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Chatfield School Board endorses transfer of Potter Auditorium over to EDA

Thu, Dec 31st, 2009
Posted in Education

The Chatfield School Board held its regular monthly meeting on December 21st, 2009. All of the board members and approximately fifteen community members were present. Holiday refreshments were served to those present to accompany the "Truth in Taxation" presentation.

The first main item on the agenda was the district's annual "Truth in Taxation" hearing. The purpose of the annual hearing is to provide district patrons with information about how their taxes are affected by the school district's levy. Most of the school's annual revenue comes from state aid, which is calculated using the number of "pupil units" in a district, and is then augmented by local levies to equal the total revenue. In the past few years, state aid per pupil unit has not increased. However, the total local levy for 2009 (payable 2010) has also decreased by .7 percent when compared to the year before. Though the district is projecting to deficit spend in the general fund this coming year, the substantial cost of building construction will no longer be a budget item next year. Additionally, Chatfield's pupil count has increased in the past few years after decreasing for several years, bringing in more income from state aid.

The board also discussed Potter Auditorium for a portion of the meeting. Superintendent Don Hainlen reported that asbestos abatement in the building was mostly completed on Friday, December 18th, after a slight setback due to the thickness of some of the floors. However, later in the meeting, board member F. Mike Tuohy brought up an offer by the Economic Development Committee (EDA) to take Potter "off the district's hands with no strings attached" for $275,000. The school district would pay the EDA in a lump sum so as to transfer all liability for the building immediately. Board chair Jerry Chase viewed the proposal as a great opportunity for the district, commenting that to tear down the building would be quite expensive as well as upsetting to the historical society. "I think we should jump on it," Chase said. The board agreed, passing the proposal with plans to draw up the legal papers as soon as possible.

The board also discussed two different issues dealing with staff contracts. Board member Matt McMahon presented the board with information regarding the first issue, the ongoing teacher negotiations. According to data compiled by contacting several nearby school districts, Chatfield's teacher salaries are "right in the ballpark," according to Chase. Salaries can also vary based on benefits, severance packages, longevity, and other factors. Chase pointed out that Chatfield tends to follow about three years behind Rochester schools regarding budget issues, allowing the board to look at Rochester's actions to see what might be in the future. Several board members voiced concern over the district's financial situation, since 80 percent of the budget is salaries. The board is still waiting to see if they will get an additional allotment of state aid this year. However, according to McMahon, even with the additional state aid, the board would still have to raise the operating levy from $350 to $850 to balance the budget. Due to the uncertainty regarding the state aid, the board decided to wait before discussing the possible levy raise. McMahon told the board that teacher negotiations will be held on January 4th.

Next, the board reviewed a list of candidates for the interim superintendent position. After comparing several of the candidates, the board decided to hold interviews on December 30th. Dr. Hainlen's departure is effective January 15th. The board ended the meeting by recognizing Hainlen and thanking him for the experience of working with him.

The next Chatfield School Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 19th, 2010, due to Martin Luther King Day on January 18th.

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