CRYSTAL FALLS—It’s hard to wait for money when you’ve got bills that need to be paid. That’s true whether you’re an average person, a local business or a school district.
The Forest Park schools are hoping their wait will be over very soon.
As discussed during the Sept. 23 School Board meeting, Forest Park is waiting for a payment of about $130,000 from the county’s delinquent tax revolving fund.
Routinely, the county reimburses local school districts for taxes that are not paid during the summer tax collection.
The county pays school districts the full amount due from its delinquent tax revolving fund and then waits for property owners to pay up over the ensuing months and even years. The revolving fund payments are made once all the municipalities have filed their reports.
This year, however, everything has been delayed because some of the local reports are late. Until they are all in, the delinquent tax payment to Forest Park (as well as West Iron County and the ISD) is on hold.
“That makes the cashflow difficult,” said Superintendent Becky Waters, “because our first state aid payment doesn’t come until October.” Waters said this is the latest the delinquent tax payments have been held.
The wait may be nearly over. Waters told the board she heard from accountant Diane Rostagno that the funds may be released around the end of September.
Forest Park took out a tax anticipation loan last year, but it has not done so yet in 2013.
• Rostagno appeared at the meeting to present the district’s annual audit for 2012-13.
She reported that the district finished with a general fund balance of $136,000. That amount is short of the district’s target of 6 percent of expenses, equaling about one month of operating costs.
The smaller fund balance still equals 13 days of operating costs, even though the fund equity went down by a little over $10,000 over the previous year.
Property tax revenue has gone down because the district’s taxable value has declined. In all, total revenue from all sources was $3.85 million, down by $9,700 from last year.
Rostagno noted that Forest Park transferred less money from the general fund to other funds ($142,000 vs. $80,000 the year before) during the 12-month period than it did the year before. That helped the general fund. Expenditures were right in line with budgeted amounts, she said.
The sale of building and site bonds (approved by voters in 2012) raised $995,000 for the district. The capital outlay over the last 12 months was $276,000, with the largest part for computer equipment ($125,000). The first payment on the bonds’ principal is due in May 2014.
• Waters reported that a food service line change “has been very positive for our students.” The “grab and go” system is being used for lunch and will be used for breakfast once needed equipment arrives.
The lunch count, the superintendent added, “has increased tremendously, especially at the high school level” because the students now have another option.
“My kindergarteners are starting to figure it out,” she said.
• High school Principal Lisa Olson reported that this week will be Homecoming week. Wall Night, featuring decorated walls created by each high school class, is Oct. 2, with presentations at about 9 p.m. “Disney/Pixar” is this year’s theme.
.• Board members approved the fourth grade class trip to Mackinac Island after hearing a presentation by some of the students, who read the proposal both individually and as a group.
The trip will take place May 22 and 23. “This historic area,” said teachers Joan Horst and Kimberly Payne, “is considered a living classroom that aligns with our state’s social studies benchmarks.”
The students will visit Fort Michilimackinac State Park (Mackinaw City), Fort Mackinac State Park (on the island) and Mill Creek State Park (southeast of Mackinaw City). The students will take a carriage ride on the island and will stay at the Island House Hotel. If possible, the students hope to bike the entire island.
The trip will cost $170 per student. The class plans to bring in returnables, do a Rada cutlery fundraiser and maybe hold another fundraiser.
• Waters reported some changes still need to be done for the nearly completed high school science room. A punch list has been compiled for the contractor, Closner Construction.
Board President Jim Nocerini said a pressure reducing valve needs to be installed—the water pressure is too when faucets are turned. Also, counter tops need to be replaced. District officials recently met with contractors about work that remains to be done.
• The board is asking for bids for air conditioning for the multi-purpose room and the main district offices. “With the activities happening in this room in spring,” Nocerini said, “it’s almost a must that we have air conditioning. It really does get warm in there.”
• The district still needs to hire a pre-K teacher by Oct. 1, Waters said. She was to interview a candidate downstate during a visit to a conference later that week, and the board authorized her to go ahead with the hire if the interview goes well.
• A preliminary 2014-15 budget has been posted online at www.fptrojans.org. “It’s just a projected budget,” Waters said. “It’s not the most ideal situation.”
The preliminary budget is required by state law. “I’d like to ask them to project what they’re going to give us,” commented one board member.
Local districts have to wait until Michigan’s Legislature passes a state budget (typically right at deadline) before they know how much state aid to expect, hampering their budget planning.
Also, the district’s annual report for 2012-13 has also been published at www.fptrojans.org, including the superintendent’s cover letter.
• The board passed a “best practices incentive resolution” for the state, which will provide an added $52 per student in state aid. Forest Park has to meet seven of eight criteria to get the added state aid, and Waters said the district meets all eight.
• New signs that better identify main entrances, especially for visitors, are being worked on. Also, an old scrolling sign will be set up to better identify the main entrance.
• Board Member Don Peterson said he will be talking with local loggers about planning a Log-A-Load program for next spring at the school forest near Alpha.
• This fall’s district volleyball tournament will be held at Ewen-Trout Creek. Looking ahead to next March, the basketball districts will be at Wakefield-Marenisco (girls) and ETC (boys).