Friday, October 31, 2014

Corrective Action Items-Teacher Pay

We are currently looking at 2 different courses of action when it comes to items for the corrective action plan. The links for those different plans are on this page as Plan 1 and Plan 2. Within these plans, both show new revenue for this year. For the most part, that revenue is already gone as expenditures within the raises for all staff that were given last year. As such, the final numbers at the bottom of the plans should be adjusted by about $150,000 for that. For instance, Plan 1 shows a total of about $720,000 when in reality it is only about $570,000. Plan 2 shows a total of about $635,000 at this point when in reality it is more like $480,000 due to that same problem.

Plan 1
Plan 1 shows areas where we could save some expenditures, including the closing of the elementary school in Greene. This plan would also eliminate several teaching staff, but would maintain all programs for our students. I believe that the quality of the education that our children receive would only improve.
Plan 2
Plan 2 would not close the elementary building, but would eliminate programs that are not essential, or required by the state. These would include elementary art, elementary PE, elementary music, a media position, Agriculture at the HS and at least one other program at the HS-quite possibly in music as it is not a required element. The elementary classroom teachers(by law) could teach these things,  but it would not be the same as having a highly qualified teacher in that area, and would require more time on the classroom teachers part away from planning their regular curricular instruction.Other areas that we could look at would include extra curriculars and activities, but the reality is that these areas are still not as big a piece of money as staff.

I do not believe that this plan would be in the best interest of our children. I believe that those programs assist us in rounding out our children. Their is a lot of research that shows a strong tie between the fine arts and academics, especially math and science.


The information that is being used on teacher pay as reported in the paper is not accurate. As was stated earlier in the year, those figures were skewed due to the way they had to be reported. They were reported the way we are required to report them by law.

As a district administrator I do not always agree with the settlement that is reached in negotiations, but that is the way we are required by law to deal with that issue. I do firmly believe that our teachers have a right to be fairly compensated for what they do, and that is what we negotiate each year - what amount is fair. These people put in countless hours to educate our children, who are the future politicians, Dr's, lawyers, and nurses in our society. For them to be portrayed as the bad guy in the problems that we are dealing with is not appropriate, and frankly, quite disheartening. Do we have financial issues, absolutely. Are they the fault of our teachers-No. Is our pay scale out of line with those of our neighbors, maybe, but we will look at that.

We need to look at the longevity of the teachers in our district. Most of them have been here for a long time. Not having to replace teachers on a yearly basis is as good problem for a district to have. To replace teachers can be very difficult, and to replace teachers of the quality that we have at North Butler would be a very difficult task. The quality of education that the students receive at North Butler is very high quality and we have fantastic teachers. For them to continue to do the great things that they are doing in the classroom - in spite of the financial difficulties of the district-is totally amazing. We should be thanking them for what they do, not vilifying them.

A correct pay scale can be found here-NB Salaries

Monday November 3, 2014 Special Board Meeting.

North Butler Community Schools
Special Board Meeting November 3, 2014
North Butler Middle School - Media Center, Allison 6:00 PM
Tentative Agenda
1.     Call to Order
2.     Review and Approve Agenda
3.     Public Items of Discussion
a. Kip Bouillon
4.     Board Items of Discussion
5.     Discuss/Approve board member resignation
6.     Interview of board candidates for current director opening
7.     Discuss/Appoint new board member
8.     Elect Bd Vice president
9.     Discuss/Approve Easement with the City of Greene
10.  Presentation of Feasibility Study by Consultant Tom Micek
11.  Discuss/Approve Corrective Action Plan Items
12.  Discuss/Approve request for Modified Allowable Growth of $213,773

13.  Adjournment

Note item 11-this will be discussion and possible action on the items for the corrective action plan. I will be posting both of the plans that I have shared with the board and that we are working through later today, and will attempt to explain those in that space. Plan 1 includes closing a building, plan 2 includes reductions in programs and positions that will assist in getting us to where we need to be financially.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Board Opening

Due to a resignation North Butler CSD has an immediate opening for a Board Member in the northern director district, district 1. The board of education will appoint a new member at an upcoming meeting. If you are interested in serving in this capacity and meet the residential requirements, please send or email a letter of stating your interest in serving on the board, why you are interested, and any qualifications to or to me at 513 Birch St., Allison, IA 50602 prior to the end of the workday on Monday November 3rd, 2014.

