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Fillmore Central School Board District's 2007-08 budget forecast improves

Fri, Mar 28th, 2008
Posted in Education

PRESTON - The Fillmore Central School Board, which has been dealing with budget issues lately, approved the revised budget for the 2007-2008 school year during their regular meeting on March 25.

Last June the board approved the proposed budget with an expected deficit of $250,000. But increases in revenue have heled soften the bottom line for the present fiscal year.

When asked if the revised budget still had a deficit, Superintendent Myrna Luehmann replied "probably not." She added that the general fund may even have a positive balance after federal special educaton funds and other money is received. There were a few other changes to the budget, including salaries and roof repair expenses and the receipt of insurance recovery money.

Luehmann also mentioned that due to decreased funding from the legislature, there will more than likely be more budget cuts in the future.

Media specialist Jill Eerdmans asked Luehmann if there was anything that could be done at the state level about the reduction in funds. Luehmann replied, "Contact your legislators." She explained the state has to balance their budget, and they have to figure out how they're going to do that. She believes that requests for an increased budget will fall on deaf ears at this time, which can make things difficult for schools, as the prices of things keep going up but the money they receive from the state gets lower.

"How can we keep doing more with less?" Luehmann asked. "The decisions become more difficult. We end up making decisions we don't want to make, and I think we are already there. We don't have a way to increase our funds. The only thing we have is what they give us."

PTC Meeting and

Community Input

The week before the meeting, board member Michelle Topness attended a Parent Teacher Committee (PTC) meeting to answer some questions about the budget decisions from parents and school staff members. Topness reported that the biggest concern she heard was about the breakdown of communication between the school board and the community. The faculty members believed they would have a say in the decisions about budget cuts. The PTC members also expressed a desire to see the agenda for meetings posted somewhere other than at the schools, such as on the web site.

Topness said that some people were upset about the decision to cut K-8 principal Brenda Lentz's job and have Luehmann take over principal duties along with her superintendent duties, but mostly people were upset about the way the decision was reached.

Board member Deb Ristau asked if there would always be a representative from the board at the PTC meetings, and Topness felt it would be beneficial. From now on, either Topness and/or Ristau will be attending the meetings, which are held every third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at the Middle School media center in Preston.

Fillmore Central parent and community member Nancy Harrison was on the agenda to express her feelings to the board about their budget decisions. She stressed the need for better communication between the board and the rest of the community, noting that the school's website says a lot of things about students being the main focus, and people working together.

Harrison believed the miscommunication with the budget cuts could have been avoided if the board would have looked at the past and how things were handled. With the budget decisions, it felt to her like the board was not sharing everything with the community. After the budget meeting, Harrison emailed some of the board members and received some explanations about why things were done as they were, and she stated that it would have been nice to hear those explanations at the meeting.

As for communication, Harrison asked the board how they would like the community members to speak to them, if it was appropriate to use email or to come to the meetings instead of approaching a board member in public with questions.

Board member Ron Stevens said that he would rather have someone approach him in public with a question or concern about the board's reasoning than have people complain to everyone else about it. He said he would appreciate being approached and being able to explain things to people.

Harrison also recommended the board allow the public to speak up during board meetings to give their advice or input on a given topic. She stressed the importance of increasing the enrollment of the school, and working at keeping the students already in the district. She mentioned following up on why students leave (open enroll), and dealing with issues such as bullying before someone leaves the district.

Media Center Request

Eerdmans approached the board with a request for more funds for all three libraries. She had asked for a one-time increase in the library budget for the purchase of books last May, and a few times since then, but was not given a definite answer.

"I'm still as passionate about keeping our resources," said Eerdmans. She added that there will no longer be any Title V money as of next year, which all libraries have depended on. The Cash Back for Schools program is in jeopardy and may not be around. Eerdmans requested, and the board approved, increasing the library budget for next year to $2,000 each for the elementary, middle school and high school libraries. This is an increase of $1,000 per library, and puts the budget where it was in 2001.

Chairperson Sue Sikkink asked about other funds that the library receives. The Scholastic Book Fair raised $1,400 for books, and they received approximately $800 from the Cash Back program at Apache Mall. There was also a one-time donation from Anna Kiehne for $4,000 that will go toward reference materials, and mini-grant money for new almanacs.

Eerdmans explained that $3,000 doesn't go very far, and will only purchase about 120 books.

"Our students need up-to-date resources," she said.

Senior Trip

Senior class advisor Joe Stevens has been preparing students for the Senior Trip to Washington, D.C. They leave on March 28 and return on April 6. He informed the board that there are 51 seniors going on the trip this year, as well as 10 chaperones, He and Carlyn Kraabel will be the guides for the two buses. According to Stevens, the cost of the trip this year was $65,000. About $56,000 was raised in fund raisers and 55 concession stands, and the class brought in around $9,000.

"Everyone was involved, and everyone earned their way," said Stevens. He also thanked the board for allowing them to continue with this class trip, as well as the administration, the office help and janitors for all of their help. He also thanked the board for providing him with a second advisor, Aaron Mensink. The board thanked Stevens for all of his work with the students every year.

Staffing Changes

Due to recent budget cuts and shifting around of staff, Luehmann recommended that Jessica Powell's contract not be renewed for next year. Powell teaches English in the Middle School and is a non-tenured staff member. Luehmann explained that the schedule needs to be looked at for both the middle school and the high school to see where the needs are. The school may hire her back when they figure out the schedule, but Jackie Whitacre, who has seniority, will have the rights to the highest FTE position. Whitacre currently teaches English in the high school, and the district recently cut her FTE to half-time. Luehmann said there will be a position at the middle school, but she is not sure if it will be full time or not. She should have the schedule ready by the April meeting. She added that there may be other non-tenured staff not having their contracts renewed due to some budget cuts.

Other business

The board also approved the following:

• Jackie Whitacre as director of the Spring Play;

• A resolution to terminate a custodian at the recommendation of supervisor Blaine Moe (board member John Torgrimson voted against the termination);

• Increasing special education staff Kaynel Rindels' hours one hour a day;

• Advertising for bids for lawn mowing;

• The school calendar for the 2008-2009 school year;

• The contract with Luther College for student teaching;

• The board accepted the resignation of Sandy Amundson, who has been teaching in the district for 25 years. Alice Bigalk, who works with the Root River program in work experience, is also retiring. The board thanked them for their years of service to the school.

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