Concerned citizens filled the board room Monday night during the regular monthly meeting of the Mineral Point School Board.
Video of the meeting can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm1Mzm39CaQ
The item most people present wished to address was the possible elimination of the Pre K Instructional Assistant position.
During a special meeting at the end of October, the board approved a resignation. At that same meeting, the board then voted to not rehire the position.
Legal counsel instructed the board the vote should be null and void because the item of the potential elimination was not properly posted for the public.
Therefore, the item was brought back for the agenda Monday night.
Many people spoke in favor of the instructional assistant stating the benefits that come from early learning and a solid foundation to start the schooling process. One less person in the classroom would lead to less one-on-one instructional time from teachers and also create potential safety hazards, they said.
Elementary principal Brad Brogley stated, since the loss of the assistant, the two sections of Laura Busch’s and Morgan Burris’ classes have been merged. This would help to alleviate the safety concerns as there would always be an adult present should the other teacher need to step out to handle a bathroom break or other scenario that may arise. He stated this is by no means the ideal situation, but he tried to do the best with the options he was given.
Board member Glenn Kinch read several studies he researched that claimed there is not an educational benefit to having an early childhood program.
In response, it was mentioned the idea of eliminating the early childhood program is a completely separate issue from rehiring the instructional assistant position and should be part of a different discussion, should the board desire.
Board member Lisa Hay stated she spent time in the classroom and the kids demand attention. “This program is a model for other districts to emulate and we should staff it appropriately,” she stated.
Board member Julie Stephenson stated she also visited the classroom and it was her observation the vote that occurred at the last meeting did not make all kids a priority.
Board president Larry Steffes said he supported the program fully, however after his visits to the classroom, he deemed the situation not dangerous with no safety concerns. He reiterated his point from the last meeting saying he viewed this an opportunity to become more efficient. “If the Pre K assistant had not resigned, this issue would not even be before us,” he said. He also added, however, the board doesn’t just cut, reminding those in attendance of some of the additions made recently. “What we do is for the good of a district as a whole,” he said.
Hay suggested perhaps the board look at hiring two part time people so they would not be benefit eligible. Burris commented they have tried to hire part time people before and have had no luck with quality candidates. She also reminded the board the position in question is not even a full time position as it exists currently; it is 80%.
A motion was made to rehire the Pre K instructional assistant position. Voting yes were Matt Lindsey, Stephenson, and Hay. No votes came from Kinch, Larry Dolphin, and Steffes. Jeff Basting was absent.
A tied vote means no action is taken.
A motion was then made to not rehire the Pre K instructional assistant position. Voting yes were Kinch, Dolphin, and Steffes. No votes came from Hay, Lindsey, and Stephenson.
Again, a tied vote means no action is taken at this time.
The district will consult how to properly handle the tied votes as they pertain to the instructional assistant position moving forward.
- Scott Gralla of PMA Financial Services presented the board with a financial forecast for the District.
Gralla stated he was in his fourth or fifth year working with the District and said this is a powerful financial model that shows a five year history, plus the current year, plus an additional five year projection for a total of 11 years of data.
As with any projection, these are just best guesses of what will happen and there are many variables that could cause changes.
Revenue growth is primarily a function of student enrollment and per pupil revenue limit increases established annually by the State.
Gralla stated the enrollment for the District is projected to remain flat. While this might appear like a good thing compared to declining enrollment, having flat enrollment actually makes the District lose the declining enrollment exemption funding from the State.
For the assumptions, the projection kept the per pupil revenue limit increase at $0 for 2016-17 and put a $75 increase in for subsequent years.
The equalized assessed valuation of property also plays a role. This year, the valuation went up 2.49%, which Gralla said makes the district look a little more wealthy than the state average of 2.24%.
On the expenditures side, Gralla’s projections made the following assumptions for the calculations: staffing will remain flat, salaries will increase by 1.5% with the Consumer Price Index, Health insurance increases capped at 6% per year (District’s cost); and no increases in the District’s cost are projected in dental insurance. Costs controllable by the District are projected to remain at current spending levels. Contracted transportation is projected to increase by 1.25%, utilities are projected to remain at current spending levels, and District liability and property insurances are projected to increase by 1% per year.