Please note that any and all candidates may be asked to come speak with the board in open session prior to any appointment, and deliberation on this matter will be held in open session.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Reminder-Public Informational meeting tonight at 7:30 PM at NB HS

North Butler Community Schools
 Public Meeting October 20, 2014
Greene-HS Gymnasium 7:30 PM
Tentative Agenda
1.     Call to Order
2.     Review and Approve Agenda
3.     Presentation on Financial situation
4.     Public opportunity to speak-Each patron wishing to speak will need to sign in prior to the start of the meeting on a provided sign up sheet. Those wishing to speak will be limited to 3 minutes and one opportunity to speak, time will be kept. We ask that all comments be positive in nature and that all patrons respect the views of all other patrons. 

5.     Adjournment

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Questions From a Patron

I received some very good questions from Kelly Hoodjer this morning. I asked and received permission to share those questions, along with my responses. They are as follows (Items in purple are the questions, all blue text is from me);

I was at the school board meeting last evening. I wanted to ask a few questions that you may be able to answer at the Greene community meeting on the 20th.

What sort of repairs need to be done to the Greene elementary, other than the boiler? Are the estimates you gave for a new system a solid bid? Is there any other more cost effective system that could be installed? Is there a way to generate funds through community support? For example an increased sales tax? 
In addition to the boiler needing to be replaced, all of the controls for the HVAC system need to be replaced also. With this there would also be asbestos removal that would need to be done. The windows throughout a major portion of the building need to be replaced, many of them leak. There are also handicap accessibility issues that would need to be resolved.

These numbers are not a solid bid, they are educated guesses from past experience and conversations with other administrators who have performed such upgrades in the recent past- there is a possibility that we could get bids, but it is difficult at times to get people to come around to do those things.

I do not know of any other system that would work with the current set up in the building, boilers seem to be the most efficient. 

There is the possibility that the community could raise funds to donate to the school’s general fund, which would then come in as miscellaneous income. The problem with this is that the money would have to be raised consistently from year to year; it is only a Band-Aid and doesn’t fix the problem, it just masks it. We are restricted by the state on what we can tax on for the general fund, and a school does not have the ability to tax on their own.

The biggest issue is not necessarily the condition of the building. The biggest issue is the amount of our budget that goes to pay staff-which was 78% of the general fund for last fiscal year (FY14). If we reduce staff to the level where we need to be to make the district viable, I do not believe that we can staff 3 buildings. We do not want to impact our current programs and have a negative effect on the fantastic education that our kids (I have 5 in school from preschool to 12th grade) are getting here at North Butler. Reducing a building would save the jobs of 2-3 staff members.

If the only option is to move the elementary to Allison, would the rooms be overcrowded and teachers not be able to give students the attention they need at that age? What would moving do for the cost of transporting kids there? Also what sort of condition is the Allison school in? Would there need to be extensive repairs to that building in the future? 

Actually, I believe that it would allow us to more evenly spread the kids in the classroom and alleviate some class size issues, without having too many sections. Ideally class size would be around 20 -25, but then again there would be no guarantees, as we have to work with the budget that we have. That is why it is important that we carry over a positive unspent balance so that we can deal with issues such as that when they arise.

We are already transporting students back and forth daily, so there would be very little impact on transportation costs I believe. 

As with any building, the Allison building will need upkeep, but I am not aware of any major issues such as there are at the Greene building. 

What would be done with the Greene elementary building?  In my opinion, I don’t see where a business would be interested in purchasing. I wouldn't think there would be any practical use for it to be converted into something else.  If it's to be taken down, that bid could be overwhelmingly expensive on its own.
I do not have the answer to these questions at this time, but you make some very good points. I will share any information as it comes available.

