Other items of discussion and actions taken at the USD 431 BOE meeting included:
• The board discussed possible changes to election procedures in light of upcoming April elections. It was noted that some members will be serving an additional six months due to elections moving to the fall in 2017. There was support for moving away from districts to service at-large. Stoskopf asked board members to gather input and come back to the discussion in the near future.
• Lowry asked the board to look further into the possibility of contracting with Yellow Folder to digitize the district’s permanent records that must be filed in perpetuity. Some cost savings could be foreseen, but primarily the benefit to the district would be ease of storage and searchability of records. Currently, the district receives about 30 to 40 requests for information in permanent records each year. Reasons for request include transcript requests for college applications and alternative high school enrollment, education verification for employment, and immunization records. Yellow Folder would charge an initial set-up fee and a monthly maintenance fee. Board members agreed they would consider the request further at a later meeting.
• Lowry provided an overall food service report reflecting the first five months in the contract with Opaa! Food Management Inc. So far, there has been $16,500 savings in salaries realized. The district spent about $6,000 more in food, reflecting an increase in students and staff utilizing the service. Administrators reported satisfaction to the site councils, and revenue from lunch sales is up.
• The board agreed by consensus to consider the first bond issuance for the district’s capital improvement projects in February, providing the needed 60 days consideration period and time to publish the resolution the required two times.
• Discussed the district’s need to upgrade various vehicles, with Bus No. 1 and No. 9 identified as the most critical in need of replacement.
• Approved a request by Storm Special Olympics to use Bus No. 9 to attend a competition in Buhler later this month. The team will pay for fuel and a fee for the driver.
• Lowry provided his monthly legislative report, noting that the state will return to session in less than two weeks.
• A broken pipe flooded a portion of the middle school over the weekend, Lowry reported. The ensuing work to fix the pipe led to the discovery of another problem that had caused a smell in the school for several months. The smell was due to another broken pipe that leaked fluids from a urinal bay into the sand under the bathroom floor.
• Reinhardt discussed upcoming state assessments.
• Schultz reported a final draft copy of the new eligibility policy will be presented at the February meeting.
Hoisington USD 431 Board of Education met Monday night to discuss the expansion of the list of items that can be spent from the district’s capital outlay fund. First mentioned at the December meeting, it was noted a new resolution would need to be passed before the next budget cycle, which begins at the end of June.
In essence, school districts can now decide if they want to allow capital outlay funds to be used for a wide variety of needs, instead of the very limited capital projects it now can be earmarked for.
Things like payroll, athletics equipment and uniforms, maintenance and janitorial staff, leasing computers and software and other expenses can only be paid out of the general fund now. By passing the resolution, money from capital outlay could be transferred specifically for these expenses.
USD 431 can collect up to 8 mills through property taxes each year, but currently only takes 4 mills. That 4 mills has allowed the district rebuild its reserves, so it could survive some cuts now, but the resolution would provide the freedom to more easily transfer money between funds as needed. The district needs to decide on the resolution now, and while they are at it, they can opt to make it a continuous resolution rather than having to renew it every five years as they do currently.
It could help reduce the need for future increases if the General Fund does not keep up in light of any future cuts from the state, Lowery said.
“The vast majority of school districts have passed this in the past two years,” he said. “If the General Fund were cut, you would still have resources available for things you planned.”
In July, state aid was reduced from 25 percent to 10 percent from the state. Board member Don Fisher said he appreciated the freedom it would give them. Shannon Donovan agreed, with the caveat that the board was careful not to simply use it as another revenue source. Lowry pointed out that expenses needed to have board approval, providing the needed safeguards.
Athletic equipment needs
Hoisington High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Matthew Schultz made an impassioned plea to the board during his administrative report later in the meeting to seriously consider the resolution, as it could potentially benefit the athletic departments at both the middle school and the high school.
“With this new resolution, it would allow Mrs. Reinhardt and I to ask for help purchasing needed uniforms and equipment for our kids,” he said.
While the needs of the bulk of the sports can be paid for out of the regular budget, football and basketball are very expensive, and in recent years the athletics departments have had to skimp on the items they have purchased. This has left high school team with six year-old uniforms, some of which don’t match in color. Simply purchasing middle of the road football uniforms, with a home jersey, and away jersey, and one pair of pants, can cost the high school $15,000 to $17,000, he said. The needs at the middle school are similar, he said.
But what is even more critical, he pointed out, is helmets. This year, he will have to take 12 out of service, and next year he will have to retire 13. These helmets must be cut in half, rendering them unusable. That’s because each helmet has a limited serviceable life. Sometime about eight to 10 years ago, he recently discovered, the district did not purchase a round of helmets, and that‘s another reason the need will be so critical in the next year. Once the inventory is returned to a regular rotation, he anticipates retiring five helmets each year.
Schultz explained that helmets are rated by Virginia Tech on a five-star scale, and the helmets the team currently has are rated an adequate 3-stars. New five star helmets could cost roughly $300 to $600 each. He sees the capital outlay resolution as a way he and Reinhardt can be able to assure parents.
“Nine kids passed away this year, one in our own backyard,” he said. “Safety is a huge issue at all levels. By going that way, you could help us put our kids in the safest equipment possible.”
Basketball is another sport in need of new uniforms and equipment that will also be costly. Schultz estimated the two schools combined may ask the district for $40,000 for the next budget cycle. He also noted that if the middle and high schools could agree on one jersey, they could get a price break.
Following the administrative reports, the board moved into executive session for 30 minutes for the purpose of discussing non-elected personnel. Upon returning to open session, the board approved two motions. The first was to accept the resignation of Hoisington High School Instructor Deanna Spears at the end of the school year. The second was to terminate the contract with bus driver Amanda Grandclair effective immediately. The meeting then was adjourned.
The USD 431 Board of Education will meet again on Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. at the district office.