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Fillmore Central seeks budget shortfall resolve


Fri, Jan 29th, 2010
Posted in Education

There was a lot of discussion related to the budget at the Fillmore Central School Board meeting on January 25. The board went over a few options they are looking at for cutting about $200,000 from the 2010 budget.

Superintendent Myrna Luehmann talked a little about the Governor's plan to shift money for schools. She said money will be held back from the state in April, and is supposed to be paid back. They are now calling this an unallotment, which means that it will eventually be paid back, although there is no certainty as of when. Fillmore Central will have 27 percent of their funds held back from them this year.

The idea of moving the seventh and eighth graders from the middle school to the high school was discussed at length. Luehmann felt fairly comfortable that the district would save $150,000 if the move was made. Two teachers from the middle school would move as well, and one teacher could be cut. Luehmann said there are two teachers that may possibly retire this year. If they move the students, they will not have to rehire for those positions.

High School Principal Heath Olstad spoke to the board about the possible change. He feels that although there would be some challenges, the high school staff would be prepared. He said he has not heard any negative feedback about the idea.

Some of the advantages of moving the students would be increased class offerings for those students. They would be able to take agriculture, home ec. and foreign language classes. There would also be more extra-curricular choices for them. Olstad also felt it would make for an easier transition to ninth grade. They might be able to have a more efficient use of office/secretarial and non-certified staff.

Olstad admitted to some concerns about the move. "I have a hard time saying we don't need the middle school," he said. "We've done good things there, but we could have them here, too."

Olstad has also discussed possible transportation changes with Mark Scheevel from Harmony Transit. There would probably be one more bus going from Preston to Harmony. There might be more costs for transportation for spring sports, and either one-half or one more full bus route. Olstad said Scheevel came up with a very rough estimate of $37,300. He added they will be negotiating the transportation contract this summer.

"Harmony Transit will be great to work with," said Olstad. "I don't think this will be an item that will hold us back."

Olstad added the teachers at the high school would need time to meet and prepare, but he felt it was going to be a positive thing.

A few board members felt it would be good to get input from the public about this decision. They chose to invite the public to the next meeting, which will be on February 23 at 6 p.m. in Preston.

Board member Sue Sikkink commented that this seemed to be a positive way to go, and suggested the budget committee meet before the February meeting to discuss other possible cuts.

Board member Ross Kiehne said the idea had positive components for both students and the budget. He said he has received both positive and negative feedback from people. There are concerns about seventh graders mingling with seniors, and having seventh graders jump right into a block period schedule.

Luehmann said if they choose to make this move for next school year, she needs to know by March.

Sale of Bonds

Jim Schmitt gave good news to the school board when he came from Springsted to talk about the recent sale of bonds for the HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) project at the middle school this spring. The bonds had six bidders, which Schmitt said is a large number. The interest rate came in smaller than expected as well. They had estimated a rate of 3.4 percent, but they will be getting 3.104 percent for 15 years.

The winner of the bonds was UBS Financial Services, Inc. The school now has $1,880,807.50 for the project from these bonds. Schmitt explained that the underwriters took a smaller fee for their work. The district received a S&P Rating of AAA, which means the state will back up the payment if the school is unable to make their payments.

"To the investors, that's extra insurance," said Schmitt. He added that Luehmann and Kathy Whalen participated in the rating process and did a great job.

Schmitt said the good luck was because of the things that happen with the school board, and the decisions made by them. He added that the district's financial stability and fairly low debt level helped out a lot.

Schmitt said the bonds are Health and Safety Bonds for Health and Safety Issues over $500,000.

Middle School Project Bids

Aaron Hess of A&F Consulting spoke to the board about the bids that have been received for the middle school project. According to Hess, they had great bid results, with a total of seven firms that came forward. He also received about 300 inquiries about the project.

The bids also came in lower than expected, and Hess is optimistic the project will come in below budget. The two low bidders were Schwabb LLC with a bid of $1,025,400and DMC out of Pine Island, will be interviewed soon, and the final decision will be made at the February 23 meeting. Schwabb LLC bid $1,025,400 and DMC bid $1,041,327.

Organization

During the meeting, the school board approved the organization items for the next year. The new chairperson is Ross Kiehne, and Craig Britton is the vice-chairperson. Sue Ostrom will remain the clerk, Jim Love is still the vice-clerk, and Sue Sikkink will take over as treasurer.

The board salaries for 2010 will remain the same, which is a 10 percent reduction they made last year.

The official depositories remain First Southeast Bank in Harmony, First State Bank in Fountain, F&M Community Bank in Preston, and MSDLAF (Minnesota School District Liquid Asset Fund).

The official newspapers are the Republican-Leader, News-Record, and the Fillmore County Journal.

Official stations for school closings are KQYB, KFIL, KROC, KNXR, KTTC-TV, KAAL-TV, and the Harmony and Preston local cable channels.

Spring Coaches

Athletic Director Jane Montgomery had a list of her choices for spring coaches, and they were approved with some minor changes.

In boys' baseball, Ryan Scheevel will be the head coach. Assistant coach is Aaron Mensink, and junior high coach is Jon Holger. Montgomery had listed David Broadwater as a fourth coach, but the board felt three coaches were sufficient for the numbers that have signed up. There are currently 24 boys signed up from 9-12 grades, and 21 from 7-8 grades.

Tris Tollefson is the head coach for softball. They are looking at hiring another coach. Right now there are 18 girls signed up from 9-12 grades and 19 girls for 7-8 grades.

Brad Holten will coach boys' golf, Bonnie Piehn girls' golf, and Lane Powell junior high golf.

Other Business

The board approved the hire of daycare teacher Sandy Hurley for part time. They also approved the resignation of Nicole Shriever, a lead teacher in the daycare, and thanked her for her years of service.

The board approved an open enrollment request from a family in the Kingsland district.

The contract for Community Ed. Director Holly Kanengeiter was approved for one year. Sikkink said they are working on negotiations with the administrator contract for Luehmann and Olstad, and getting closer to having it finalized.

The fee schedule for driver's training was kept the same for 2010.

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