Lastly, the feeling I got from others attending, it would be helpful to get some solid figures if possible. As well as an explanation as to why funds from the tax revenue can't be used towards the general fund.
I am working diligently to get some solid numbers. We have just been able to finalize where we ended fiscal 14, so it has been difficult to come up with exact numbers.

Funding Sources have Restrictions on Their Uses (Dillon's Rule)
One of the most difficult and confusing elements of school funding is how Iowa law restricts the ways K-12 public schools can use various funding sources. Simply put, if we have a shortage in one area of the budget we cannot use other funds available to the district to offset such a shortage unless specifically allowed by law. 
According to the Iowa School Foundation Formula, the largest funding source for schools comes from state and local property taxes. Revenues received under the formula are part of a school district's General Fund, which covers most of our expenditures for faculty and staff salaries. We also have dedicated funding streams for facilities, such as the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy, which can only be spent on buildings, grounds and certain equipment. People often refer to the General Fund side of the budget as the "breathing" part of the budget, while the other side is often referred to as the "bricks and mortar" side. 
Depending on each district’s economic and demographic situation, some face pressures from the staff side of the budget while others have more pressures on facilities. However, due to the restrictions on revenue uses, excess money from the general fund cannot be used to solve shortages on the facilities side or vice versa. As a result, you sometimes end up with districts that have adequate facilities funds but have to lay off staff.
Instruction expenditures (general fund) are equalized, but the funds we levy locally are not. The physical plant and equipment levy and debt service are valuation dependent and the revenue received varies considerably among districts. However the statewide school infrastructure sales and service tax (better known as the state penny sales tax), provides “equal” funding for school infrastructure needs and/or district property tax relief. The tax capacity of the district and the one penny revenue largely limits the amount of funds for building expenditures.
The state penny sales tax, which replaces the one-cent local option sales tax and is dedicated primarily to school buildings, equipment and property tax relief. It has proven to be a popular alternative to property taxes to renovate and build buildings. Now, with the passage of the state penny for school infrastructure, by FY 2014 each school district will be receiving the same amount per pupil.
In short, when it comes to school spending, districts must look at all potential expenditures and determine not only if they have the money, but whether state law allows a particular fund to cover the expense. This standard, often referred to as “Dillon's Rule,” says school districts are only allowed to do what is specifically outlined by state law. This differs from cities and counties, which operate under “Home Rule,” which allows them to do anything not specifically prohibited by state law. Schools have less latitude than cities and counties in complying with the Code of Iowa, and in turn, how they spend their money.

