CRYSTAL FALLS—After a brief public hearing, Forest Park’s School Board adopted its 2013-14 budget during the board’s June 24 regular meeting.
The new budget anticipates total revenue of $3.769 million during 2013-14 (down 1.5 percent from $3.826 million in 2012-13) and total expenditures of $3.788 million (down 3.6 percent from the $3.929 million the year before).
“There are a lot of unknowns, as usual,” noted Finance Chairman Lisa Bloomburg, including the district’s audit, details of state funding, this fall’s student count and negotiations with its two unions.
“Once we know those items,” Bloomburg said, “then Finance will be meeting to prepare a revised budget.”
The district’s fund equity, which stood at $146,720 at the start of 2012-13, decreased to $43,636 at the end of that year. On June 30, 2014, it is currently forecast to stand at $24,769—lower but still in the black.
The biggest factor in the lower revenue estimates is less money coming from the state. State aid decreases by 7.8 percent (from $1.211 million to $1.123 million) in the new budget.
Superintendent Becky Waters said Forest Park’s enrollment is decreasing from 469 in 2012-13 to the 456 projected for 2013-14. The state uses a “blended count,” Waters said, and Forest Park is losing its class from three years ago, which was in “the high 50s.”
With a K-1 class of just 21 expected to enter the system for the first time this fall, it is a big net decrease.
The district is also getting less “best practice” money from the state and will not get added performance funding from the state due to test scores, which stayed about the same relative to state proficiency targets. “We didn’t meet them all in all areas,” the superintendent said.
“Our focus for next year is to raise our test scores and get the performance money back. That is our school improvement goal.”
Federal aid is down more sharply (11.6 percent), but federal aid is a much smaller part of the district’s revenues.
The biggest portion, local revenue (property taxes), is expected to rise by 2.1 percent (from $2.380 million to $2.430 million).
The biggest changes in spending came from a 15 percent cut in operations in maintenance and an 8 percent increase in transportation. That is because Forest Park has reorganized those departments, moving personnel from one to the other.
The district approved a 6.0 state levy and a 17.6874 opeating levy. District school bond debt retirement is a total of 2.95 mills—2.16 from 2005, 0.54 from 2008 and 0.25 from 2012.
The 2005 bonds are for the refinanced 1998 school building; the others are from special bonds approved by voters. Forest Park does not have a sinking fund.
• Much of the meeting’s focus was on routine preparations for the new school year. The board will advertise for bids for milk and for gasoline.
The board also approved second year probationary status for four teachers (Kurt Anderson, MS social studies; Benjamin Haight, HS Spanish/English; Mary Ann Johnson, HS social studies; Kim Payne, grade 2/3 combo class) and third year probationary status for four others (Ashley Bortolini, MS computer and PE, HS health and elementary PE; Megan Bottessi, HS English; Renee Kivioja, MS math; and Lisa Hjelm, pre-K).
The new school calendar has not yet been approved—that is expected at the board’s July meeting.
• The board also approved coaching contract recommendations for the new year The list of coaches for football, volleyball, boys and girls basketball, track and golf, cheerleading and pom-danz shows no obvious changes from last year.
Board Member Kim Scarlassara passed along some good news for Forest Park football fans: The Trojans will be able to field both varsity and junior varsity teams again this fall. In 2012, low turnout led to elimination of the JV team: younger players practiced and played on the varsity team.
• Board members heard about a fix to a conduit problem related to the new science room, which is under construction. The project’s contractor and architect worked together to come up with a solution that will cost the district just $500—the alternative was moving the conduits, which could have cost in the thousands. “The problems are resolved,” Board President Jim Nocerini said.
• The board set its meeting times for 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of the month. (The second Monday meeting is a work session; the fourth Monday is the regular meeting.) Regular meetings will be held at Hematite Township in October, Mastodon Township in November and Mansfield Township in December.
• In other business, the board:
--Learned that the high school principal job has not yet been filled. Waters has said she could fill the job, but Board Member Deb Divoky said she doesn’t like the idea. “You have too many hats to wear,” she said. Waters is already the elementary principal and district superintendent.
One question is how to raise more money to fund the position. The board will discuss ideas during its July work session.
--Will look into the legality of selling ads in its student handbook. Divoky made the suggestion.
--Will also consider a one-time fund-raiser to raise money for repair of band instruments and maybe eliminating the need for students to pay a rental fee. Ideas include a blanket toss at functions when the band performs.
--Heard an update on a proposed Wall of Honor, honoring servicemen. One problem with the original idea, said Board Member Bill St. John, is that many veterans never had photos taken of them wearing dress uniforms—the only photos of them in uniform were casual, in ordinary fatigues.
Several board members said the type of picture doesn’t matter, and others said a wall with just the names may be a better idea. “It would be quicker, and we could add to it,” Nocerini said.
--Learned that John Force, who has worked as Forest Park’s school forester for many years, plans to retire. Board Member Don Peterson said the district should advertise for a new forester.
Peterson also reported that he took advantage of an opportunity to get 3,000 jackpines, with help from a Community Foundation grant. “They are now in my basement.” But not for long—his son is planting them. “He volunteered, kind of.”
--It was also suggested that board members donate their annual stipend back to the school district. But some members said they already return that money to the district in the form of scholarships and donations. It will be discussed at a work session.
--Heard that the school improvement plan is nearly done. Waters said she just has to coordinate it with the Title 1 money.