Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

ISD 696 finances get a big boost

Legislative action good news for bottom line

Keith Vandervort
Posted 6/13/19

ELY – School board members here took a look at a proposed 2019-2020 budget Monday night that includes a healthy general fund revenue increase of almost half a million dollars

Superintendent …

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ISD 696 finances get a big boost

Legislative action good news for bottom line

Posted

ELY – School board members here took a look at a proposed 2019-2020 budget Monday night that includes a healthy general fund revenue increase of almost half a million dollars

Superintendent Kevin Abrahamson was quick to note that ISD 696’s preliminary budget was based on several assumptions. “The budget is always a moving target, but we try to plan for less in revenues and more in expenses,” he said. “We can only make our best guess at this point.”

In presenting the budget for next year, Abrahamson outlined his assumptions to board members.

“With enrollment, we try to under-guess,” he said. “We looked at what we anticipate having and reduced from there.” He assumes there will be 40 incoming Kindergarten students for the 2019-2020 school year. He also assumes total enrollment will be at 561 students, down slightly from the 565 students counted in 2018-2019.

Abrahamson estimated staffing costs, particularly salary and benefits, using current labor contracts, and increased by a certain percentage in anticipation of upcoming contract renewal negotiations.

“The general fund revenue shows an increase of $470,000, based on 2018-2019 numbers along with a two-percent increase in state aid and other legislative changes,” he said. “Our revenue increase is largely based on what the Legislature did in the last month or so.

In addition to the state aid increase of $70,000, the general fund 01 and 03 accounts also show a Special Education revenue increase of $115,000, a portion of the state safety grant to match preliminary facility renovation design expenses at $144,000, and miscellaneous grants and interest at $25,000, for a total of $354,000.

Also, the general fund 05 account indicates revenue increases of $37,000 in operating revenue increases, $14,000 in long-term facilities maintenance, and $66,000 in health and safety fiscal year adjustment, for a total of $117,000.

Overall, Abra-hamson’s preliminary budget assumes a slight increase in the unassigned fund balance, from $2.114 million in 2018-2019, to $2.119 million for 2019-2020. Board chair Ray Marsnik noted that the unassigned fund balance, as a percentage of operating expenses, remains at more than 28 percent for the district. “This district’s policy is to maintain an unassigned fund balance of at least 20 percent,” he said.

Abrahamson estimated that next year’s budget would show an overall surplus of $249,954. “We are doing really well,” he said.

Superintendent search

School board members were allowed to take home the redacted application information for review and screening of candidates for the vacant part-time superintendent position. Board members were set to review and discuss their next steps in finding a replacement for Abrahamson at a special meeting on Wednesday, June 12. The results of that meeting will be reported in the Timberjay next week.

Abrahamson is set to resign his position on June 30 when his contract expires, but has indicated a willingness to remain at his post temporarily until a new superintendent is in place. The school board has not yet negotiated a temporary contract with Abrahamson.

Board members this spring interviewed four candidates from an original pool of eight applicants, but could not agree on any of them to consider for the post. The position was re-posted last month. Six of the original eight applicants indicated a willingness to remain in consideration for the post, and four new applicants are being screened for possible interviews.

Litigation

School board members went into closed session at the end of the meeting to be briefed by the district’s attorney, Kelly Klun, regarding a lawsuit from as many as 17 teachers that stems from wage overpayments during the 2017-18 school year.

Over the course of 13 paychecks, between August 2017 and February 2018, the school district allegedly overpaid the teachers. The lawsuit, originally filed by teacher Krista Moyer, said that ISD 696 overpaid her by $1,088 then deducted $155 over seven paychecks between February and May 2018. 

She sued for $2,176, twice the amount of the deductions, plus her $75 filing fee. Sixteen other teachers signed onto the lawsuit. 

The district filed a counter claim, saying that for four of the 17 teachers, there was an overpayment of $1,674 and that the teachers owe them that money plus fees and costs of $1,080 for a total of $2,754. 

Klun referred questions in the matter to the school district administration.

According to Abrahamson, in the decisions rendered in three representative court cases, the school district prevailed in two counter claims, and a teacher prevailed in the other case. “There are timelines to follow if either side wishes to appeal,” he said. “Regarding the remaining cases, it is my understanding that the attorneys will confer and determine the next course of action, which could consist of additional court appearances or a possible settlement.”

Other business

In other business, the board:

Discussed the issue of providing free event passes to staff and teachers for next year. On the recommendation of the athletic director, board members will likely approve the policy next month, and will consider providing free event passes for Memorial school students next year;

Considered adding an online payment option for student activity participation fees and will likely approve the policy next month;

Approved the purchase of a new school bus from Hoglund Bus Co. in the amount of $93,161.99.

Approved a lease agreement with Happy Days Preschool for the 2019-2020 school year at $400 per month.

Approved a contract with Arrowhead Regional Computing Consortium for 2019-2020.

OK’d a managed services contract with Voltz Technologies, Inc., for the 2019-2020 school year for $117,231.54.

Approved an agreement with Walker, Giroux & Hahne Certified Public Accountants & Consultants for auditing services.

Approved the annual premiums submitted by Vaaler Insurance in the amount of $157,388.40 for the 2019-2020 school year.

Approved quotes from Dean Foods for the district’s milk products, and Pan-O-Gold Baking Co. for the district’s bread products for the 2019-2020 school year.

Approved a professional services contract with Range Mental Health Center from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020.

Authorized the reimbursement to the Ely Track Club for participation fees of $852.50.

Accepted the resignation of Paul Peterson from the K-12 physical education teaching position at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

Hired Cathy Braun for the extended school year paraprofessional position.

Accepted the resignation of Nicole Udovich from the Early Childhood Education Classroom Assistant position at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

Board members held a special meeting on Wednesday, June 12 to confer with a committee from the St. Louis County School District and discuss academic collaboration options and ideas. Look for more information on the meeting in the June 21 issue of the Timberjay.

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