The following comes directly from Iowa code on use of PPEL funds, and the LOSST (Local Option Statewide Sales Tax) use aligns with that of the PPEL funds:
 98.64(2)    Appropriate uses of the PPEL fund.  Appropriate expenditures in the PPEL fund include the following:  a.  Purchase of grounds including the legal costs relating to the property acquisition, costs of surveys of the property, costs of relocation assistance under state and federal law, and other costs incidental in the property acquisition.  b.  Improvement of grounds including grading, landscaping, paving, seeding, and planting of shrubs and trees; constructing sidewalks, roadways, retaining walls, sewers and storm drains, and installing hydrants; surfacing and soil treatment of athletic fields and tennis courts; exterior lighting, including athletic fields and tennis courts; furnishing and installing flagpoles, gateways, fences, and underground storage tanks which are not parts of building service systems; demolition work; and special assessments against the school district for public improvements.  c.  Construction of schoolhouses or buildings.  d.  Construction of roads to schoolhouses or buildings.  e.  Purchasing, leasing, or lease-purchasing equipment or technology exceeding $500 in value per purchase, lease, or lease-purchase transaction.  (1)  “Equipment” means both equipment and furnishings. The cost limitation for equipment does not apply to recreational equipment pursuant to paragraph 98.64(2)“n” or equipment that becomes an integral part of real property such as furnaces, boilers, water heaters, and central air-conditioning units that are included in repairs to a building pursuant to paragraph 98.64(2)“h.”  (2)  “Transaction” means a business deal or agreement between a school district and a provider of goods or services. Technology may be bundled for purposes of exceeding $500 per transaction.  f.  Transferring to debt service for payments, when due, of debts contracted for the erection or construction of schoolhouses or buildings, not including interest on bonds.  g.  Procuring or acquisition of library facilities.  h.  Repairing, remodeling, reconstructing, improving, or expanding the schoolhouses or buildings and the additions to existing schoolhouses. “Repairing” means restoring an existing structure or thing to its original condition, as near as may be, after decay, waste, injury, or partial destruction, but does not include maintenance. “Reconstructing” means rebuilding or restoring as an entity a thing which was lost or destroyed. “Maintenance” means to cause to remain in a state of good repair or to keep equipment in effective working condition and ready for daily use. Maintenance includes cleaning, upkeep, inspecting for needed maintenance, preserving the existing state or condition, preventing a decline in the existing state or condition, and replacing parts, unless otherwise a repair.  i.  Energy conservation projects.  j.  Transferring interest and principal to the debt service fund when due for loans to purchase equipment authorized under Iowa Code section 279.48, for loans in anticipation of the collection of the voter-approved property under Iowa Code section 297.36, and loans to be used for energy conservation measures under Iowa Code section 473.20, in the case of a school district, when the original proceeds were accounted for in the PPEL fund.  k.  The rental of facilities under Iowa Code chapter 28E.  l.  Purchase of transportation equipment for transporting students.  m.  Purchase of buildings or lease-purchase option agreements for school buildings.  n.  Purchase of equipment for recreational purposes.  o.  Payments to a municipality or other entity as required under Iowa Code section 403.19, subsection 2.  p.  Asbestos projects including costs of inspection and reinspection, sampling, analysis, assessment, response actions, operations and maintenance, training, periodic surveillance, development of management plans and record-keeping requirements relating to the presence of asbestos in school buildings of the district and its removal or encapsulation.  q.  Purchase, erect, or acquire a building for use as a school meal facility, and equip a building for that use.  98.64(3)    Inappropriate uses of the PPEL fund.  Inappropriate expenditures in the PPEL fund include the following:  a.  Student construction.  b.  Salaries and benefits.  c.  Travel.  d.  Supplies.  e.  Facility, vehicle, or equipment maintenance.  f.  Printing costs or media services.  g.  Any other purpose not expressly authorized in the Iowa Code.

The items in red are what would be considered general fund expenditures, and as such not allowed through the use of those funds.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions!

Regular Board Meeting 10-13-14

Notes from Last Evening’s North Butler Board of Education Meeting

Last evening the North Butler Board of Education took the following actions;
1. Discussed the district’s financial issues.
a. Different funds serve different purposes-can only be used for specific things.
b. General fund is where the issue is. Other funds cannot be used to supplant general fund expenses.
c. Biggest issue is with lost revenue in miscellaneous income, and an auditor write-down that occurred during FY 13- we are still attempting to figure this out.

2. Set public meetings for Monday October 20th at 7:30 PM in Greene-in the HS Gym, and Monday October 27th at 7 PM in the Auditorium in Allison.
3. Approved student teacher agreement with UNI.
4. Approved a Tupperwear fundraiser for the Early Childhood team.
5. Approved special education technology purchase-from Special Education funds.
6. Approved purchase of skid loader from Phelps Implement-from PPEL/LOSST funds
7. Approved lease of 8 new busses-from PPEL/LOSST funds
8. Approved personnel items-
a. Resignation-Robin Mulder-Spanish
b. Subs-Mari Cramer
c. Teacher-Anne Landaverde-Spanish
d. Concessions-Carol Cole-1/2 inside
e. Asst. Boys Basketball-Tyler Opperman
f. Boys BB volunteer-Tom Nettleton
g. JH Wrestling-Bryan Tabbert
9. Met with Gary McAndrew from McPherson and Jacobsen in regards to goal setting and evaluation for the Superintendent.

*Please note that none of the purchases made during this board meeting have an impact on the General Fund.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thoughts on the Future

As we continue to move forward with planning for submitting our corrective action plan to the SBRC in November there are many things to consider. Last evening I met with the School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) and presented them some information on things that we could do to meet the needs of the district going forward. I shared several documents and more information on the budget situation. I will attempt to recreate as much of the information as possible.

