NEH approves FY 2014 budget

BLAIRSBURG – The Northeast Hamilton School board approved the $2.4 million FY14 budget at its monthly meeting on Thursday.

In a unanimous vote, the board approved the budget which calls for a $11.13 tax levy per $1,000 taxable valuation. The new levy is lower than the current rate of $11.48.

NEH Superintendent Patrick Hocking also noted that the budget reflects a drop in the surtax from the current rate of 15 percent down to nine percent.

In a related matter, the board also unanimously approved the resolution authorizing the redemption of the general obligation school bonds.

The board had the option of decreasing the levy further, but chose to set a more conservative levy reduction in order to pay off the elementary school bonds in 2019 – a decade earlier. The action saves the district more than $169,950 annually with a potential total savings of $464,00 over the term of the loan. The funds will be held in escrow until the bonds are called in 2019.

The board also approved the 2013-2014 school calendar with classes to begin on August 20, 2013. Barring any need for substitute snow days, classes will dismiss for the year on May 28, 2014.

An error was corrected before the calendar was approved. An early-out day was rescheduled prior to the break for Christmas vacation from Dec. 18 to Dec. 20.

Hocking also noted that parent/teacher conferences next year will return to evening hours to allow parents of high school students to attend conferences at Webster City High School.

In a related matter, Hocking announced the last day of the current school year for high school students will be on June 4 while elementary school students will attend classes until June 6. The discrepancy is due to the fact that NEH High School students attended two additional days of instruction at Webster City while NEH Elementary School students had two

days off following parent/teacher conferences.

The board accepted the bid of $85,000 from New Coop of Blairsburg for the purchase of the school bus barn.

The board also approved the contract with Webster City High School to share vocal and instrumental music, soccer, tennis, wrestling and cross country for the 2013-2014 school year.

The board accepted the low bid of $52,788 from School Bus Sales, of Waterloo, for a 30-passenger Bluebird bus. Hoglund, of Marshalltown, submitted a competing bid of $53,289.

In other business, the board gave Hocking the authority to make a .5 FTE staff reduction for FY14 due to budgetary considerations. Hocking noted that while no action will be immediately taken, the board’s authority gives him flexibility in dealing with the staffing budget.

School Principal Dennis Bahr reported on the status of constructing a new bus barn to be located east of the current school campus. Bahr estimated preliminary work for the site will not exceed $12,000 and the cost will include site surveys, soil samplings and establishing a bidding process.

Heading up the bus barn project will be architect Gary Anderson of Skott & Anderson Architects, of Mason City, with consults from DLR of Des Moines.

Hocking and NEH Financial Officer Susie Fiscus reported on meetings with the Iowa Department of Human Services and the district’s plans to develop a day care center.

Fiscus reported that DHS officials indicated the current day care facility east of the school could be serviceable with minimal improvements by August 2013.

Hocking reported that the district would own the property and then lease the facility to a DHS-licensed day care provider. While the day care provider would be responsible for utilities and insurance, the district would partner on providing meals.

Board member Mike Rapp questioned the priority of the district running a day care.

“I have no problem looking the taxpayer in the face and saying we are providing a service to benefit this district,” said Hocking. “There is a definite need in this district.”

Hocking noted that several district families have filed for open enrollment because the NEH district does not have day care options.

Further details and proposals will be presented at the May board meeting, said the superintendent.

CFO Fiscus reported on the current status of the school’s hot lunch program.

“The state wants all lunch programs to be self-sufficient,” said Fiscus.

“That is hitting small schools hard,” added Hocking.

By Department of Education standards, NEH should have raised fees by $0.11 last year and the district should implement an additional $.026 increase for next year, reported Fiscus. To meet the self-sufficiency requirement, the district may have to increase meal prices by $0.30 for next year, she said.

The current meal prices are $2.15 for elementary, $2.30 for high school and $3.10 for adults. Breakfast prices are $1.35.

The price increase affects only students paying for lunches and will not affect students receiving reduced lunch prices, said Hocking.

To make up any shortfall, the Department of Education is suggesting school districts solicit donations or hold fundraisers.

“It is an odd thing,” said Hocking. Further discussions will be held at the May board meeting.

In consent agenda items, the board accepted the resignations of science teacher Beth Heller and head girls basketball coach Bret Schutt.

The board also accepted donations from Building Families in the amount of $1,000 and $1,200 from DHS, both for the preschool program.

In Good News Sharing, NEH received a $1,000 cash award from the Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge sponsored by Iowa Student Loan. Under the direction of Sally Greenfield, the Senior Prep class took part in the activity this spring. The funds will be used to promote continuing financial literacy and to supplement the school’s scholarship fund.

Newly inducted members of the NEH National Honor Society include Leah Meyer, Kyle Pruismann, Tyler Smith and Jaidyn Timm, reported Hocking.

In administrative reports, Hocking reported that the district will replace its current JMC software program with Infinite Campus.

Infinite Campus is the preferred operating system for school software programs statewide, said Hocking. The new software will allow the district to retrieve grades on one program in addition to being able to collect student fees, manage transactions and monitor lunch accounts. Additionally, the program can implement enrollment-wide auto-dialing and text message alerts, he said.

“It is the Cadillac of software programs,” said Hocking. He noted that even though the $4,000 Infinite Campus program cost is higher than the JMC cost of $2,000, it will integrate with Webster City CSD and other districts statewide.

Board member Roxanne Anderson reported on the joint school board meeting she attended with representatives from Webster City and Stratford.

Hocking reported that future Teacher Professional Development sessions will include topics such as Common Core, Smarter Balance Assessment, technology in the classroom, driver’s education, vocational agriculture, elementary school reading programs, grading and assessment policies, and a review of school safety plans.

Hocking noted that the 800 series of board policy updates will be reviewed at the May meeting.

The board entered into Closed Session for negotiation discussions and the superintendent’s evaluation.

The board returned to open session and adjourned at 8:35 p.m.