McCOOK, Nebraska -- The McCook Public School system will be facing major fiscal challenges in the next few years, but officials hope a budget approved unanimously Monday night will help ease the pain.
After a hearing at which no member of the public chose to speak, the school board voted unanimously to approve a $20 million budget of expenditures that will ask for $5.6 million in local property taxes.
Last year's budget was virtually the same $20 million size, but asked for $5.2 million in local property taxes.
The budget is under the state lid at $1.049884 per $100 valuation, and when excluded levies are included, totals $1.2021416 per $100 in property valuation.
Last year's total levy request was $1.187875, but higher valuations are in effect now.
Highlights of this year's budget include:
|Special bldg fund||$357,565|
Superintendent Grant Norgaard and business manager Rick Haney told the Gazette that the school is planning for major expenditures such as a new vehicle for special education students, a new route bus, a new telephone system, new reading curriculum and technology upgrades.
McCook and most other schools have benefitted from recovery act funding, but the end of that funding could result in a "cliff year" next year if preparations aren't made now.
"We're doing things now that will pay off in three or five years," Haney said. With good planning "instead of a 'cliff' it will be more like stepping off a curb," he said.
With personnel the largest portion of any school budget, taking action like offering buyouts to teachers with the most longevity, and thus highest pay, can help hold down the budget in future years.
Other large expenditures will include new heating and cooling systems for the main high school and other energy improvements.
Taxpayers also benefitted from refinancing the school bond fund to take advantage of lower rates.
"We think we have a good budget," Haney told the Gazette last week.
The board went into closed session at 7:11 p.m. Monday to discuss employee negotiations, but no action was to be taken after the meeting.
In other action at Monday night's meeting:
* Barry Schaeffer reported on summer school, saying another successful year saw 50 students recover 440 hours of credit.
* Lori Brenning and Elementary Principal Linda Baumbaugh distributed Parent-Teacher Organization T-shirts to school board members and invited them to take part in activities.
* While the new special education rooms on the northwest corner of McCook Elementary are nearly complete, the quality of the bricklaying work done by a subcontractor is of concern to school officials.
"I don't feel the wall is going to fall down, but it doesn't look good," Norgaard said. A letter has been sent to the general contractor and the school is awaiting a response.
* The board accepted a $980 donation from Brown's Shoe Fit, raised by a 5K run during the county fair.
* The board approved on first reading new and revised special education policies and declared old 10-foot tennis court fencing surplus. Officials hope the fencing can be used for the benefit of children.
* A policy on policy adoption, which would have made it possible to adopt a policy in one meeting, was discussed but no action was taken.
* During the positive comments portion of the meeting, board members complimented the band and athletes for their success, as well as the hard work the staff has put into creating the budget and researching a new reading curriculum.