Gralla pointed out that right now, the District has a budgeted surplus of roughly $200,000 and 21.5% fund balance, which is healthy but not exorbitant. Next year, revenues are projected to be flat, but in the fiscal year 2018, the District would lose its declining enrollment exemption and therefore see a 2.49% revenue loss. Combine this loss with increasing expenditures and the District would be facing roughly a $433,000 deficit.
The mill rate this year sits at $12.46 and will basically be flat next year at $12.16. The year after, the mill rate would drop to $10.99 due to the lost state aid revenue.
Steffes pointed out that the fund balance would drop below 15% in 2018 if nothing is done. 15% is the number the board has stated the fund balance is not to drop below without action being taken to rectify the situation.
To see Gralla’s Tax Levy Mill Rate Report, click here: https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=37862130
The ten year projection is viewable here: https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=37862129
Hay expressed interest in having a more in-depth work session with Gralla to explore what happens when the assumption numbers change in various scenarios. A time will be set up for the board to participate in this so the District can make the most educated decisions moving forward.
Francois mentioned the $208,000 surplus and said the board has options on what it desires to do with it. These scenarios will be discussed at the December meeting as part of the Nexus long range planning discussion.
- Unanimously approved the credit card statement of activity.
- Unanimously approved the bills payable with Kinch abstaining.
- Unanimously approved the paternity leave request from Bret McGraw, middle school social studies teacher, from November 20 through December 23.
- Unanimously approved amending the budget to properly code revenue (savings) from the energy efficiency project from fund 38 to fund 10. Doing so corrects an inconsistency found in bookkeeping.
- Unanimously approved the second reading of changes to the Wellness Policy.
- Unanimously approved tabling the issue of the potential removal of playground base material from the elementary playground until the May meeting.
In conjunction with a Cummins grant to replace playground equipment, the District installed shredded rubber in the spring of 2012. To date the District has received three persons sharing health concerns regarding the use of shredded rubber as a base on the elementary playground. The two most recent concerns followed a report in the media regarding crumb rubber being dangerous for students. The District does not use crumb rubber on any sites.
The District contacted EMC, its liability insurance carrier, for guidance on the question to remove or not remove the shredded rubber. EMC recommends schools first use shredded rubber as it is the safest as a playground base, followed by shredded bark, followed by pea gravel. EMC also supplied the district with a safety report on effects of shredded rubber as a playground material.
Roger Palzkill, Director of Buildings and Grounds, contacted Ivey’s Construction and Waste Management for the cost to remove shredded rubber and install shredded bark. Ivey’s price to remove an estimated 60 ton of material and replace with 20 to 25 loads of bark was estimated not to exceed $13,500. Waste Management’s quote to dispose of the shredded rubber was estimated not to exceed $3,400 noting the cost would be much more if the material were hazardous. Shredded rubber is not considered a hazardous material. The total amount to remove, dispose, and replace the shredded rubber is estimated not to exceed $17,000.
Given the low frequency of concern, the District’s insurance carrier recommending shredded rubber as a base, the lack of research and evidence that shredded rubber is harmful, and the significant cost of removal and replacement, the District does not recommend removal of shredded rubber as a base material on the elementary playground.
The Board will postpone action on this item until May.
- Francois presented the board with an update on the Madison Community Foundation and the efforts to date exploring an endowment fund for the District. Francois stated this is an item to keep on the board’s radar as part of its strategic plan and the District will continue gathering more information.
- Francois brought to the board’s attention that Communications Director Joelle Doye was honored last week by the Wisconsin School Public Relations Association as the top up and coming school public relations professional in Wisconsin. In addition, the District’s Facebook page received a State Award of Merit.
- Two large donations to the Stadium Project were recognized. The District received a $5,000 donation from Cummins. Cummins is a valued partner in education and Mineral Point Schools. Former Principal Ted Evans presented the MPSD with a check for $30,000 from the MP Alumni NFL Raffle. The funds will be used to make the annual payment of the note for the stadium secured by the school district. The District personally thanks Mr. Evans for his efforts on behalf of the stadium project.
- A new addition to the Superintendent’s Report was a section on legislative updates. Please read this link for the latest going on at the state level regarding education: https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=37862132
– The board concluded the meeting with a book discussion on the second chapter of the School Board Field Book.
– The next regular board meeting will be Monday, December 14 at 6:30 pm.