School Board Decisions to Scratch Your Head Over – Part One

My 75 year-old uncle’s elementary teacher used to tell him, “Hayden, stop scratching your head.  You’ll get splinters.”  Well, I’m at risk of harvesting splinters over a few school board decisions this month, most notably from the June 20th meeting, but first here are my observations on the June 6th meeting.

June 6th, 2012 meeting

Standards-based report cards out  On June 6th the board voted to ditch the standards-based report card for the middle school in favor of a 100 point scale report card.  This is a refreshing reversion to common sense.

Revenue shortfall will increase property taxes   Mr. Stokinger reported that the district’s various revenue sources, from the state, tuition and other sources, will be reduced next year.  Recall that the school district budget for next year was increased $1.75 million. Now, in light of revenue disappointments, Mr. Stokinger reports that taxpayers will be asked to come up with a total of $3.44 million rather than the $1.75 million increase alone.  I’ve asked Mr. Stokinger to tell me when these state figures become available annually.   It was my first year on Budcom, but I’ll be wiser next year and far less willing to grant increases to a budget with such substantially uncertain revenue.

Because property taxes can be anticipated to go up not insignificantly from this $3.44 million hit, the board prudently decided not to place any of the $1.55 million dollar surplus from 2012-2013 into the retention fund that was authorized by voters this year.  We need every bit of surplus to be used as revenue in the 2013-2014 budget.

Food Service Contract Renewed  As reported before, the food service contract for this school year is in serious deficit.  Mr. Stokinger believes the final total will be “a little over $100,000.”  While leaving our current food service provider, Whitsons Culinary Group, was an option favored by the cafeteria staff,  Dr. Metzler conducted negotiations with Whitsons and expressed belief that the food service contract will break even next year.  The board voted to give Whitsons another contract; meanwhile, I’ve asked to see the contracts to try to understand Dr. Metzler’s optimism. It certainly would have been appreciated had the board discussed changes in the contract to give taxpayers an understanding of why next year will be different from this year, but if you expect detailed discussion of anything at a school board meeting you haven’t ever attended one. Dr. Metzler explained that the risk sharing between the district and the vendor had changed in the district’s favor so if the service fails to break even next year, the vendor will pay the district a greater sum than this year, but even that would not offset by half this year’s deficit.

Part Two:  the June 20th meeting featuring the unexpected purchase/lease of new modular buildings and the elementary math curriculum

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