Greencastle Board looks for more green

Thursday, July 13, 2006

After recent years of financial struggle, the Greencastle School Board saw a brighter outlook on the coming school year during its monthly meeting Wednesday.

Supt. Robert Green announced the state will make good on delayed funding payments of about $235,000 some time in July.

Green was present at the Putnam County Courthouse Wednesday when Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman announced that the state is paying up all the money owed to Hoosier schools. That money was withheld in the past due to financial shortfalls.

"It is not new money," Green stressed, "it is delayed."

The state had planned to distribute that money in October anyway, he said, but having the funds now is a boost.

Also, the school district received is June tax disbursements on time from the county, he said, and that means all school accounts will continue to operate in the positive without any loans to improve cash flow.

Green said he was pleased that the 2007 budget is also ready to be publicly advertised as required by law.

The budget hearing will coincide with the board's next regular session, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9 at Miller Education Center. The budget adoption is set for the September board meeting.

Green told board members Jack Berry, Mike Dean, Barry Fisher, Mark Kannowski and Monica Fennell that in building the new budget, he tried to "hold the line" as much as possible while continuing to run the same educational programs.

He cautioned, however, that if there is a big drop in the district's assessed valuation, as occurred last year, the property tax rates may go up.

Playing it safe, Green said he used an artificially low assessed valuation, which will mean a higher tax rate will be advertised. In the budget approval process, if the tax rate is advertised too low, it cannot be raised later to compensate for any shortfall. So advertising a higher rate is a protection that the needed amount of local tax money can be raised.

"The tax rates will not be as high as advertised," Green said. With board approval, he anticipated the budget will be advertised in the BannerGraphic in coming days.

Meanwhile, a check into the use of a fiber optic network installed by the school district about five years ago has revealed that the backbone is not being used in the new broadband network serving Greencastle.

Referring to discussions about the network at its June meeting, Attorney Bob Rund told the board he has talked with Cinergy Telecommun-ications, the company that initiated the project, and has found that the school district's backbone was not used for the citywide network as originally planned. As a result, there is no grounds for reimbursement of about $150,000 as originally agreed to by Cinergy Telecommunica-tions.

However, the school board realized that since it does own its own fiber network, which connects school properties, there is the potential to lease some of its fiber capacity to local businesses, residents or other entities.

That is an avenue for the technology committee to investigate, Rund agreed.

The board noted that while they are disappointed there will be no reimbursement, they do not regret making the decision to set up the fiber network because of the improved technology operations for the school system.

"We couldn't have done what we've done technology-wise without it," board member Dean said.

The board also heard a report on the school food program from nutrition director Linda Nelson, who showed a positive balance and a decision to keep the regular lunch and breakfast prices the same as last year. The cost will be $1.90 for lunch in grades 1-5, and $2 for grades 6-12. Breakfast will be $1 for all grades, and milk prices will be 35 cents.

Nelson said there will, however, be a likely increase in the ala carte food item prices, which can increase income as well as encourage students to purchase the regular lunch.

Nelson noted that the government reimbursement rate for school lunches increased. Greencastle serves about 35 percent of its lunches on the free and reduced price plan.

In a report on capital improvements, the board heard that the new corn boilers will be hooked up in early August and will be tested soon after.

Supt. Green also noted that corn to fire the new boilers will be purchased from a third party dealer who works with area farmers, or from an area grain mill that buys from area farmers. Another avenue will be to get corn from a seed company.

"We're certainly not going to get our corn from any individual farmer and certainly not from any certain board member," Green said.

"And that's okay with me," replied Berry, who is a farmer and has been the target of inaccurate rumors about the project.

Also, carpet replacement with tile in the high school band room is ongoing, as is the regular summer cleaning and maintenance of the school buildings.

And, lights for the high school soccer field have been purchased and some wiring has already been installed underground. The remaining installation should be conducted in August, so that night games can occur for the upcoming soccer season.

In personnel matters, the board approved:

-- The retirement of Randall Shumaker as middle school teacher.

-- The resignation of Theodore Bearman as high school science teacher, assistant football coach and middle school wrestling coach.

-- Hiring Larry Vaughan as middle school cross country lay coach and boys track coach.

-- Hiring Deborah Miller as high school volleyball assistant lay coach.

-- Hiring Janey Landry as eighth grade volleyball coach.

-- Hiring Lori Shuck as cheerleader lay sponsor.

-- Hiring Susan Wainman and Destry Fauvergue as assistant cheerleader lay sponsor.

-- Hiring Suzanne Funk as middle school teacher to replace Shumaker.

-- Hiring Andrea Moore as third shift custodian.

-- A two-year unpaid leave of absence for elementary teacher Denise Smedley. Her family has the possibility of moving out of the country if her husband's employer approves. The leave is approved pending the job transfer.

In other business, the board approved:

-- Permission to advertise the annual financial report.

-- Seven policies on students and finances as presented by NEOLA in June.

-- Out-of-district tuition rates for the next school year. A 2.5 percent increase was approved for grades 1-12 to bring the tuition to $1,809 if the student arrives before the official student count day in September, or $3,618 if the student arrives after the count day. Kindergarten tuition would be $905.

The board also saw new member Monica Fennell sworn into office as the appointment from the Greencastle City Council.

And in reorganization of the board, elected as officers were president Jack Berry, secretary Barry Fisher, and vice chairman Mike Dean. Named as legislative liaison to the Indiana School Board Association was Berry. Reappointed as treasurer/deputy treasurers were Nancy Marlow, Rosie O'Neal, Gwen Hutchings, Heather Powers, Karen Sheldon, Marcia O'Hair and Joanie Earl. Robert Rund was reselected as board attorney. Fisher was appointed to as city park board liaison. Mark Kannowski was appointed to the technology committee and to the Area 30 committee. Fennell and Berry were appointed to the district curriculum committee.

The school board will continue to meet monthly at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday at Miller Education Center, 522 Anderson St., Greencastle.

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