A full agenda with important items kept the Mineral Point School Board busy Monday night during a five hour meeting held in the library due to an overflow crowd. (Scroll past the video for more article text)
Superintendent Transition Plan
The Board voted on two matters pertaining to the superintendent transition plan.
Following closed session, the first vote was to extend Dr. Luke Francois’ contract through August 31. That passed unanimously with Everett Lindsey absent.
The second vote was to offer a one-year interim superintendent position to Mitch Wainwright (current high school principal), pending negotiation of duties and compensation. That passed by a 4-2 vote with Aaron Dunn, Andy Busch, Nate Chambers, and Jeff Basting voting in favor while Kelly Gundlach and Larry Steffes voted against. (Go to the two hour, 50 minute mark)
Elementary School Building Planning
Potential Building & Operating Referenda
If the Board desires to place one or more referenda questions on the ballot for the November election, legally, it must finalize a resolution by its August meeting.
The proposed addition and remodel at the elementary is roughly $11.9 million. A breakdown of the various projects that encompass that total can be found here: https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=42659375
The mill rate analysis for this project would be a $2.09 increase on the mill rate on the average $150k home. Because the District’s mill rate for next year is scheduled to drop from the current level, the net increase would actually be $1.29.
The Board also discussed a potential recurring operating referendum in addition to, or separate from, the building referendum.
Varying amounts were mentioned including $350k, $500k, or $1 million. A recurring referendum means it does not have an expiration date. However, the Board would need to decide annually at its budget meeting whether or not it would levy the full amount each year from the taxpayers or not.
Francois reminded the Board of a new state law that says a district can only go to referendum one time per calendar year.
The district would be aided on the expenditure of a referendum, which means more state aid would be generated. Generally, the more a district spends, the more state aid it then receives.
Board Treasurer Larry Steffes expressed concern; he believes this idea of an elementary building referendum has been pushed too fast without even seeing finalized design plans. As for an operational referendum, he felt the recent news of the district receiving funds from the dissolving of a city TIFF fund takes away some of the concern or need for an operational referendum. The City of Mineral Point is closing out a TIFF fund that puts a one time lump sum payment of $160k into the district.
Board member Aaron Dunn said the district may have the same deficit next year. “If we want to keep the status quo currently funded, we may need a recurring operational referendum moving forward,” he said.
Steffes believed a referendum question should be approved by the Board unanimously if the Board wants community support behind it.
Dunn said he feels like it’s time to capitalize on the momentum of the elementary building project. “A lot of the community has invested in researching this issue. I think the community is ready to do something. This is not the time to kick the can down the road. We have a survey that supports this. We have community pride for how well our district is doing. Shoot for the moon with the referendum, and if it fails, re-evaluate.”
A vote was taken to move forward with the draft resolution on the elementary school remodel for $11.9 million. This passed 4-2 with Gundlach and Steffes voting no.
In discussing a proposed recurring operating referendum, Francois stated expenditures have been outpacing revenues from the state because revenues are capped. Although the district has done well to balance its budget recently, he cautioned the Board there will likely be significant increases that will “turn us upside down in a hurry,” citing specifically increased transportation costs because Pecatonica has pulled out as a partner, as well as the likelihood of health insurance increases down the road.
Francois was asked for his recommendation and he suggested the $350k recurring referendum amount, stating that should get the district 2-4 years out.
Steffes expressed concerns with the mill rate, saying it would be over $14 with both a building and an operational referendum question. “We should probably do a comparison with area districts and also be conscious of what the city is doing for projects that could impact taxes.”
Gundlach stated the “silent majority says this number is too much. I’m not against some remodeling but not for $12 million. Our taxbase can’t handle that. $7.5 million over 10 years is being fiscally responsible. How we are going to house children in education is going to change and people are not being realistic.”
Board President Jeff Basting stated he cannot support a $12 million referendum, but he did support sending the item to next month’s meeting to continue discussion.
Board member Andy Busch stated, “I can’t say who is in the silent majority. We created a process to attempt to give everyone a voice.”
Basting said his fear was the building referendum would pass, but the operational referendum wouldn’t, and “we can’t operate with what we have now.”
A vote was taken to send draft language to the August meeting for a $350k operating referendum. This again passed 4-2 with Gundlach and Steffes voting no.
