NEH board talks budgets

BLAIRSBURG – The Northeast Hamilton School board held a preliminary budget hearing, discussed community input in regards to athletics and heard of possible PPEL

projects at its regular meeting Monday night.

Superintendent Patrick Hocking reported that the preliminary budget for the 2013-2014 school year would be approximately $2.4 million with a decrease in the property tax levy from 11.48 percent to 10.63 percent. The district surtax would also decrease from 15 percent to nine percent.

“People ought to be very happy,” said Hocking.

The board set April 11 at 7 p.m. for the public meeting for the budget hearing.

In a related matter, Hocking reported on meetings with Piper Jaffrey, the finance company which services the elementary school loan. The board-directed discussions, lead by Hocking, concerned refinancing the elementary school building with the possibility of retiring the loan.

The board set March 28 at 7 p.m. as a work day session to discuss debt service with Piper Jaffrey in the school Media Center.

“This could save the district hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Hocking.

Community input

Hocking reported on the community input meeting on the future of NEH athletics.

Patron comments revealed a wide spectrum of opinion, said Hocking. He noted that several patrons felt the school could continue to field viable teams, while others felt the district needs to keep up the discussion.

“Whatever the reason, we wanted to be transparent and we wanted people to know and to deal with the facts,” said Hocking.

Declining enrollment and the subsequent fewer participants in high school sports forced the district to address the future of athletic programs.

“We will continue to watch and monitor the numbers,” said Hocking, who noted the school will have both softball and baseball teams for the current summer season.

Asked when the district would have to make a final decision, Hocking said that a decision to share an athletic program could be made up until the first day of practice.

“That is why we will have this same discussion every year,” said Hocking. “There will come a time when we don’t have them (number of athletes).”

Hocking noted that if NEH would consolidate any sports team with its partial day sharing partner Webster City, NEH would pay a coach to accompany the students for the first year.

In contractual business, the board approved Jeff Meyer as play director.

Bus barn

In other business, Hocking presented an offer made by New Co-op in Blairsburg to purchase the bus barn.

Hocking proposed that the district sell the property and then build a new bus barn to be located east of the school campus on land currently owned by the district.

A new building would house all the district’s vehicles and the district could possibly reopen the now idle day care at some future point in time, said Hocking.

The bus barn would house three busses deep with a service bay and busses are something the district would need, no matter what, he said.

The superintendent said that a new building could be built using PPEL, Debt Service or SILO funds.

The board directed Hocking and board member Randy Greenfield to negotiate with New Co-op and bring back an offer to present at a public hearing.

PPEL balance

Hocking reported that the district’s PPEL account has a balance of $397,000 and recommended that the funds be used for improvement projects.

The targeted projects include: increasing the iPad initiative to include kindergarten through 8th grade at a cost of $85,000; purchase a small bus at a cost of $52,000; purchase a new state-of-the-art color copier; and build a new bus barn at a cost of $50,000.

While the total of all these projects would amount to $202,000, it would still leave the state recommended $150,000 balance in the account, he said.

He also added that an additional $202,000 would be deposited in the district’s coffers at the beginning of the new fiscal year in July 2013.

Board member Kathy Pruismann requested the district use funds to do maintenance on the school track. Hocking said repair would also be made to baseball fences.

The board approved the district’s FY12 audit as reported by board secretary Susie Fiscus. Fiscus reported that the audit called for more internal control, but noted that segregation of duties is difficult with such a small-staffed district. In order to address that concern, several office staff oversee deposits and transactions, she said.

Fiscus also reported that the school lunch program overspent its budget by $11,600. With declining enrollment, the school’s expenses outweigh the receipts, she said. The district will continue to monitor the situation.

In bookkeeping, Hocking suggested that several activity accounts be eliminated. Financing these will now be done through the Student Commons Fund. Some of the accounts eliminated were National Honor Society, FFA, Drill Team, Quiz Bowl, Earth Day and Fifth Grade Field Day.

The board approved summer driver’s education fees of $255. Out-of-district students may enroll in the program but will be charged at the rate of their home district program, reported Hocking. The NEH program is limited to 24 students.

Bus routes

With the recent bad weather, Hocking reported that as of Tuesday, NEH would implement Hard Surface/Emergency Bus routes only until further notice. The rain, sleet and snow have made the rural gravel roads difficult and dangerous for the school busses to navigate, he said.

A public hearing on the proposed 2013-14 school calendar will immediately follow the Public Budget Hearing scheduled for April 11 at 7 p.m. Both hearings will proceed the regular School board meeting in the Media Center. Hocking proposed that the district offer teachers flex time of one contract day to prepare for Professional Development. He also noted that the district seeks to stay in synch with Iowa Central Community College and Webster City CSD in terms of its calendar. The current plan is for school to dismiss at the end of the current school year on May 28 after lunch, he reported.

Development days

In administrative reports, Dennis Bahr, NEH principal, reported on staff professional development days and asked the board for policy direction.

When NEH high school students attend Webster City for partial day sharing, they need to have the same tools to succeed as WCHS students, said Bahr.

“I think it has gone quite well,” said Bahr of the PD days that NEH staff shares with Webster City. He noted that at a recent joint PD day, NEH staff took the lead in technology instruction.

By consensus the board approved of the PD policy.

“We teach and learn from each other,” said Hocking.

The upcoming VIP Day will be held on April 17 – the 50th anniversary of the NEH school district, reported Hocking. Activities will center around the Golden Anniversary of the school.

The board received the 800 policy series for review.