Monday, November 30, 2009

Basic School Finance

A training session on the basics of school finance was held for our newly elected school board members on Tuesday evening, November 24th. Treasurer Cheryl Swisher had prepared handouts for each person and we spent a little over two hours going over her materials.

We did not directly address the Five Year Forecast that evening, although it was mentioned in passing a few times. The main focus that night was to familiarize the new board members with the financial packet that is part of each monthly meeting. General topics were:
  • What are the accounts?
  • Where does the money go?
  • Where does the money come from?
  • The Board's role in the financial process
  • Review of board reports
  • Questions

Of course, out of a school district's expenses, fully 85% is on salaries and benefits. Board President Jeff Michael reminded everyone that the difference between the salary we had originally offered to the SEA and the final contract is $1 million annually - which goes on forever, each and every year. He made the point that salaries and benefits are the largest expense over which a school district has any control, and that decisions made on contracts have an everlasting effect - good or bad - on a district.

Cheryl spoke about the differences between the various types of funds and how certain funds can only be used for specific purposes. For example, the Permanent Improvement fund holds money that cannot be used for operating the district, by law. It can't even be used for repairs of our buildings! She used the example of a broken pane of glass in a school building window. PI money cannot legally be used to repair that broken pane of glass - but it COULD be used to replace the window completely!

There was a short side discussion on the prospect of a new Middle School. Our "turn" for receiving state funds is coming up soon, but in order to qualify for a new building the enrollment must be at a minimum of 350 students - we are currently at 312 in the Middle School.

Cheryl explained the Board's role, and suggested we ask the right questions:

  • What is our district's current millage rates?
  • Are any levies expiring and when?
  • When is our property going to be reappraised and how will that affect us?
  • What are the assumptions in the Five Year Forecast?
  • How is our health insurance funded and how does it compare to other Districts?

She was very thorough in her presentation, and shared a lot of valuable information. In her summary, she cautioned that the school board must keep the overall financial picture in mind when approving contracts and staffing, and must make certain that what is approved is allotted for in projections shown in the Five Year Forecast.

This first training session was very well done, and a subsequent session on the Five Year Forecast should also be enlightening for the new board members.

November Meeting

Our November 17th school board meeting began with many board commendations to particular students to recognize their successes in athletics and music. Congratulations to them all, for their hard work and perseverance!

The Treasurer's section of the meeting was pretty straightforward, with action taken to accept the Appropriation and Amended Certificate as presented, a depository agreement with National City, and Transfers. There were no "Now & Then" POs this month.

For the Superintendent's portion, Mr. Griggs presided for the last time in his capacity of interim superintendent while Paulette Baz was on maternity leave. The recommendations on various personnel matters were unanimously accepted, including a retirement, several volunteers, certificated and supplemental contracts.

We were asked to approve the process to begin taking bids on mold remediation in the closed off section of the Middle School. We have had both state level and county Board of Health representatives inspect this building and give recommendations. There are about 5 rooms that will receive mold remediation and the other cleanup can be done by our custodial staff.

Bids for a new ADA compliant bus had been received, and we were asked to approve the Blue Bird bid of $80,030 which included a $1500 trade-in allowance for our 1991 Blue Bird bus plus an early payment discount of $200. There was a short discussion of whether a better price for the old bus might be obtained by attempting to sell it on our own. We unanimously approved accepting the bid from Cardinal Bus Sales & Service for the Blue Bird bus, and we may expect delivery in March 2010.

There were reports by Mr. Griggs and Mona Dyke on the Ohio School Board Association (OSBA) conference recently held in Columbus. We had a short Executive Session, and then our official business was finished.

A report from Mr. Griggs showed that our absence rates have been running from 5-9%, which is in the "normal" range.

Mona and I thought it would be helpful for our newly elected board members to receive some training prior to them taking office. With schedules being so crowded this time of year, we were able to set one date for a financial training session with Treasurer Cheryl Swisher. Other training will be provided as time permits, in addition to that provided by the OSBA.