Monday Moan: Moans, groans and loans from Jan. 26 work session

Jeff Salisbury Art_2By Jeff Salisbury


Agenda – New Business Discussion Items

  1. 2015-16 Budget Assumptions – By Director of Finance Bill Melching

– Student enrollment Projection – no increase over 2014-15

– State Aid – no increase over 2014-15


It is possible that with some gains in miscellaneous revenue sources there MIGHT be a slight increase of about $123,000 in the $26 million budget


Board members should consider no more than ½ of the annual “step” increases and no more than ½ to 2 percent wage increases; expect insurance costs to rise somewhat but be lower than 2014-15 due to a change in policies for all employees that will begin in 2015; be conscious the impact of the Affordable Care Act

  • Currently there are 32 employees who work 30 or more hours weekly.
  • A number of factors could impact how many request coverage – but could be a significant amount of money.
  • Unknown no. of employees x about $6,000 for a single-person plan; overall the 2015-16 budget is unlikely to balance and will see a deficit with the board making some hard decisions.

NOTE: The 2013-14 budget ended with approximately a $7,000 surplus. The fund equity is about 7%, down from about 15% four years ago. Melching recommended the board direct him to set aside ½ to 1 percent annually for the next 7-10 years to restore the rainy day fund to former levels. This would allow the district to avoid borrowing money to cover payroll and accounts payable between July and October when the first State Aid payments arrive.

Budget Timeline – By Director of Finance Bill Melching

Board members will hear reports at least once a month between January and June when the final budget must be approved.

Melching recommended the board should devote two to three work sessions discussing how best to use and rethinking how casino revenue is currently being used.

Current the district receives about $1.5 million in casino revenue and sets aside about half that ($750,000) for its Public Improvement Fund.

Beginning in June 2015 and running through 2025 the district will use about $291,000 annually of that Fund to make 10-years of LOAN payments to cover most of the approximately $3 million, five-classroom science wing addition to the high school.

Buses – By Director of Finance Bill Melching

Melching pointed out that the district has failed to budget for the annual purchase of buses since it bought 10 or 15 buses in 2009 using bond money.

Buses cost about $80,000 and the current fleet of 24 should be replaced in total every 10-12 years.

One option would be to purchase two buses ($160,000) per year for the next 12 years.

Another option, which Melching says he prefers, is to take out a LOAN in order to purchase six buses (about $480,000) then repeat that with three-year LOANS.

Summer 2015 Projects – By Director of Finance Bill Melching

These projects are funded by casino revenue (the $750,000 public improvement fund) and include such things as roof repairs and preventive maintenance to driveways, walkways, heating and air conditioning, plumbing and electrical, alarm and security systems, painting and carpeting and flooring, plus athletic facilities. Melching outlined an “equity” issue involving the high school softball and baseball program, which since there are two regulation softball diamonds on the high school campus but only one baseball diamond, another baseball diamond must be constructed. The cost will run about $250,000 to complete the baseball diamond which was only partially completed at the middle school many years ago. That will mean, according to Melching, moving some scheduled 2015 projects to 2016 or later.

iPad Proposal – By Director of Technology Teresa Fulk

The district will make the third of three LOAN payments on the iPads purchased three years ago for all students and faculty and some staff in grades 7-12.

Fulk would like to pass those iPads down to K-12 students and teachers and purchase at least 1500 new models. Each iPad will cost about $450 including case and insurance and licensing. That comes to about $700,000.

She prefers to take out another LOAN for three more years and then pass down those iPads and sell the oldest models which she estimated might be worth about $50. She recommended budgeting this amount form casino funds indefinitely. She believes the district saves money on photocopies and books by using iPads. Other options Fulk indicated are doing nothing and continuing to use the current iPads replacing only damaged units which last year ran about $1,200. The iPad program could be canceled altogether or reduced to just class sets in certain subjects and selling off unused iPads for $100 to $150. Fulk said she believes there probably is evidence to show the district has saved money on copy paper, toner, copier wear and tear and even textbooks.


Wayland Middle School teacher Alison Babiak, who is on family medical leave caring for an ill child, addressed the board raising her concerns about the district’s human resource policies and practices – specifically she expressed her fear that board directed labor-management discussions about a proposed sick-day-bank may be delayed or fail resulting in a loss of wages and secondarily that when she returns from family medical leave that the board will not act to instruct administration to ensure her job will be waiting for her so she can return to the classroom full-time.

Teacher Chris Drew, who is also a former negotiator for the Wayland Union Education Association (WUEA), encouraged the board to emphasize a “win-win” and be patient through the budget process and in future negotiations with labor groups.

Teacher and co-president of the WUEA, Aaron Wissner, raised his concerns about the budget process specifically as it might result in pay cuts for faculty.

Teacher Lynn Donaldson addressed the board in part to support Alison Babiak but also to raise similar concerns about employees such as herself who are using personal and/or sick days to care for aging parents as she has found herself doing in recent times. She said she hoped the board could develop policies and practices that support its employees who find themselves in similar situations.

High School Pool:

One major maintenance issue not mentioned in the budget planning workshop was the high school pool. Anyone who’s been in the high school pool, either swimming or as a spectator may have noticed that reportedly the air-handling and dehumidifier system is once again not working. It’s called the “poolpak,” and if it is not able to maintain the proper humidity it can pose breathing problems for swimmers and spectators as well as create serious mechanical problems caused by the corrosive nature of too much chlorinated moisture. The pool dates to 1974-75, so it’s not surprising any time there are mechanical issues.

Just one more financial and operational concern for the school board to consider when planning the 2015-16 budget. Here’s an article about the minor and major concerns for people and the facility itself.

What’s next for the board?

Years of deficit-spending which cut the fund equity in half, questionable use of casino funds along with equally questionable three-year and 10-year loans to purchase one-to-one electronic devices and building five new classrooms instead of remodeling five existing classrooms, coupled with  five5 years in which budgets did not include preventive maintenance projects nor bus purchases is very nearly incredulous. The district’s student count is up 57 students from four years ago because the district lost 45 students in 2010-11 and 7 students in 2013-14, but gained 10 in 2011-12 and 99 in 2012-13.

The board certainly has some serious decisions to make in the next few months in preparation for 2015-16.

Will the board address ongoing serious and pressing maintenance issues with the swimming pool to see that it can remain open?

Will board members figure out why the richest district in Allegan County continues to struggle keeping its fiscal house in order in the process?

Will they add more staff and faculty to keep class sizes down?

Will music and art teachers be doing instruction from carts instead of their own classrooms?

Will they consider moving sixth-graders into the middle school, thus turning Pine Street into a fourth and fifth grade building? If so, that would create classroom space at Dorr and Steeby – or will they consider reopening Moline School (which sits in the fastest growing township in Allegan County) where more than enough classrooms sit empty?

Will they revisit the strategic plan model that for all intents and purpose appears rushed to a conclusion?

Will they determine how best to make use of casino revenue?

Will they balance the 2014-15 budget? Or the 2015-16 budget?

Will they take a really hard look at an administration which it seems may well have failed to provide them with the best possible data in order to make the best possible data-based decisions?

Come to one or both of the February school board meetings and ask them for yourselves.

NEXT REGULAR MONTHLY MEETING: Monday, Feb. 9 – 7pm @ Baker Elementary.

 NEXT WORK SESSION: Monday, Feb. 23 – 5:30pm @ Admin Bldg.



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