Parents can expect higher fees this school year

The Unified School District 410 school board will have to cinch its belt and parents likely will have to open their wallets in order to balance the budget for the upcoming school year.

At the June 7 meeting, the board members faced the conundrum of balancing revenues and expenses to compensate for a budget deficit of nearly $170,000 for the upcoming school year.

President Doug Weinbrenner said the board would vote on the final budget at its August meeting.

Superintendent Gordon Mohn said the projected costs reflect a general increase, such as additional utility costs of $75,000 anticipated for next year, increases in teacher and classified salaries and added fuel and other costs, totaling $199,163.

Mohn recommended that in the best interest of students and families the board implement spending cuts and revenue enhancers totaling nearly $83,300 and raise the mil levy about 3.5 mils-increasing the local option budget by $90,000-to offset the deficit for the 2001-02 school year.

Mohn said next year the board will have to be ready to reduce the staff at the elementary school because fewer students will be enrolling-anticipated classes of 40 coming in and classes of 70 going out.

The lease payment for the high school building, however, will be done, he said.

The board’s evening agenda included reviewing nearly 30 recommendations compiled by the board’s leadership team, made up of Mohn, the three building principals, the high school assistant principal/activities director, the business manager and the curriculum coordinator.

The team had identified $200,000 in possible spending cuts and revenue enhancers.

According to Mohn, all the items listed are feasible, but many of them would have a negative effect on the school, be unpopular with parents and result in a school of lesser quality.

Items high on the list included reducing the custodial staff, eliminating summer school at the middle school and high school, cutting back on coaching staffs, increasing textbook fees by $20 and high-school and middle-school activity fees by $15, adding a $60 fee for sports participation for middle and high school students and establishing a $75 fee for drivers’ education, a nonrequired course.

Mohn distributed a handout to the board that identified the impact of student-fee increases, which for a family with three students, including a fourth grader, a sixth grader and a ninth grader, would total $527, an increase of $245. These fees would be assessed at enrollment.

Mohn said some fees are optional but may not be considered so by parents and students, and a decision will need to be made about the impact on fee waivers.

Board member Robert Watson said he would rather see increases in sports fees than textbooks.

No action was taken by the board on any of these budget recommendations.

Mohn urged the board to come back with recommendations in July.

“July will be the time to decide most of these things,” he said.

Board members raised questions and requested explanations about several aspects related to the budget, including bus transportation, vehicle purchases, special education costs, carryover funds, the Learning Center, technology support and field trips.

Members of the board also discussed the shortfall in tax collection resulting from tax-exemption status granted to Parkside Homes finalized in May 2000. The school board had anticipated those funds, Mohn said.

To resolve the issue, Mohn said the board would meet Monday, June 11, to approve a request for early distribution of funds allocated to the district from this year’s county property taxes to be collected June 20. The nearly $5,000 are needed to receive 26 percent matching funds from the state.

During the meeting, the board acted on the following recommendations:

–?accepted the resignations of Lynn Penner, effective July 31, and Don Funk, effective at the end of the 2000-01 school year.

Penner will have completed 30 years of employment with USD 410, while Funk will have finished 17 years of driving buses for the district.

–?approved issuance of a certified staff contract to Ruth Baldner as a high school science teacher and additional duty contracts to Bob Woelk to serve as HHS assistant boys’ basketball coach and Shawn Winter to serve as head HMS boys’ basketball coach for the 2001-02 school year.

–?approved a 5.5 percent salary increase, included in the proposed budget, for the upcoming school year’s master contract. Mohn said this is the highest increase since the ’91-92 budget.

–?approved calendar changes for the 2001-02 adopted in April, which included reducing contract days from 195 to 192, moving the first day of school to Aug. 15 and the final day of classes to May 23 and changing the dates of spring break to March 18-19.

The change in contract days will not affect the contact days for students.

Mohn said the school wants to make a concerted effort to be more engaged until the last day of school. He said this year’s state baseball and track meets accounted for lower attendance on the last day of classes.

The board tabled the following agenda items for a meeting later in June:

–?classified staff contracts and wages

–?salaries and benefits for administrative and other staff

–?report by the board on the communication process and expectations in the district.

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