokey, proceeds from the City Lights Festival were given to the school system in the past for safe keeping, with the intention being to use the funds to help build a fine arts facility.
The problem, she says, is there are no documents that can be found that indicate what the money is for, or who the money belongs to.
The money actually came from two sources. Proceeds from the City Lights Festival up until last year when it became the City Lights Downtown Festival went toward the construction of a Bill Anderson Center for the Performing Arts, named after the country music legend whose star-studded concerts were the centerpiece of the festival. The organizing group was an unofficial entity, and Anderson and the committee are not connected to the current City Lights Downtown Festival. But the Commerce City Council also voted to give to the fund the (approximately) $215,000 insurance repayment of money stolen by former (and late) police chief George Grimes. At the end of May, the account held just under $470,000.
The board directed Superintendent Dr. James E. “Mac” McCoy to contact the city of Commerce, asking for a letter stating what the funds were for and how they can be used.
Stokey said another possibility is that the school system could return the money to the city, and let the city decide what to do with the funds. The options would include returning the money to the school system to assist in the planned high school auditorium, or possibly the city building a stand-alone facility.
Stokey said the state’s auditors have questioned why the money is on the board’s books.
Also on Monday night, McCoy updated the board on the construction of the “practice gym” for the high school. The facility is planned for construction next to the football field, and will be utilized for a concession stand, restroom and locker room facilities. It would also serve as the interim gym during the construction of the new high school.
“We’ve met with band boosters, athletic directors and administrators, and everyone is in agreement that if we can get it as close to the field as possible, that would be the best thing to do,” McCoy said.
McCoy said he would meet with the engineers with Robertson Loia Roof to discuss the site plan.
In other business:
•The board approved a spending resolution to allow the system to move into the next fiscal year. A line item budget has been prepared, but McCoy said the system is waiting on the tax digest from the county.
•McCoy told the board that the SPLOST deposits for May totaled $118,068, with an overall total of $1.5 million.
“We have enough in our SPLOST account to pay for the first five payments of our bond referendum,” McCoy said. “That takes care of almost two and a half years, so far.”
•The board went into a closed meeting for just over one hour. After coming out of the closed meeting, the board voted to approve several new hires, including Trudy Smith a second grade teacher; Laura Anderson as a second grade teacher; and Kim McCarthy as a special education teacher for CMS. They also approved three resignations, including Myra Hill, Melissa Graham and Blake Rodenroth.
Also at Monday night’s meeting, the board held its annual evaluation of McCoy. Dr. Paul Sergent, chairman, said the evaluation was satisfactory, and that McCoy’s contract has been extended for another year.