Swanville schools’ 2014-15 preliminary budget looking good

By Kerry Drager, Correspondent

The Swanville School Board approved the preliminary 2014-2015 budget in the amount of $3.043 million. The district is currently in Statutory Operating Debt (SOD) and the Board has been monitoring expenses carefully to ensure that it maintains the goal of keeping within its budget and to not increase spending.

There was a small discrepancy due to fluctuation in the number of children eligible for free and reduced lunch. The program is part of the Basic Skills Aid and is determined by the number of children that qualify. Those numbers experienced a drop, something that was not foreseen and does impact the budget by $20,000, said  Supt. Gene Harthan. This a small amount in the overall budget, but while in SOD every change matters, he said. Harthan worked with school staff to make additional cuts and move monies around to make up for the difference.

There was some good news that reflected well on the budget. The school recently switched to natural gas. The old boiler ran on wood pellets and propane, costing the school roughly $50,000 a year for heating utilities. With natural gas, the utility bill has dropped to about $30,000 a year. A good number, especially through a cold winter, said Harthan.

Due to budget cuts, this year will not have Community Education or Title 1 programs. Summer school is being offered only to special education children and traditional sports and events are the only summer recreation programs being offered this year.

Still, the budget is sitting well with the Board and staff. Harthan said there is a $10,000 surplus, good news as the district may need to hire additional paraprofessionals to help with special needs children in this year’s kindergarten.

“We are pretty satisfied after all the back and forth we were doing while we struggled to reclaim the $20,000 that we were short,” said Harthan.

Swanville School Board Briefs:

Other business that came before the Swanville School Board included:

•Learning that more applicants may be needed for the English teaching position that is open for next year;

•Approving the retirement of Tom Bzdok as the junior high football coach. The Board expressed a desire to have Upsala hire the new coach so that each school would have a coach in the paired sports team;

•Approving the hiring of Tracy Hannah as next year’s junior high volleyball coach;

•Hearing that the school is interesting in updating its security by purchasing a system that will require guests to buzz into the office before they are admitted entrance to the building. This will require both main entrances to remain locked throughout the day and the office will have a visual on who is entering the building from both doors. Only one bid was sought for the installation of the security system and it is currently out of the district’s means at $8,980. More bids and alternative funding options may be pursued;

•Learning that the two-year contracts with bus drivers is up for renewal; and

•Accepting the retirement of Gene Harthan as superintendent, beginning with the 2014/2015 school year.