Now that voters have voted down the referendum to build a new high school, the school board will now proceed with maintenance projects.
Superintendent Dennis Smith announced a list of necessary projects that involve window replacement, tuck pointing and numerous other issues. Among them are heating and cooling units at the high school and window replacement in the A, B and C building.
The board authorized Smith to pursue bids on the heating and cooling units while head of maintenance Tony Chrisman is investigating the window situation with architect Ed Kerkhover.
The board debated at length the future of the building, considering the options of pursuing the referendum for a new school again, building a replacement for C building that is considered to be in the worst shape or investing millions in repairs over the next several years.
Board member Dean West proposed reaching out to Carrier Mills-Stonefort district to see if that district would be interested in consolidation if a new high school was built on property near the Harrisburg Middle School, which lies between the two municipalities. He believes the voters did not vote down a new building; they voted down any possibility of a raise in property tax to pay for it. He suggested with consolidation the district would combining Harrisburg's portion of the 1 percent sales tax for school construction and maintenance and Carrier Mills' portion and make the new school construction more affordable.
Board President Tom DeNeal said regardless of the new school possibilities, the board's immediate focus needs to be health, life, safety maintenance at the high school that was delayed pending the outcome of the new school referendum.
Smith said there is about $4 million in the health, life, safety fund to use for maintenance. Other projects include replacing Davenport Gym's windows, tuck pointing at Davenport Gym, Taylor Field and the high school, new roof over the high school library, Bonnell Gym and band room and low grade waterproofing at the high school.
Budget on display
The board approved an amended 2012-2013 budget to be placed on display. The beginning balance July 1, 2002, was $10,113,604 and Smith projected the ending balance will be $7,038,909, with expenses $3,074,695 greater than revenues.
That budget predicts at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2013, there will be $908,321 in the education fund, $557,169 in the building fund, $129,510 in the debt service fund, $339,217 in the transportation fund, $301,409 in the IMRF/Social Security fund, $420,400 in the S&C/Capital Improvement fund, $491,598 in the working cash fund, $169,997 in the liability fund and $3,721,288 in the Life Safety fund.
Board members studied the budget for some time and questioned Smith about the original 2012-2013 budget predicting a deficit a few hundred thousand dollars less than his current predicted deficit.
Smith said part of the discrepancy was the state pro-rating state aid by paying only 89 percent after he had compiled the budget. That proration means $616,000 less in state aid.
Page 2 of 2 - Board member Molly Wilson-Dearing said it was disheartening that after the approved about $600,000 in cuts it is apparent the amount of the cuts was not enough to offset the deficit. She said the board gets from Smith "squishy numbers that change every meeting."
Smith said he provides the board with the best "squishy numbers" he can get from trying to predict state funding amounts and school costs.
"Where we are at is we are borrowing money to get through next year," Smith said.
"I have board members upset with me saying, 'I don't want to cut more' and others upset with me that I'm not cutting enough."
He described the original budget as a moving target trying to predict where school finances will be at the end of the year and in March he has a more clear idea of where finances will be, thus the reason for amending the budget. He said the amended budget's prediction is within a 2 percent difference from the original budget while the original and amended budgets have been within 4 percent of each other in the past.
He also proposed holding a special meeting when he prepares next year's budget to show the board how he derives the predicted numbers for the end of the year.
He also warned the board that the district is on the precipice of what could be years of borrowing and indebtedness.
"I think we all know next spring could be catastrophic," Smith said.
During the meeting:
- The board set the organizational meeting for 6 p.m. April 24.
- The board approved High School Principal Karen Crank's request for summer school at the high school that completion awards students one elective credit. She said usually 25 students take advantage of the program to make up credits that allow them to graduate on time.
- The board approved the resignation of High School Volleyball Coach Melanie Tate.
- The board approved volunteer coaches Jason Butler for girls soccer and Steve Vinyard for track.
- The board approved a one-year contract extension for Smith. Kevin Dowdy gave the only no vote.