“This gives the community a starting point; an opportunity to provide feedback,” said Francois.
Between now and the August Board meeting on the 13th, Board members would like to hear feedback from stakeholders regarding their thoughts on both the draft language in the building and operating referenda. The Board will vote at the August meeting what language, if any, to send to referendum in November. (Go to the 38 minute, 15 second mark)
The Board received the latest update regarding elementary staffing.
Following the resignation of Kari Kabat, 5th-grade teacher, Jenny Singer, library, requested and was moved to 5th grade. At that time, the board did not authorize the hiring of a person to replace the vacant library position.
Following the resignation of Katie Hughes, Kindergarten, Carmen McDonald, 3rd grade, requested and was moved to Kindergarten. Judy Benish, 5th grade, requested and was moved to 3rd grade.
The 5th grade position is now posted. The board is requested to take action on a recommendation to commence with hiring for the vacant 5th grade position. (Go to the 37 minute mark)
Approval to Hire 5th Grade Teacher &
Approval to Post Elementary Library Media Technology Specialist Position
60 students are projected to enter 5th grade this fall.
Gundlach expressed concerns with having only one seasoned teacher in 5th grade, and two new hires.
Elementary Principal Matt Renwick said there are several experienced educators who have applied, so the new hire wouldn’t necessarily be brand new to the profession.
The Board voted unanimously in favor of filling the 5th grade vacancy, thereby keeping three sections of each grade level at the elementary.
At a previous meeting, the Board voted to not re-hire the Elementary Library Media Technology Specialist position.
At Monday night’s meeting, Gundlach started the discussion by stating she believed both the elementary and middle/high school libraries for one year should be managed by Kris McCoy, current Middle/High School Library Media Technology Specialist.
McCoy responded by stating she believes it’s a major step back for the district if the Board goes down that route. “One person can’t be in the classroom and work with teachers the way two people can,” she said. “There are so many behind the scenes jobs that we work on.” She also added that districts are watching us, trying to model our success.
Several teachers spoke regarding the value this position brings to their students and themselves.
The Board voted 5-1 in favor of posting the position. Voting against was Steffes. (Go to the two hour, 23 minute, 15 second mark)
— The Board discussed office remodel work to include a secure entrance at the main door of the Middle/High School. Just short of half of this project will be funded with a recently received state grant.
The main feature of the remodel is having a vestibule that forces visitors into the main office before gaining access to the rest of the building. It will also move the School Resource Officer’s (Bill Ottoway’s) office to the front.
The Board approved the remodel, contingent upon all employees affected by the change approve of the final design. This passed by a 4-2 vote with Busch and Basting voting no. (Go to the one hour, 28 minute mark)
— The Board approved the Athletic & Elementary handbooks as presented by a 5-1 vote with Gundlach voting no.
The Board did not approve the high school handbook due to 210 Plan and social media language concerns. The middle school handbook was also tabled and will be brought back at an upcoming meeting. (Go to the one hour, 50 minute mark)
— Recognitions of Badger Boys & Girls State, State Trap Shoot, and State Baseball began the meeting.
— The Board unanimously appointed Andy Busch as CESA #3 Delegate. (Go to the 8 minute mark)
— The Board unanimously approved the resignation of Kindergarten Teacher Katie Hughes, as well as the hiring of Speech & Language Teacher Alison Sauter. (Go to the two hour, 21 minute mark)
— Lisa Corrao, District Manager for Taher, and MP Food Service Director Nancy Smith presented a Food Service Report.
Corrao said breakfast participation has gone up minimally the last school year, more students who qualify for free lunch are eating, ala carte participation is down slightly, and revenue has increased overall from the previous year.
Other highlights of last school year included the Kids in the Kitchen cooking class for 4th graders. They hope to have an apple pie cooking class in the fall.
2019 is a bid year, as required by the Department of Public Instruction every five years. (Go to the 25 minute, 20 second mark)
— The Board approved the credit card statement and bills payable by a 5-0-1 vote with Basting abstaining. (Go to the two hour, 39 minute, 30 second mark)
— Unanimously approved the Budget Amendments and Fund 46 Transfer. (Go to the two hour, 45 minute mark)
— The next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 13 at 6:30 pm.