July 25, 2013 | Volume 118, Issue No. 30

Discontinuing 7th, 8th grade sports considered

The Barnum School Board discussed discontinuing school-sponsored seventh and eighth sports at the meeting of the board on Tuesday, July 16.

The proposal was made because of the budget and the high cost of coach’s salaries and transportation. Those sports could be offered by a community group, it was said.

Although the families of students pay participation fees, the fees charged are not enough to make up for the costs.

“Some kids don’t participate because they know that their families can’t afford it,” said board member Lenore Skoglund.

No decision was made about the school not offering seventh and eighth grade sports at this time.

However, the board passed a motion to increase each activity fee by $15, and set a family maximum fee at $180, due to an increase in transportation costs.

New legislation to give the school board the authority to approve a $300 per adjusted pupil unit operating referendum without voter approval was discussed. That will replace the $1 operating referendum that the voters had approved.

The new levy will result in the school district receiving an increase of $176,046, added to the current $200,466 in revenue, totaling $376,512 in fiscal year 2015. That is the result of a levy for 30.86 percent, which would generate state revenue aid of 69.14 percent. The new levy would be for five years.

The board did not make a final decision. The deadline for a decision is September 30.

“Most of the change is in the state aid,” said Business Manager Dawn Hultgren. “It comes from the state, not our taxpayers.”

“This is one way that the Legislature can give you money,” added Superintendent Dave Bottem. “This is a gift on the taxpayers. Everything that the state gives is on the taxpayers.”

Several board members said that they should proceed with caution. Approval of the $300 levy could turn the voters against the school district, it was said.

Others spoke of reserving the extra revenue for a specific expense, such as a new bus.

“I’m torn too,” said board chair Pat Poirier. “We’re trying to stop the bleeding. This will help.”

“We need a comprehensive plan to get out of debt,” said board member Michael Line. “The debt went from $200,000 to $600,000.”

Hultgren pointed out that the school district was not in debt, it was deficit spending.

The levy increase will be presented to the community on Facebook and in other communications for discussion before a decision is made.

There was discussion about a proposed $15 million bond referendum for adding classrooms and a gym to the high school to accommodate the large classes of elementary students that will be advancing into high school in the future. The plans also include replacing the boiler in the elementary school, which has been in service since the school was built in the 1960s.

The proposed referendum election would be held in 2014.

Supt. Bottem said that more state aid will be received for a 25-year bond rather than a 30-year bond. The property taxes would increase 18.48 percent.

“The property taxes for property owners in the school district just went down,” he added. “They will just go back up, depending on what the interest rate is when we take out the bonds.”

The board members expressed their support of the proposal.

“It’s a good idea,” said board member Colleen Fetters. “We have to keep growing. If not, we die.”

Supt. Bottem said that more serious discussion was needed at public meetings. He suggested that an architect draw up a concept of what the addition would look like, and meetings be held in homes in the community, where a board member can explain the proposed plans.

“We want community input,” said board member Paul Coughlin. “What do they want to see us do?”

No decision was made.

In other business, the board voted to keep the salaries of the board members the same, despite a proposal to raise the salaries at the same rate as the staff salary increases. It was said that the salaries of the board members hadn’t been raised for 20 years, and that it was hard to get potential board members to serve for $30 a meeting.

The board approved a plan to landscape an area in front of the school and add maroon and gold day lilies. Supt. Bottem reported that the new landscape would take care of a problem area and add color to the front of the school. Community groups and alumni will be asked to donate towards the $6,450 project.

The next meeting of the Barnum School Board was set for Tuesday, August 20, at 6:30 p.m.

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