NEH preps for a funding squeeze

Finances and day care were the main topics discussed at the October meeting of the Northeast Hamilton School Board on Thursday night.

Board members revisited district financial data presented at a meeting earlier in the week by Larry Sigel of the Iowa Finance Information Services.

Sigel outlined the Iowa school funding formula which is based on student enrollment. Since the Northeast Hamilton School District has been losing an average of ten students annually since 2008, the district is moving toward operating with a negative balance as early as Fiscal Year 2015.

NEH Supt. Larry Frakes asked the Board how it wanted to proceed concerning the status of the district.

At-Large Director Marlin Pruismann asked board members if they were ready to raise the while flag and consider closing the high school or if they wanted to fight to keep it open. He suggested talking to families who have open enrolled children out of the district.

An estimated 52 students have open enrolled outside the NEH district this year.

“What a difference ten students would make,” he said.

While all Board members urged district patrons to contact their state senators and representatives, they also acknowledged the reality of the district’s situation.

“Hope is not a strategy,” repeated Board member Bruce Mark of a statement made by Sigel.

“But we need to make every effort we can,” said Pruismann.

“We have to do all we can, but we can’t afford to wait,” countered Mark, who noted the district has already had to make cuts in staff. “I will do all in my power not to let that happen again and to explore all options”.

Board President Roxanne Anderson noted that the financial situation is not unique to Northeast Hamilton and that even larger school districts in the state are facing similar problems. But those districts have the option of reducing class sections or programs, she added.

“We’ve already cut everything,” said Mark of staff and program reductions.

All agreed that a decision needs to be made this year as Administrative Assistant Dennis Bahr reminded the Board that by the end of FY 2015, the district would be operating at a deficit of $208,000.

“As a district, we are cash rich, but budget poor,” said Bahr. “Cash really doesn’t make a difference”.

Supt. Frakes reported that the deadline for notifying the state of a decision to change a school’s status is Feb. 1. But schools are to give notice 90 days prior to that date, which would mean NEH would have to make its decision by Nov. 1.

“As far as education, we have it pretty good,” said Board member Mike Rapp. “But I find myself having to make the tough decisions for somebody else. We have to make a lot of decisions in a short period of time”.

By consensus, the Board chose to await the official enrollment totals to be reported to that state on Oct. 15.

“We could make the decision” said Anderson of reporting a status change to the state by Nov. 1, but the school district also has an option to change its plans prior to the Feb. 1 deadline.

The Board agreed to reconvene on Oct. 21 after the official enrollment totals are reported to the state. Administrators were tasked with gathering additional information concerning options, contracts and how the district would proceed.

The day care center is nearing completion, reported Supt. Larry Frakes. The business has received eight enrollment applications and two employee applications.

The day care center is scheduled to open on Oct. 21, said Frakes but the center is awaiting plumbing bids for work to be completed.

Volunteers are needed to serve on the day care board, reported Supt. Frakes. Laura Seiser and Tammy Massman, who were present at the meeting, volunteered to serve on the new board. An additional 4-6 people are needed for the day care board, he said.

A storm plan will have to be developed for the day care center, said Supt. Frakes. The center is still in need of children’s chairs. A propane tank is also being acquired for the center, he said.

Day care center employees will be interviewed, hired and trained by the administration of Cub Cadet Childhood Center in Latimer, said Supt. Frakes. He estimated that a weekly fee for full time day care will be approximately $100.

The Board granted permission to Tammy Massman and Laura Seiser’s group to conduct fundraising events for a Washington, DC, Philadelphia and New York City trip for 16 students in 6th-11th grade from March18-23.

The Board approved a 28E agreement of 75/25 with South Hamilton CSD for Family and Consumer Science teacher Kathy Thelke.

The Board approved a contract with Amy Pigsly for SPED Pre-K.

Board members will attend the Iowa School Board Convention in Des Moines on Nov. 20-21.