By Emily Bialkowski
While city of Caledonia and Houston County have raised taxes, the Caledonia School District adopted a 2013 levy Dec. 16 that is $12,800 less than year prior. The final levy was certified in the amount of $2.48 million.
There was no discussion on the matter, and District Finance Director Barb Meyer said only one resident came in with questions.
In a related budget matter, the School Board entertained a report from auditor Kim Hillberg, who once again emphasized the need to increase the district’s unassigned fund balance.
The district made good progress on that front in the year ending June 30, 2013, when an increase of $306,640 was realized, bringing the fund balance to $620,151, or 9 percent of expenditures. Last year Caledonia was at the 4 percent mark. Auditors recommend the district fall between 8-18 percent.
“Unassigned general fund is a litmus test for auditors. I recommend you continue to grow your fund balance because you can easily find yourself back where you were with any decline in enrollment or something like a change in special education funding,” Hillberg said. “It’s good you made progress this year, but you still want to be of the mind-set that your work is not completely done.”
Other points of note on the audit include how the district’s one-day, $495,000 capital bond helped the budget.
“This allowed the district to make capital purchases that would not otherwise have been possible,” the audit report states.
Hillberg also highlighted the fact the 80 percent of the district’s revenue comes from the state.
“Because you are dependent on state aid, this again supports the idea that you need to have a good general fund balance. Any tax shift or delay in state aid all point to you needing to have a general fund balance,” she said.
Hillberg concluded by congratulating the board on its progress.
Superintendent Ben Barton, who conferenced in via Skype, agreed that budgeting efforts have paid off but suggested proceeding conservatively.
“We should be pleased we had a year where we were able to under spend our budget, although we must be very cautious moving forward, as we know there are difficult challenges ahead,” Barton said.
Future capital spending
Barton presented a budget of suggested purchases from the district’s 2012 one-day capital bond. The funding stream takes that long to come through, and now that is has, Barton proceeded with his recommendation.
The list mostly addresses technology, curriculum and security needs.
“When we started putting a pencil to our needs, we were quickly up to the $700,000 area,” Barton admitted. “It’s a priority list.”
The board was less than enthusiastic to move forward, however, and requested more time to contemplate the recommendation.
“I’m concerned the items coming up are rather large. I guess I had been hoping we could save some for some of the larger projects,” Board Member Michelle Werner said.
Board Member Kelley McGraw said he wasn’t prepared to authorize the spending that night either.
“It’s an awful lot of money to spend, and I’d like to see some saved for a rainy day,” McGraw said.
Barton said he could appreciate their train of thought and said, “Anything could pop up and require the funds be directed elsewhere.”
The board did not act on the recommendation and will use the next few weeks to ask questions and study the options.
Before moving on to another topic, Werner said she wanted to remind teachers and staff that the ISD 299 Foundation offers mini-grants and that perhaps some of the items on the list could be taken off if teachers received a grant to purchase things like a Smart Board for the classroom.
Each meeting, administrative staff members give an overview of projects they are working on. This month’s reports highlighted the following:
• Middle School/High School Principal Paul DeMorett said the conversation about sharing course offerings with Houston continues and efforts on that will “crank” up in January.
He said the pilot teacher evaluation process continues to unfold, and meetings with the fall coaches are just about wrapped up.
• Community Education/Test Coordinator and Title Coordinator Nancy Runningen said community education offerings continue to receive registrations, and testing season preparations have begun.
• Barton simply extended his thanks to the board for allowing him to attend a technology conference.
As is tradition at each School Board meeting, groups, individuals or both are extended a thank you for supporting the Caledonia School District.
A thank you was extended to Brad Harguth and the students from the home construction class for their time and effort in completing the roofing project of the elementary garage building.
A thank you was extended to Dan Tweten for volunteering his time announcing and keeping the scoreboard during the home girls and boys basketball games.
In other news
• The board approved a seniority list for both licensed and non-licensed staff. Of the 49 licensed staff members, 33 were hired before the year 2000.
• The board agreed to hire Greg Hoscheit as the seventh-grade girls basketball coach for the 2013-14 school year at a cost of $1,665.
• The board approved the Caledonia Public Schools Technology Plan to remain eligible for certain technology funding streams.
• The board adopted a resolution directing administration to make recommendations for reductions in school programs and positions going into the 2014-15 school year. This action is somewhat of a formality in preparation for the next budget cycle.
• The board will hold its organizational meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 6. The next regular meeting is Jan. 20.