USD 410 board sets April 23 special meeting for making budget decisions for 2003-04

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
Gray clouds still hover over Unified School District 410 as the Board of Education delayed making any decisions regarding revenue enhancers and spending cuts to accommodate a potential $300,000 deficit in next year’s budget.

Instead board members approved a special meeting for April 23 where they will address financial and personnel issues.

If any changes are made in certified teaching staff, Superintendent Gordon Mohn told the board, those decisions must made before May 1.

Also, any reductions in administrators need to be made prior to hiring a replacement for Pat Call, principal at Hillsboro Elementary School.

Call’s request for release from his contract was approved at the regular meeting. In January, his contract had been extended through the 2004-05 school year. Call has been offered a contract to serve as superintendent of Hill City USD 281 (see sidebar).

As part of processing the budget, Mohn reported about the meetings held in the past weeks to gather input from the public. A total of 175 attended those meetings, including school employees, site council members and the general public.

But the district only received survey responses from about half of those who attended. The survey asked respondents to choose which revenue enhancers and spending cuts to make.

“I was disappointed we didn’t have more responses from our site councils,” said Mohn, who reported only 11 site council members returned surveys, while 50 had attended the meeting.

Using a weighting formula to rank responses, survey results indicated the top preferences as increasing the local option budget and eliminating the job-share positions at the Hillsboro Elementary School.

“There were too many questions to give precise information…. It’s really qualitative information that shows trends,” said Mohn, adding that he didn’t think it was feasible to do away with the HES shared positions because of staff-reduction provisions that are part of the USD 410 master contract.

Mohn said it was important to hear the public’s recommendations regarding the budget.

“It can’t only be a tax increase, but also a combination of reductions,” Mohn said. “Some (of the proposed cuts) are more painful than others.”

But a final decision about the budget will be determined by the board, he added.

Mohn said he had developed a budget proposal, which includes personnel adjustments and staff reassignments, that he planned to show the district’s leadership team.

Board members Doug Weinbrenner and Brenda Enns asked whether the board could review Mohn’s proposal.

He agreed to show it to them in a second executive session, which was held near the end of the meeting.

The first executive session was held earlier in the evening to discuss district personnel issues.

The board decided to allow newly elected board members Rod Koons, Dale Klassen and Mark Rooker to sit in on the first session.

“We need to be careful what we say in executive session,” said Weinbrenner, because there’s no liability insurance for the new members until they begin officially on July 1.

In other business, the board:

reviewed summer maintenance plans, such as redesigning ductwork in HES library, replacing lights in front of the middle school and redesigning the sidewalk at the main north entrance of the school, replacing carpet, and redesigning the main entrance for the Robert C. Brown gymnasium.

approved to continue for up to five years the district’s involvement with Technology Excellence in Education Network. TEEN is an interlocal cooperative agreement with other school districts in the county. The current agreement expires at the end of this school year.

approved a revised calendar for 2003-04 that includes a spring break during the week of March 22, which corresponds to breaks with TEEN, with Regents universities and with Tabor College.

approved Karen Call’s resignation as family and consumer science instructor at Hillsboro High School. Call would have been granted tenure if her contract had been renewed for next year.

approved a supplemental contract for Keith Shobert to serve as an assistant track coach.

increased the hourly limit in Tisha Bielefeld’s contract from 656 to 750 hours annually. Bielefeld works as a parent educator with the Parents as Teachers program. The change only applies to her current contract.

delayed action until April 23 to decide on renewal of the existing contract that would grant tenure for Michelle Faul, a half-time kindergarten teacher. She will be granted tenure with the renewal of her current teaching contract.

delayed action on supplemental contracts for 2003-04 because of the district’s uncertain financial future.

“(In part) it will depend on the number of kids who decide to participate in the programs,” Mohn said.

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