The district ended FY 14 with a negative unspent balance, and with new information that I gathered today, that number is ($275,307). Due to this factor, I believe that it is in the best interest of North Butler Community Schools to look at making reduction in the neighborhood of $350,000-$500,000, with the higher end giving us the most breathing room for correcting our issues. If you recall from my previous post, having overspent the budget for 2 consecutive years could open the district up to a phase II visit from the state, which could have significant consequences for the district.

In my previous post on school finance, I discussed the different funds and their uses. One important thing to remember about the general fund is that in FY 14 78% of that fund went to salaries and benefits of all employees. This was $5,415,113 of the $6,985,657 total budget. That left only $1,570,544 for the district to cover all other general fund costs for the fiscal year. This includes utilities, fuel for the busses, repairs on the busses, etc. I also want everyone to understand that having salaries be 78% of the budget is not out of line with what other schools are doing. The problem with that is that when reducing expenditures, the most funds can be made up through reducing the number of staff in the district. Everything else is really just nickel and diming, or a temporary fix, and we will be right back to where we currently are in a short period of time due to the cost of staff. There are several ways to do this. The most comfortable way for the superintendent to do this is through offering an early retirement package. The other is through a reduction in force, which is basically laying off staff. In order to get to the reduction amount that we need to achieve, it appears that we would need to reduce between 6 and 8 teaching staff members.

This then presents another problem; how do we maintain our programming for our students while making these types of reductions? If we reduce 6-8 staff members there is no way that we could effectively staff 3 buildings. The logical choice would then become to close the elementary building in Greene. This would allow us to save roughly $180,000 in costs. When coupled with a reduction in staff, this would allow us to make up the necessary funds to get the district back on its feet and headed in the right direction. Another item to consider in this process, is that the Greene elementary building needs significant updating. The building would need a new boiler, new controls throughout the building for the HVAC system, new windows throughout, has handicap accessibility issues, and other issues that the fire marshal could bring to us if we begin to make updates. The cost of these repairs and updates could very well run in the $400,000 to $500,000 range.

Quite honestly-I believe that this may very well be the only way that we can make this work. I feel that we had very good discussion about the different options that are available to us in getting our budget in line with where it needs to be, while maintaining the highest quality of educational programs for our students as the priority.

I understand that this information is difficult to hear, but we need to do everything that we can to preserve the high quality of education that our children are getting, and to protect the future of the North Butler Community Schools.

I will be working with the board to make sure that we continue to stay on top of communication. We will be scheduling public meetings in each of our communities in the near future, and will keep everyone posted. As always, please feel free to contact me or stop in with any questions, comments, or concerns.

North Butler Board of Education Regular Meeting 10-13-14

North Butler Community Schools
 Regular Board Meeting October 13, 2014
Greene-HS Media Center 6:30 PM
Tentative Agenda
1.     Call to Order
2.     Review and Approve Agenda
3.     Approval of Minutes –September 2014
4.     Financial Reports -
5.     Public Items of Discussion
6.     Board Items of Discussion
a.     Financial issues
                                                                                                i.         SIAC
                                                                                               ii.         Staff suggestions
                                                                                             iii.         Early retirement policy
                                                                                              iv.         Budget projections/savings areas
b.     IASB conference
c.     ISFIS meeting
d.     Special meetings
7.     Discuss/Approve Agreement with UNI for Student Teachers
8.     Discuss/Approve Early Childhood fundraiser
9.     Discuss/Approve Special Education Technology purchase
10.  Discuss/Approve purchase of skid loader
11.  Discuss/Approve lease of busses
12.  Discuss/Approve hourly pay scales/rates
13.  Human Resources
a)     Hourly contracts
b)     Resignations
c)     Associates
d)     Subs
e)     Teacher
f)      Drivers
g)    Coaches
14.  Superintendent Evaluation
15.  Administrative Reports
16.  Gary McAndrews-Macpherson & Jacobsen-Goal Setting

17.  Adjournment