Faced with a budget reduction of about $1 million, the school board trimmed four contracts and bought a badly needed reliable bus, and they approved roof repairs at two schools, after the scope of the repairs was trimmed somewhat.The board also considered a 5-10 cent increase in the price of school lunches, but took no action on that.
The reduced hours for four employees are part of reductions in staff due to budget constraints. Other positions are not being filled when someone on the staff resigns or retires, Associate Superintendent Tami Eshleman said.
First, the board approved an unspecified change to the extended contract of Madison school counselor Susan Horne, and also cut five days off the contracted work year for industrial arts teachers William Kalblinger, Lynn Rinhart and Jeffrey Henne.
Other employees are reportedly in the process of appealing the notice that their contracts would be reduced.
In resolutions that were read aloud, the board amended the extended contracts of four staffters, starting with Horne.
The resolution did not list Horne's position, but it said she did not exercise her right to request a hearing within seven days after she was notified that the district was considering amending her contract.
Last month, the board agreed to cut the number of work days for 15 employees, due to the budget pressure.
The central office announced that 5-15 days would be reduced next year for seven school counselors, four school psychologists and four high school industrial technology teachers, although the staff could work the extra days if needed for daily or hourly pay.
The reductions would save the district about $30,000, business manager Stuart Simpson said.
Before the cuts were announced, School Board President Mike Morrell said the district has conducted an essential financial plan to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the school district operations.
Morrell said with budget constraints, decline in student enrollment, levy limitations, reductions in state aid and the current economic conditions within the state, the school district came to the realization that a review of all current programs and services was necessary in order to set a priority on the district resources.
In other action, the board considered a 5-10 cent increase in the price of daily lunch, which would add to a student's cost by $8-16 a year.
The district is required to come up with a 10-cent increase by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which subsidizes the school lunch program, Simpson told the board.
He said the district could pay the 10-cents out of the school budget, or pass the 10-cent increase on to parents, or split the difference, with both the district and the parents paying 5-cents.
The board talked about the options for several minutes, then agreed to table it until the next meeting.
Simpson initially proposed covering the additional cost through the district’s poverty program, which would cost a total of $18,344.
He cautioned that many parents are on the bubble. They make too much to qualify for reduced price lunches of 40 cents each, so they have to pay about $2.50 a day for their child to have lunch.
Simpson also said the Nebraska economy is struggling. Ag income is down and “we want to continue to support our families one more year,” he said.
But the board seemed most interested in splitting the increase -- raising the lunch price by 5-cents with the district paying the other 5 cents.
School board member Ivan Mitchell pointed out the 10 cents more only adds up to about $16 a year, and recommended the district do that.
Mitchell also suggested the district set up it’s own lunch subsidy program, for families who make 5% or so more above the allowable income for reduced-price lunches.
He asked Simpson if that could be done. Simpson said no one had ever asked that, and he would look into it.
JoAnn Lundgreen moved to table action, and the board unanimously agreed.
The board agreed to two much bigger expenditures, a good used bus and roof improvements at the high school and at Lincoln Elementary.
The roof repairs will total about $303,000 Simpson said.
Weathercraft Roofing was the only bidder, and the bid was about 72,000 over budget, so the scope of the repairs at the high school were reduced to bring the cost in line.
The board has considered the repairs for several weeks, while Simpson solicited bids.
The high school roof is about 16 years old. Roof warranties are good for 15 years, Simpson said.
The board okayed the purchase of a used bus for up to $231,000, the amount of the money in the district’s depreciation fund for vehicles.
Simpson said a brand new bus would cost $500,000, but a refurbished bus with about 500,000 miles on it comes with new seats and paint.
The district’s 1974 GMC bus has clutch and air conditioning problems and needs to be retired, he said.
The board authorized Simpson, Superintendent Ron Hansen and Maintenance Director Eugene Pursley to discuss the situation and buy the bus for no more than $231,000, if they see fit.
The board took no other action during the meeting. For the first two hours, they listened to staff reports.
The meeting lasted 3 hours, 10 minutes.