Project Tax Rate Cut For Coleman School Budget
At its regular monthly meeting on Monday,Sept.18, Coleman School Board received the good news from Superintendent Doug Polomis that so far there is a balanced budget for the coming school year, and in fact a 1.74 percent drop in the property tax levy is projected. With that drop and an increase in overall property values in the district there should also be a drop in the property tax rate. Figures were tentative because at that point the state budget had not been approved for the coming biennium and state aids could change.
Later in the meeting the board approved the budget to be published as proposed. The final budget is to be submitted for public approval at the district annual meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23, prior to the regular 7 p.m. monthly board meeting.
During discussion on the budget Polomis said the general fund balance started this year at $2,284,534 and will end with $2,204,948, $79,586 less. However, the capital projects fund started at $175,888 and is projected to end at $339,561. Polomis said the money is set aside for concession stand and restrooms at the baseball complex.
Non-referendum debt for the district will be fully paid off in 2022 and referendum debt will be paid at least by July 1 of 2018.
Open enrollment is helping with district finances. Students coming in are paying $521,281 toward district expenses, and those going out cost only $371,319. Federal funding is down by about half.
During discussion later in the meeting on a possible referendum for facilities improvements, Polomis said if the district finds they cannot go to a referendum, or if a referendum fails, the Fund 46 money will be spent on the highest priority projects.
Gross total expenditures are definitely up, Polomis said, but projected revenues are up almost an equal amount.
"Do you project a balanced budget?" Board President Ryan Wendt asked.
"That's what we hope for, yes," Polomis replied. he had already verified that he expects the property tax levy to decrease slightly, even with the energy project expenditures. There is to be a more detailed budget breakdown next month.
Other action items for the meeting included unanimous approval of hiring Aaron Destiche as Sophomore Class Advisor. He was the sole applicant. They accepted the resignation of Danyelle Oestreich as Special Education Aide. Oestreich said she felt she could not fulfill the obligations expected of her at this point. The board then approved Polomis' recommendation to create instead a full time Special Education Aide position due to the special needs of a student at the high school level. Joanne Nowak asked if two part time aides would work, but Polomis said that would not provide the consistency needed. To a question from Wendt, Polomis said the student is new to the district and they are still learning what is needed.
At the August meeting the board had heard a presentation by Paula Gruszynski of M & M Community Foundation on the benefits of investing charitable funds with them in view of the low interest paid by banks. M&M Foundation average return over the past 10 years has averaged 5 percent, with very low administrative fees. The discussion centered on the George Hansen Memorial Scholarship fund. Gruszynski said Crivitz had done this for their district and has found it beneficial. No action was taken, but Polomis had contacted the school's attorney and bank for input.
At the Sept. 18 meeting Polomis said he had contacted Cheri Schounard in regard to handling Hansen's bequest, since she had held his power of attorney and remains active in awarding the scholarships. He had asked her about the possibility of moving the money to the M&M Foundation and "she was very much an advocate of that." He said she felt with the low current bank interest the money will not grow to accomplish what Hansen had in mind.
Wendt said after people read about the discussion in the Peshtigo Times he had a call from a local banker concerned about allowing the money to leave the community, but other callers said they should put the investment where they get the best interest rates.
"It's a risk no matter what we do," commented Jamie Graetz, "but if it (the M&M fund) really starts tanking we can pull it out."
Polomis said they give two $1,000 scholarships each year from the fund, but currently the money is earning only $1,600 a year, "so it will not last."
Wendt said he had not known Hansen at all, "but he must have been a very generous man...It's a wonderful gift." He said he was sure Hansen would want to help as many kids as possible.
Polomis said Schounard is still very much involved. She works with the school counselors to decide who gets the scholarships, and comes to Coleman in person to present them each year.
"If she's okay with it, I'd be willing to give it a try," Wendt agreed. He wished the two absent board members were there to have a voice in the decision. It was agreed that Wendt would call Schounard personally and the switch to M&M Community Foundation will be on the agenda for the Oct. 27 meeting.
A donation from GreenStone to the Coleman FA Chapter as part of their company fundraiser earlier in the year was accepted with thanks. The note from GreenStone said there are a total of 13 checks, totaling $475.
For over a year the district has been collecting information on what they need to do to keep their buildings updated and in good repair. In January a facilities needs study was completed by the Bray Architectural Firm. That study identified a number of problems that should be corrected and suggested possible solutions.
Subsequently a Citizens Facilities Committee was formed to come up with recommendations and price estimates, and generate community support for a referendum that would allow the school board to raise the property tax levy enough to pay for facilities improvement projects the community feels should be done.
The high school portion of the school was built in 1959, the elementary/middle school in 1974, and the connecting building in 1999. The greenhouse was built in 2004. Current referendum debt will be paid off by the end of this year or early next year.
