The South Putnam School Board continues to make progress as it addresses several key issues, including bonds and a new roof project.
The issue of bond refinancing has been talked about for the past several months. However, this month the board came with some good news for the taxpayers.
"By refunding these bonds we are going to save about $100,000 per year on lease rental payments," superintendent Bruce Bernhardt explained. "That's $100,000 that will come off of the debt service fund payments that we make each year.
"It was a great time to refinance. I am happy to report that we are going to save our taxpayers about $100,000 per year by having refinanced these bonds."
The board will once again begin work on the roofs of the high school and Central Elementary. The work will be an extension of what was done a year ago by Insulated Roofing.
An additional 43,500 square feet between the two buildings will be worked on with a rate of $1 per square foot.
"This is exactly the same thing as they did last time," Bernhardt said. "Flat roofs are a problem, always a problem. There's been some leaks, they've been out and worked on some areas."
The corporation will receive a new warranty on the roof and will be asked to pay $43,500. Dow Corning and BASF will pay the remainder.
The board has officially approved its 2013 budgets, capital projects plan and school bus replacement plan.
"When you look at the numbers that we publish, unfortunately the way the state requires the budget process they will allow you to lower your tax rates throughout the budget process. However, they will not allow you to raise the tax rates on what is published in the paper," explained Bernhardt. "We do two things in the budget process we underestimate our revenue and overestimate our expenditures."
Due to the process, the numbers listed as published in earlier issues of the Banner Graphic do not truly reflect what the actual budget will be. The corporation will have to wait for the state to certify its assessed value, which will change many of the numbers.
Principal Kieth Puckett gave the board an update on activities going on with the sixth-graders and had only good things to say.
"I can assure you they're off to a great start," Puckett said. "They're really enjoying what they're doing and how they're doing it."
Many were concerned with the sixth-graders being transferred into a wing at that middle school.
Puckett put everyone's mind at ease as he told the board that not only are the students enjoying themselves, the corporation is actually having to turn children away due to space. However, if someone were to move into the school district they would not be turned down.
"We were prepared for 84 kids," Puckett said. "We've had to shut it off now at 95 because the word is out that it's a pretty cool thing. They really do enjoy what they're doing."
Attendance numbers show that the students are truly enjoying their new surroundings as it is currently sitting at 98 percent with teacher attendance being at 100 percent.
Dean of Students Troy Burgess has been placed in the sixth-grade hallway, which, along with having veteran 41-year teacher Jeff Raab, has made a world of difference with the students.
"It's all clicked," Puckett said. "They like where they are. I wish you could see what I see every day, how happy the kids are and the way they interact."
Puckett said the only complaint coming from younger students is that they do not like having different passing periods from the rest of the student body.
"We deliberately put them on a separate schedule. They don't like it," he said. "They think they can switch classes at the same time and the same way that those seventh-graders do. They've made it clear to us that, 'we can do this.' It's the only request they've constantly made of me, is to 'quit leaving us out.'"
Students have a minimum of five rotations, which they enjoy because is means having different teachers throughout the day.
Puckett stated that the only rugged part of the transition was on the faculty side.
"The technical aspect of a self-contained sixth grade within a middle school within a high school (is difficult)," Puckett explained. "It's really hard to handle all those details, a school within a school within a school. It's just hard on us old people. It's very populated right now. It's tough, but it's been good."
Although no true numbers were presented on just how many students were lost with the transfer, it is estimated that only a couple decided to leave the corporation.
"The parents that stuck with us prepared their kids for a good experience," Puckett said. "We had a wonderful orientation in August and that paid off for us."
If more space becomes needed in the near future, another room would be added with another teacher.
The corporation has not truly looked at the idea of a long-term solution, but Puckett explained that it needs to become a middle school, and the staff is the issue as far as licensing goes.
Superintendent Bernhardt gave the board the official results of student count day, which took place last Friday.
The corporation is currently up 13 students this year, a welcome increase after years of a decline in students.
"We've had a steady decline over the years," Bernhardt said. "For the first time in years now we are actually up 13 students this year compared to the previous year. Last year we had a huge decline, we lost about 66 students from the year before."
Officially, the student count is 1,129.5, as the state counts kindergarteners as one-half average daily membership (ADM).
"The ADM is what our funding is based off of in our general fund," Bernhardt explained. "We have a total of 63.5 cash transfers from other school corporations. I'm very pleased that we've held our own and actually gained 13 students."
This count will go into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2013. However, due to new legislation the number will only apply for six months. There will be a second count, which will apply to the second six months of the year.