The 2014-2015 budget approved at the Thursday, June 26 board meeting will result in a general fund draw-down of almost $2 million in Forest Lake School District 831 over the course of the 2014-2015 school year.
“The budget draw-down is driven by staffing costs,” Superintendent Linda Madsen said in an interview. “Teachers, administrators, custodians, food service — everyone in the system” was given a salary increase in the most recent contract settlements, she said.
“We had to do that for quite a few contracts. There comes a time when we try to compensate them as they should be.” For several years district staff had no or minimal increases.
Madsen said the district will still maintain a healthy reserve. The end-of-year general fund balance is estimated to be $5,052,953.
According to state law, the school board is required to approve a budget before June 30. It will be modified in November when the final student count is in. The budget anticipates that there will be 100 fewer students than last year, meaning a potential decrease in state per-pupil funding.
The overall population of the school district, however, is up. The school district population was certified at 47,450 as of June 2014. This number shows an increase of about 1,000 residents over last year.
The district’s telephone system will be replaced. The board voted to award the contract for telephone voice system, data switches and implementation services to Integra for $576,295. The project will be paid for over five years with lease financing.
A new employment policy for the activities director was approved. The new policy is modeled after the agreement with principals, but is now separate from that document, as the activities director is not part of the principal’s collective bargaining group.
Like the district’s communications coordinator, family support advocate and assessment coordinator, the high school activities director will have an individual contract.
Other districts require the activities director to have a principal’s license, Madsen said, because the training principals receive in finance and legal issues can be helpful in dealing with budgets and data practices. The state does not require this.
The principals bargaining group did not object, Madsen said, and their approval is not necessary in any case.
Southwest Junior High Principal Marc Peterson, in his last board meeting before he takes a new position in New Hampshire, reported that Southwest has been accepted as an International Baccalaureate candidate school.
For the staff of 55, he said, this is a big change, and change is not easy.
“A year ago, I didn’t think as a staff we were ready,” he said.
Staff training will continue through the summer, including an in-service day on Aug. 28.
Retiring Special Education Director Deb Wall was also recognized for her impressive career, leadership roles in the state and cheerful attitude.
Gifts to the school district included $6,600 to purchase laptops and iPads, a $2,000 tool to help students with disabilities stand, and two cars for the high school automotive program.
Three School Board seats will be open in November as four-year terms for members Bystrom, Morehead and Turner expire. The board approved filing dates of July 29 to Aug. 12.
The board approved paying $3,957 as its portion of the Northeast Metro 916 health and safety program budget.
Teaching and Learning Director Jennifer Tolz-mann reported on the district’s progress with a Minnesota requirement to adopt a “comprehensive, long-term strategic plan to support and improve teaching and learning that is aligned with creating the word’s best workforce.”
This will be the umbrella document for several existing programs, Tolzmann said, including kindergarten readiness, reading well by third grade, closing achievement gaps, getting all students ready for career and postsecondary education and helping all students graduate from high school.
“My best understanding is that they would like to consolidate all programs we currently do and submit to the Minnesota Department of Education,” she said.
So far, she has not seen any streamlining, Tolzmann added.
The board approved appointing an advisory committee with Tolzmann as the facilitator.
The board heard from trap shooting coach Don Spears, with assistant coaches and team members. There were 40 students in trap shooting this year, he said, and he expects the number to increase next year.
Board members reported attending graduations at the high school, adult education, STEP and Project Search programs.
“It was a simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating couple of weeks,” Bystrom said. Of the four students graduating from the first year of Project Search, she said, one has been hired by the Fairview Lakes nutrition services program.