Spring Grove School Board members voted to approve a "proposed" budget for 2014-15 on June 16. With total expected general fund revenues of $3,821,938, and expenditures of $3,824,580, the budget is smaller than the actual (or revised) budget for 2013-14. That document includes revenues of $3,909,905 and expenditures of $3,984,505.

The proposed budget predicts a general fund balance of $735,319 at the end of the fiscal year. The adopted budget for 2013-14 included a fund balance carryover of $685,681, while the revised figure came in at $737,962.

Superintendent Rachel Udstuen said that one bright spot for next year is a half-percentage point increase in state funding per pupil unit. That will add about $25 per student to district coffers.

Referendum, local option revenue

Directors met at length with Greg Crowe of Ehlers Incorporated, a company specializing in public finance.

Crowe explained a variety of options which the district could take in regards to the local option revenue (LOR) monies which are due to begin arriving in fiscal year 2016. Those will affect property taxes payable in 2015, and if the district leaves the referendum as-is, would reduce taxes on a typical $100,000 home by $65 per year.

On the other hand, if property taxes were to remain essentially the same, the district would have an additional $65,569 per year to work with, he said.

Directors considered how that money could be used. Ideas include a possible upgraded entry to the school building for better security, and upkeep projects for the current structure such as tuck pointing exterior masonry.

When asked about the entryway proposal, Crowe said, "We're seeing that a lot." He said that the additional income would support a bond of approximately $500,000.

The board did not vote - but reached a consensus that the district should seek to renew the referendum by placing it on the ballot this fall, one year before the document expires. By adding $180 per pupil to the referendum amount, the property tax burden (with LOR) would essentially remain the same.

Directors approved a health and safety budget for fiscal 2015 to 17. Spending on those line items which include physical hazards, hazardous materials management, and fire safety, will total $25,900 per year.

Personnel

The board took up a proposal to terminate community education coordinator/associate director Lynn Anderson's contract, which was tabled at their May meeting. Udstuen reported that the district's attorney had recommended the action following an incident where a community education class had included bringing alcoholic beverages onto school grounds. As an "at-will" employee, Anderson can be let go at any time without cause, she added. Directors voted to terminate the contract without any discussion.

Another vote placed all non-12 month non-certified employees on summer leave.

Two new three-year contracts were also approved. The first was for principal Nancy Gulbranson, which includes a 2 percent pay raise each year. Udstuen's contract was renewed for an additional three years as well. It included the same pay raise provision.

Directors expressed regret as they accepted two resignations. The first was for Heath Olson's contract as JV girls basketball/assistant football coach. The second was the resignation/retirement of longtime employee/dishwasher Dorene Nelson.

A proposal to reduce social studies teacher Lindsay Mackie's contract from .50 FTE (full time equivalent) to .25 FTE also passed with no dissent.

New K-6 curriculum

Directors approved $30,535 in spending for a new kindergarten through sixth-grade "literacy benchmark" curriculum package. Two additional components, totaling $10,000 are proposed for next year. This year's package focuses on reading components, while writing, phonics/word study would come up for a vote next year. Udstuen reported that faculty members are enthusiastic about the series.

Other news

The board accepted the lowest of three quotes for concrete work near door six. The total from Van Minsel Construction was $9,375, and the job (to be done this summer) includes re-working and adding to sidewalk areas.

Directors also approved a slate of over 30 fund-raising projects for next year. Another vote approved seeking milk bids for 2014-15. A proposal from Winneshiek Medical Center to continue to provide athletic training services in '14-15 won approval without debate. The new contract totals $1405.

The first reading of Minnesota School Board Association policy #514 was held. Udstuen said that the document, which sets a policy for the district in regard to prohibiting bullying, meets the latest state legislative demands.

The next meeting of the District #297 school board will be Monday, July 21, at 7 pm.