Greene Co school board names actions to meet district goals

A year ago when the Greene County Schools board of education set goals for the school year, the goal of having $1 million in unused spending authority within five years seemed very ambitious. The district had made painful budget cuts during 2016-17 and managed to end the year with a positive unspent balance of $392,000. However, the board knew a 50-student decline in enrollment in 2016-17 would impact the 201-18 budget.

The news the board received at its meeting last Wednesday included surprising good news. That $1 million goal now seems very attainable. The district finished 2017-18 with a balance of $918,000 in spending authority.

The board discussed the budgetary goal as it formulated action plans for board goals for the new school year at a work session prior to the regular meeting. The information was also included during the regular meetings as part of the certified annual report.

District business manager Brenda Muir said the ending balance is “really good,” and that administrators and the board will need “to keep our finger on things. As the certified enrollment goes down, that’s a budget-tipping issue.”

Muir reminded the board that 2018-19 is the first year the district will have no additional revenue from the reorganization of East Greene and Jefferson-Scranton, but she said cuts are in place to cover that. The board had hoped to reduce 3.5 positions through attrition, but the net reduction ended up being 1.5 positions. Savings came from hiring teachers lower on the pay scale than the retiring teachers.

Another aid to reaching the goal is a one-time payment of transportation equity funds to districts that are above the state average in transportation costs. The district will receive $178,000. Superintendent Tim Christensen suggested the board advocate for that funding stream to continue.

Several board members are eager to learn more about school finance, with four of them agreeing to attend school finance sessions at the Iowa Association of School Board convention in November.

Other board goals are being carried over from last year.

The board set a goal last year to advocate and promote new school construction. The successful bond referendum last April set meeting the larger part of the goal.

The 2018-19 goal calls for evaluation/assessment of facilities. Director of maintenance/buildings Adam Snowgren will prepare five-year plans for all district buildings, particularly the elementary school. At board member Steve Karber’s suggestion, the board will in 3-6 months prioritize the “needs” and “wants” for the new high school and the repurposed high school as a middle school to assure the project stays within the budget.

The board will continue to work to increase interaction and communication between the board and students, staff, parents and the public. The board will hold question and answer sessions Nov. 7 from 7 to 8 pm at the Scranton Community Center and March 6 from 7 to 8 pm at the Grand Junction Community Center. Board members will have lunch at each of the school buildings, and they’ll be available to parents during the fall parent-teacher conference.

The board will also continue to work to attain a 100 percent graduation rate and implement a district-wide career guidance plan. Having additional counselors available to students, and increasing the alternative school back to a fulltime program are parts of that effort.

The goal of creating an environment that encourages student enrollment and attracts/retains quality staff is also being held over. The board hopes opening the new high school and career academy, as well as moving out of the current middle school, will work toward the goal. Additionally, Christensen is developing a wellness committee that will focus on the physical and mental health of students and staff.

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