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June Richland School Board Meeting

The Richland School Board held a marathon meeting Monday night and covered a host of topics and received several updates.

The school board took the initial step forward securing bonding for the building and maintenance projects outlined in the spring referendum questions. Last night the board approved the initial resolution authorizing the sale of $8,730,000 in bonds. Jeff Seeley of Ehlers – the financial advisor for the district’s referendum borrowing – reported that interest rates continue to go down, even since the last meeting two weeks ago. He said that hopefully similar rates will be available when the bids for the bonding go out. The next action by the school board will be to approve the resolution awarding the sale of the bonds. That’s expected at the regular school board meeting on July 18th.

Representatives from Kraemer Brothers outlined the results of the bids from the Doudna and Richland Middle School roof replacement projects, and the athletic track resurfacing project that are expected to be completed this summer. Updated work plans also included storm sewer, earthwork, and asphalt paving near the track area, as well as shingle roof and fascia replacement at Doudna. Original estimates figured that the costs would be about $1,675,000. Once bids were revealed the total costs came in much lower at $1,263,000. The lower costs were realized on the Middle School roof of about $615,000 and the flat portion of the Doudna roof of $200,000. Higher costs were figured on-and-around the track, and for the shingled rood portion at Doudna. It was also explained that the bids were taken without any contingency – which the board later authorized up to $100,000. It was stated at the board meeting two weeks ago that the work would begin this month, and be completed before the start of the school year in September.

District Business Official Kathy Stoltz outlined information to the board regarding the current 2015-16 district budget, as well as put forward the preliminary budget for 2016-17. She said that with the current 15-16 budget there could still be items that come in that affect the final tally, but as it currently stands the district will not be as bad off as the originally anticipated shortfall of $285,000. In fact, the revenues are predicted higher, and the major expenses like utilities and transportation will be lower. Still, this year’s deficit is still expected somewhere around $115,000. The 2016-17 budget that will be presented at the annual meeting in July will be a balanced one. That’s because of expected revenue increases in the tax levy as the result of the Technology referendum question, more state aid in the form of a per pupil adjustment, lower utility costs, and a one-time payment from the City of Richland Center for the closure of a Tax Increment District in the amount of $350,000. Of course Stoltz did caution that there are still many factors left unknown in the budget-making process, and there is a lot to finalize prior to setting the final tax levy in October.

The Richland School Board discussed – but took no action on – establishing a Fund 46 which allows districts to set aside money for major future projects. The strategy has advantages and disadvantages. The advantages include giving schools a direction in their long-term maintenance plans while also collecting state aid on the money saved. The drawbacks include the inability to tap into those resources for at least five years after a Fund 46 has been established. It was stated that several area schools have gone this route. The Richland School Board posed several questions to the administration before committing to the idea.

In other action from the Richland School Board meeting Monday night, the board approve the Achievement Gap Reduction Grant for Doudna, Jefferson, and Lincoln Elementary Schools for the next five school years. The AGR Grant replaces the former SAGE program which provided added funds to reduce class sizes. District Administrator Jarred Burke said that the new set-up provides funding for similar class size reductions, but also affords districts additional staff flexibility on how the funds can be used. The school board approved a $3,000 donation from the Friends of Science for the recent SeaPerch trip to LSU. And the board approved the agenda for the 2016 district annual meeting set for the evening of Monday, July 25th.