Polomis has been meeting with the citizens group for several months. He reported that a facilities needs survey is now being done. Survey forms had gone out to staff members that day, and should be delivered to everyone in the community by Wednesday, Sept. 20, he said. Responses are due by Monday, Oct. 9. They can be either sent by hard mail or submitted online at www.survey2000.com with a special access code.
The school board will meet in special session with the committee at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 25 to go over survey results. Results will also be posted on the District web site after the meeting. Recommendations are to be made to the board its meeting on Monday, Nov. 27.
Survey forms will be mailed to all known addresses in the school district, and also will be available at the Piggly Wiggly store and will be sent home with students. There also were to be two ads in the Peshtigo Times.
Polomis urged everyone to get their survey answers in. "We need to get at least 400 responses to get an idea of what the results will be and what perceptions of the school are," he said. He invited any household that needs more forms to call Lori Karban at the school office.
The only members of the public present were three new staff members who came to meet the board - Band Director Robert Doersam, Elementary Special Ed Teacher Brenda Raught, and Fourth Grade Teacher Cheri Christianson.
Board members present included Nowak, Scott Herzog, Graetz, Barb VanDrisse and Wendt. Board members Jamie Hoida and Barb Krause-Klug were absent and excused.
No one spoke during time for public comment, and Wendt commented on the contrast from previous months, when the meeting room was often filled with unhappy people. Wendt said he has been told if no one comes to the meetings, it means they are happy with the way things are going. However, he said others had told him it's bad that people do not come to push for things they want done. To that thought, he commented, "I don't think people realize how much fun that is not!"
"Maybe once this goes out we won't have so many empty seats for our board meetings," Wendt commented wryly after the community survey discussion.
During his report to the board Polomis commented on the achievements of the "Tackle Cancer" football games. This year's Tackle Cancer game will be against Southern Door on Friday, Oct. 13. He said during the four years since the games were started by Nikki Kaiser and Tricia Zeitler, and have raised over $52,000 for the cause. They are in the process of selecting the unfortunate persons to receive this year's proceeds. Questioned on his use of the term "unfortunate, " Polomis explained it is unfortunate that they are cancer victims or they would not be getting the funds.
The M&O Kickoff Banquet to honor coaches and advisors is set for Wednesday, Sept. 27 at Kelly Lake. Homecoming is coming up the week of Oct. 9 through 14. National Honor Society Induction will be on Monday, Oct. 9.
Polomis reported the Academic and Career Planning (ACP) Committee had met on Wednesday, Sept 13 and are making steps toward being compliant. State law now requires that each student must be following an ACP that leads toward their career or future academic goals. More work will be done on this with the help of a consultant.
The third Friday student count tentatively shows the district has the equivalent of 675 full time students, slightly down from last year, partly because of a 58-member graduating class last year. There were 693 resident students this year from 4K through Grade 12, while last year there were 700 at this time. There are more students open enrolled in than out, Polomis said, adding that this is good for the district because it means more money coming in.
The evening for some of the board members had started with a Policies Committee meeting that resulted in approval of several minor policy changes for presentation to the full board next month, and a decision to hold three policies back for more work. Among those held up for further clarification and a legal opinion are one governing search and seizure, one prohibiting any outside group use of the school logo to advocate for or against a school sponsored referendum without specific board approval, and one changing requirements or expectations for students moving to the next grade level.
Polomis noted that other policies, including those on Safe At Home, will be coming up at the October meeting.
Elementary/Middle School Principal Yvette Marshall reported they had a very successful Elementary Open House and Middle School orientation on Thursday, Aug. 31. "This was a good time for students and families to acquaint themselves with teachers, learn what their routine will be and bring supplies."
The first day of elementary school kicked off with an all school assembly, and the remainder of the day was scheduled through the PBIS team to review rules of the playground, since behavior data showed this is where most behavior incidents occur, Marshall said. She said the Middle School students experienced their schedules, met their teachers and learned about expectations for each class. They also reviewed the student handbook so students are aware of major rules.
The 4K program had their first Parent Outreach Day on Friday, Sept. 8. Families competed in a scavenger hunt with clues about different areas of the building, which Marshall said was a good way for new families to acquaint themselves with the different areas of the school.
The 6th Grade was to be at Camp Bird from Sept. 19 through Sept. 22. Marshall thanked Keith Long for organizing this.
The mandatory meeting for all students and parents going on the Washington DC trip is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27, and school pictures are to be taken on Thursday, Sept. 28.
Marshall said PTO had its first meeting of the year on Monday, Sept. 11 and discussed Fire Safety Week, which is coming up on Oct. 9 through 13. They will again hold a poster contest, and entries are due on Oct. 20, with judging the following week. PLTO will purchase playground toys and movable carts for ease at recess, added Marshall. They will run another Book Fair during the Parent/Teacher conferences. They are to meet again at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 30 in the board room.
Wendt noted PTO seems to do a lot, and asked how many members there are. Marshall said only a few, so they will hold fewer meetings to retain members and not burn each other out.
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