DARLINGTON – The Board of Education for the Darlington Community School District had two special meetings, one on July 25 and one on July 29, where they discussed contracting with Delta 3 Engineering for an inspection on the outdoor bleachers, the upcoming budget projections and the resignation from Athletic Director Kurt Cohen.
The Building and Grounds committee met a couple of weeks ago, discussing the inspection that was done on the outdoor bleachers. From that inspection, it was recommended the board have an engineering firm look at them to evaluate it structurally. Delta 3 Engineering of Platteville gave the board a cost of $6,730 to do the inspection.
Colleen Reichling contended, “If it was already passed to build new bleachers, why are we spending $7,000 to have them studied?”
Board president Aaron Wolfe stated that some board members asked for a reconsideration of the motion.
“Moving forward, whether we go one way or another, it is good to have this inspection to have the ability to say that they have been fully evaluated,” Wolfe stated.
Reichling also asked about other bids and when the bleachers would be built. The board has dealt with Delta 3 Engineering in the past so they did not get another bid. The bleachers are not scheduled to be constructed until next year during the summer. The board has until October to make the decision on building them or not.
Joe Riechers stated the inspection will take three to four weeks for the inspection and they should have information back by the end of August.
Matt Crist argued that it was recommended to have an engineer inspect the bleachers and felt it was just a request by the board.
“We passed the inspection that was done before they requested an engineer to take a look, right?” Crist asked. The board answered yes.
“I haven’t been for the bleachers,” Crist continued. “I believe they are structurally fit. I believe this is agenda driven and a want not a need. If you want to spend that money then that is an option. I think we have fine bleachers.
Wolfe replied, “The report will give us something to back up either way. If the report comes back and says they are safe to use for the near future, I’m fine with waiting.”
“We already have been sued once on these bleachers and that is why we wrapped them. Now we have it documented on a report that we should have them checked out by a structural engineer,” Nick Zuberbuhler said.
“So if anything were to happen and people came and looked at that report, we would have something that said we did it,” Bob Hermanson added.
Hermanson made the motion to contract with Delta 3 Engineering for an inspection on the outdoor bleachers with Zuberbuhler seconding. The motion passed 7-1 with Crist against.
District Administrator Cale Jackson stated the audit had been completed and a significant amount of money was left over from the 2018-2019 budget. He made the recommendation that the district take that left over money and put some into Fund 10 (Fund Balance or General Fund) and the rest into Fund 46 (Long Term Capital Improvement Fund that can only be used for maintenance of the facilities).
“It makes sense to plan the budget so that the district has some money left over at the end of the budget every year to contribute to Fund 46,” Jackson stated.
RJ Brunkow asked if the district put all of the left over money to the Fund Balance, what would the percentage be.
Wolfe stated that the Fund Balance would be over 40 percent, which would be well over the District Fund Balance Policy.
According to the District Fund Balance Policy for Darlington “Any excess of revenues and other financing sources over expenditures and other financing uses at the end of the fiscal year will be added to the District fund balance. The District will strive to maintain a general fund balance of not less than 26% of subsequent year’s operational expenditures. If the District, as of June month-end of a given fiscal year, shows an operating fund balance below 26% of the subsequent year budget, the Board will take proactive actions to raise the district fund balance.”
Wolfe asked, “The referendum is structured so we can levy for an additional $50,000 next year; $50,000 more than this past year. Do we do that or do we do less than we levied this previous year?”
The consensus from the board was to not levy more.
Hermanson stated that if they did not add the extra $50,000 and the district’s assessed valuation stayed the same, the mill rate would decrease to approximately $12.07. The 2018-2019 school year mill rate was $12.45. The district’s assessed valuation is projected to increase by 1.5 percent.
“There are things we can do to mitigate that. If we put $300,000 in Fund Balance, then we can take $100,000 out during the life of the referendum and not put the district in jeopardy,” Jackson explained.
Brunkow asked what the district was anticipating with expenses in salaries. There were previous discussions about increasing enrollment and the possibility of adding additional staff.
High School principal Aaron Lancaster stated the district could potentially look into a Physical Education/Health teacher in the future. DEMS principal Lori Nodorft stated that DEMS was alright at this time.
Maintenance Supervisor Lee Black commented the district needs to have a long range-planning meeting to go over what they want to do.
“I have lots of things that need to be done. I have staff complaining about the heating and cooling in the DEMS building,” Black explained.
“Whatever goes into Fund 46 this year can go toward that project. It costs more than we anticipated. Whatever we decide with next years budget, we should have the same amount left over. We are getting close [in Fund 46] to what the HVAC might cost, which is over $1 million,” Wolfe said.
There was discussion on other items the money from Fund 46 could be used on such as asbestos abatement of the tiles in the high school and going to all epoxy flooring.
“We passed referendums in the past based on state budgets that weren’t friendly to us. Now we have a state budget that is better for us. It is good timing. In a year from now (2020-2021 school year) we will be doing a referendum again. Now we have the ability to have the next referendum make sense,” Wolfe said.
Jackson recommended the board put $200,000 in the Fund Balance and the rest into Fund 46 (with the total amount transferred to the Fund 46 being $645,000). Brunkow made that motion with Hermanson seconding. It passed.
The board also accepted the resignation of Activities Director/District Assessment Coordinator Kurt Cohen at their special meeting on July 25. Cohen recently accepted the District Administrator position at Potosi Community School District. Cohen had been in that position since 2014 and has been in Darlington for 19 years after teaching middle school math in Argyle and high school math in Mishicot.
At the July 29 meeting, the board decided to not hire an outside source for this position but stipend internal candidates to take over the position. Jackson stated Cohen’s salary was $75,000 and Jackson’s recommendation was to stipend less than half the salary at $37,500. The recommendation was for the person to take over the Activities Director position to receive $20,000. The additional $17,500 would be divided between professional staff and support staff that would be taking on the role as the Assessment Coordinator. The board has not chosen anyone for those positions.
The board also approved/accepted:
-resignation from Tiffany Signer as the high school math teacher.
-resignation from Brad Solberg as the 8th grade boys basketball coach.
-closing the Capital Projects Fund 49 Account at Associated Bank, formerly Huntington Bank.
-the cross country team attending Canyon Camp, Aug. 21-23.
-offering AFLAC to the staff at no cost to the district.
-repairing asphalt that was damaged near the high school entrance for an additional $1,900.
-canceling the Aug. 5 regular board meeting.
-the proposed budget for the 2019-2020 school year at $3,944,103.
-offering the elementary secretary position to Ann Rood.
-Dixie Dempsey as an independent contractor to fill the part-time Special Education Director position.
-a shift in assignment for a current staff member from translator to ELL Teacher.