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North Crawford School Board approves proposed budget
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The North Crawford School Board showed little hesitation in approving the proposed 2013-2014 school budget.

The discussion of this year’s budget began with a review of last year’s budget by North Crawford District Administrator Dan Davies and bookkeeper Donna Bell.

The bookkeeper reminded the board that last year’s budget had been planned with a $49,000 deficit that was to be made up from the district’s fund balance. However, the district actually ended the year with only a $2,398 deficit due to some fortunate circumstances, Bell noted.

First, some unexpected revenue appeared. Additional Medicaid funding for school-based services arrived from the federal government. The district budget had anticipated receiving $30,000 and actually received $86,000 in Medicaid reimbursement. The district was also reimbursed $25,000 from its insurance company for a gymnasium scoreboard damaged by a power surge.

Bell told the board those were a couple of the major reasons that the district was able to pay off the cost of a new chiller for the air-conditioning system rather than take out a loan to cover the cost. The district’s fortunate financial situation also allowed for the purchase a new van to replace an aging unit and do some major repair work on the school buses.

In the upcoming budget, the district will be allowed to raise its revenue limit by $18,360 because of a transfer of services in the special ed department, Bell told the board. There may be some loss of aid for declining enrollment because of a larger number enrolled last year than anticipated.

Davies told the board the proposed budget was as “bare bones of a budget that we could make.” The district will not purchase any new buses, the tuck-pointing of the school was completed last year and the improvements to the wireless computer network in the school is being financed through federal REAP funding now in its second of three years.

Bell said the bulk of the savings in the coming budget will come from staffing changes, which created salary and benefit changes.

A big unknown that will affect the budget is open enrollment in and out of the district that might occur this year, as well as any other enrollment gains or losses that might occur. Enrollment has a direct effect on state aid and the final numbers will not be established until the third Friday count in September is completed.

North Crawford’s proposed 2013-14 general fund budget grows by only one percent. However, the funding to pay for that one percent will necessitate a 3.53 percent increase in the tax levy from $1,708,621 in 2012-13 to $1,768,937 in 2013-14. It’s an increase of $60,316. This would result in a mil rate of 9.89, if the equalized property value remains at $178,874,621 as determined earlier this year. That’s up .348 percent from the previous year.

A finalized equalized property value will be reported in October. A higher equalized value will result in a lower mil rate.

If the mil rate remains 9.89 the owner of a $100,000 house will pay $989 in property taxes for the school portion of their property tax bill.

Board member Terry O’Donnell made a motion to approve the budget as proposed and Michael Bedessem seconded the motion. The board passed the proposed budget on a voice vote.

Although the budget played a major role on the agenda of the school board’s meeting last Thursday, there was plenty of other business to address. After a brief report on some minor changes to the district’s handbooks, the board approved the student handbooks, the teacher handbook, the safety handbook and the transportation and the co-curricular activity handbook.

However, North Crawford School Board President Mary Kuhn insisted that a statement on early graduation be clarified in the high school handbook. Kuhn noted the handbook stated  that a graduating senior could request early graduation. She asked what made a graduating senior: the number of semesters (seven) or the number of credits?

O’Donnell said the credits qualified a student for graduation early, but the semesters were what made a student a senior. He stated a student with enough credits to graduate but having only completed five semesters would be “a graduating junior.”

Board member Michael Bedessem said the policy should read any student with enough credits should be able to request early graduation regardless of age. However, he also agreed that those students who had not completed seven semesters should not be considered seniors, even if they were qualified to graduate.

The matter played a role in the early graduation of  a student this year who had completed only five semesters, and would have qualified to be in the top ten of the class academically based on grade point average. He was not allowed to be considered for the honor because he had not completed the required seven semesters.

Kuhn sought to have this policy clarified for the future. It was agreed the handbook would be approved with the understanding that the language clarifying the early graduation policy will be clarified.

The meeting began with a presentation by guidance counselor Hillary Day and UW-Extension youth agent  Amy Mitchell on student-parent surveys. The surveys of middle and high school students are aimed at determining the extent of youth-at-risk behaviors. The surveys are given to students in Crawford, Grant, Iowa, Lafayette and Richland counties and were last done in 2009. Middle school students are given a “tamer version” of the survey with some questions about bullying, drug (marijuana use) and alcohol use included. High school students have some questions about sexual activity included, as well as other drug use. The middle school survey has 70 questions and the high school survey has 93.

The surveys are done anonymously and confidentiality is assured.

CESA 3 tabulates the results and a report shows not only the overall results, but also a particular county’s results and even a particular school’s results, Mitchell explained.

A letter is sent to parents about the survey and if parents want their children to opt out of the survey, they can check a box and return the form, according to Mitchell.

O’Donnell asked what the purpose of the survey was.

“It provides a realistic picture of what kids are doing,” Day explained. She acknowledged some students may exaggerate in the survey because it is confidential. However, the guidance counselor believes it still provides a pretty accurate picture of behavior to help schools and others address the needs of local children with at-risk behavior.

In other business, the North Crawford School board:

• approved an upgrade of the school’s wireless computer network replacing some incompatible Motorola components from the Cisco network to improve its performance

• accepted the resignation of third grade teacher Samantha Mueller

• accepted the resignation of National Honor Society advisor Lori Fox-Gillespie

•  heard  in a report there are 80 students in the district that need special education services

• heard in a report that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has confirmed the school will receive $100,000 in funding to continue its after-school program, known as ‘Beyond the Bell.’

Following a closed session, the board returned to open session to:

• approved the school year wage recommendations of 2.07 percent derived from the Consumer Price Index, which was presented to the teacher’s union and ratified

• hired Donna Bay as a third grade teacher

• approved Vickie Stevenson and Nicole Peth as seventh and eighth grade volleyball coaches.