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Paynesville Press - February 19, 2003

District #741 School Board Meeting

The Paynesville Area School Board took the following actions at their meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

  • The board reviewed a revised financial outlook for the school district, looking at the next five years. The board had reviewed a previous version in January.

    Since the district expects to continue to decline in enrollment and cannot expect much in funding increases from the state, the district expects only three percent balances (of its yearly expenditures) at the end of 2003-04, 2004-05, and 2005-06 school years, even with the levy referendum providing $500,000 per year in extra revenue. The district has established a goal to have around one month's expenditures in reserve, or nearly eight percent of its yearly expenditures.

    Superintendent Howard Caldwell called this forecast a worst-case scenario. The plan still includes budget cuts of $150,000 for 2003-04, $230,000 for 2004-05, $200,000 for 2005-06, and $230,000 for 2006-07. These cuts do not even offset inflation, though Caldwell told the board that his estimate of inflation at four percent may be high. If it is, not all these budget cuts may need to be done, he said.

  • The board approved a new job description for the superintendent of schools. According to it, the superintendent is the chief administrator of the schools, reports to the board, and directly supervises the principals, the Community Education director, the buildings and grounds supervisor, and the food service and business office personnel.

    Major areas of accountability for the superintendent are: general administration; communications and public relations; academic and co-curricular programs; personnel; and business management.

    The board discussed how performance reviews of the superintendent, either verbal or written, could be done based on the requirements listed in the new job description.

  • The board approved the establishment of a trust-based health care savings plan, which was included in the latest contract with district administrators.

  • The board approved a new fee schedule for the fitness center. Higher rates are needed to fund the repair and replacement of equipment at the center and to ensure that it operates at a profit, Community Education director Matt Dickhausen told the board.

    Community Education programs across the state face the prospect of funding cuts from the state, Dickhausen added, and cannot afford to underwrite operations like the fitness center. The center did realize a $5,000 profit last year, Dickhausen told the board, but if memberships are not renewed, that bottom line could change this year. The only other remedy would be to cut hours in order to save money, which would likely cause more losses in membership.

    The new rates should go into effect starting March 1. Singles will be $270 in full or $25 per month, up from $130 and $20 per month. Couples, a new offering, will cost $378 in full or $35 per month. Family memberships will be $432 in full or $40 per month, up from $210 and $28 per month.

    Dickhausen told the board that the rates at the fitness center, in hindsight, have been too low from the beginning. The fitness center is still a good value at the new rates, he said, less than a dollar a day.

    The board discussed this issue at length, with several members having some concerns about the price increase. One concern was a loss of access to more casual users. While the fitness center still will offer a daily usage fee of $7 and will offer punch cards, concern was expressed that raising prices would result in fewer members.

    Dickhausen figured that 55 singles, 15 couples, and 15 families, a worst-case scenario, would be needed to raise the majority of the nearly $32,000 needed in annual revenue for the center. He hoped for more members than this. Over 80 percent of the budget goes towards staffing time, while $4,000 would be set aside in an equipment fund.

    Along with the increase in fees, the fitness center also is planning to offer hours on Sunday evenings from 5 to 8 p.m.

    The fee increase was recommended by the advisory council for Community Education. The board amended the recommendation to include 10 percent discounts for paying in full (rather than a monthly basis) and a 10 percent discount for introductory memberships (in order to allow people to try the facility at a more affordable level).

  • The board discusssed advisor/ advisee programs at the middle and high schools. Deb Gillman, principal on special assignment, shared a survey of teachers and students in the middle school that indicated support for PrimeTime, a daily period that offered contact between teachers and students. This time was eliminated this school year due to budget considerations.

    The survey indicated that 76 percent of seventh graders and 65 percent of eighth graders thought that PrimeTime was useful.

    What kind of advisee/advisor programs could be offered is being studied by a study group of teachers and administration. To make any program successful, said board chair Pat Flanders, teachers need to have dedicated time to do it during the school day.

  • The board approved having principal Deb Gillman act as the local representative for Title II.

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