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D49 Board reviews proposed budget

By Todd Marver

At its Thursday, August 24 meeting, the Nashville School District 49 Board reviewed the proposed fiscal year 2024 budget and set the budget hearing for the next board meeting on September 28 at 8 p.m. The board will adopt the budget at next month’s meeting.

“The budget will be on display for 30 days for anyone to come in and take a look at it and ask questions,” Superintendent Michael Brink said.

Brink said he will be presenting a balanced budget, but the district is back to having to really keep its eye on state revenues coming in, particularly with transportation.

“They are completely paid up from last year, but there was one of the four transportation payments that came in this fiscal year after it started, so we’re seeing again that maybe we’re going to get back to some delayed payments. They made all their required payments, even though several were late,” he said.

Brink said this will be a much tighter budget than they’ve had the past three or four years. He said COVID stimulus money is completely gone and it’s dried up and the Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax (CPPRT) revenue is drastically down.

“We’ve lost somewhere in the neighborhood of $260,000 to $270,000 worth of revenue (from CPPRT),” he said.

Brink said he is notorious about padding the line items in the budget, specifically special education tuition and transportation. He said the balances don’t look great, but in reality, they’ll be much better at the end of the fiscal year because of the padding.

“Our special ed tuition payments will be a little bit higher than what we would like. We’ve had some years with no students or maybe one student we’re paying tuition on. We currently have three at Bridges. That’s a hefty cost, but that’s determined by IEPs, so that will be a higher line item, but I padded it by two, so that should be fine,” he said.

Brink said the education fund has definitely done well since he started at the district in 2012 and it has been increased for a number of different reasons. He said with the padding and loss of CPPRT, he expects to balance out in the education fund, but as he presents the budget, it will just be by a little over $6,000.

“Realistically it will be much higher than that, but we always try to look at worst case scenario,” he said.

Brink said they’ve gone from a balance of $168,000 back in 2011 to a little over $1.5 million now in the operations and maintenance fund. He said the operations and maintenance fund will also balance out.

“When I first came on here back in 2012, we shifted some things in our tax levy away from social security, IMRF and working cash into the operations and maintenance fund because we were a little bit low there,” he said. “This will be much better than this shows too, but we are showing a positive balance of a little over $1,600.”

Brink said the district does not levy for the bond and interest fund and that’s done through the county clerk, so it will remain stagnant. He said bond and interest is always going to be a wash.

“You’re levying for the bond and interest payment, so we should balance there by about $80,” he said.

Brink said they’ve also made some adjustments to the transportation fund to make sure they have balances going forward in that fund. He said transportation is the wild card at this point and the state has not loaded the district’s revenue yet.

“That’s always a tough fund. That’s a black hole. There’s not a whole lot of reimbursement there and something we have to do based on state law, but we always want to make sure we keep a balance there,” he said. “At this point it’s a guess. We know our transportation contract costs are rising this year. I expect our revenue to rise a little bit as well. I don’t think we’ll have a problem balancing out, but at this point the revenues are still up in the air a little bit. Based on this, we’re expecting to balance by a little over $18,000.”

Brink said the IMRF and social security fund is a unique situation and when he started at the district, there was close to $200,000 in reserves in that fund. He said he levied a little bit more than what he wanted to in IMRF and he expects to balance there by about $17,000.

“That’s straight from tax levy. You cannot transfer that money. It was just basically sitting there. We intentionally under levied for several years to get that balance down. I’d like to get it down a little bit more. We took that and put it into other funds we could use it for, such as the education fund,” he said.

Brink said the district doesn’t touch the working cash fund and that has been increased, but he has intentionally not levied as much as the district had in the past. He said working cash is just a straight tax levy and there are no expenditures out of that whatsoever.

“We surpassed $1 million this year in balances, so that’s good. We have not touched that to make any transfers in the 11 years I’ve been here, so hopefully that continues,” he said. “We do not expect to have to transfer any money out of there. That should balance by about $65,000.”

Brink said tort has been increased, though not by a whole lot over the time period he’s been at D49. He said tort is generally a wash and that is a lot of insurance payments.

“We should balance by a little over $3,700,” he said.

Brink said health/life/safety has increased as well. He said the district puts expenditures in the health/life/safety fund and they really don’t expect to pay much of anything out of that fund.

“We put that in to balance that. Some of the insurance things will be taken out of there, but possibly not that much. We expect to balance by about $25,000 in that fund,” he said. “We’ve done some health/life/safety amendments in the past, but nothing extravagant. We’ve done some HVAC units. We’ve done classroom door locks.”

Brink said all owed state reimbursement money is included in the budget. He said the district always puts all owed money from the state within the budget.

Brink reported the district is at 543 students for kindergarten through eighth grade this year, which is the highest it has been in the last 15 years. He said dating back to 2009 up through this year, the 15-year average attendance for kindergarten through eighth grade is a little over 512 students.

“We have a larger than normal kindergarten. We certainly have a larger than normal third grade. We have an extremely small eighth grade. Everything else is pretty well normal for where we are. There is no doubt we’re busting at the seams at this point,” he said.

Brink said when you add preschool and ECE in, the district is just a couple kids short of 600 right now. He said the district has been over 600 a few times in the past and they fully expect to be over 600.

“We’ll have a couple new ECE kids coming in over the next month or two. No question we’ll eclipse that at some point this year. It’s a great problem to have, but we’re feeling the constraints of it a little bit too. I wish we had a couple more classrooms down here, but we do have one or two on the middle school side that we can conceivably use if needed,” he said.

Brink said there were some horror stories last week with the heat with some districts that had failing HVAC units and having to cancel or release early. He said District 49 struggled with an HVAC unit last Monday and got it going pretty quickly.

“We’ve been pretty good this week. We feel very good about that. It’s not been perfect by any means. We’ve gotten through the week and the HVAC system has definitely held up, so we’re very thankful about that,” he said.

Brink reported a company that works with Geissler Roofing, the district’s roofing company, came out and did a full inspection of the roof that got damaged from the June 30 storm. He said the roof is on, the blue covering still needs to be finished and the district will receive a cost estimate for a sealant program from the company. The plan is for a representative from the company and from Geissler to come to the September board meeting.

“(They’ll) walk us all through how that would play out. Geissler has some experience with this product. They should be able to tell us a lot more if it’s even feasible for us to do. They tentatively told us we had a three or four year window if this was going to work to be able to do it. Whatever the cost will end up being, we could maybe divide it up into two or three different sections over the course of a couple different fiscal years to do this,” he said.

Brink said the district is still waiting on final estimates for the cabinetry in the nurse’s office that got damaged from the storm.

“Only a few of them got ruined, but it’s hard to match it up,” he said.

Brink said Advanced Investigative Services has been working for the past several years on updating the district’s camera system. He said they had to put a new server in and now have the vast majority of their cameras on the newer system where they can be accessed from phones.

“The police have access to those. We can also add to it now. We were completely maxed out on our old server. This should take care of everything we need until we decide we need to add some more cameras. We have exterior cameras now too that are very helpful,” he said.

Principal Chuck Fairbanks reported cross country practice has started and they have their first meet on September 7. He said Nashville Middle School music director Amanda Pytlinski has had her band parent nights.

“Beginning band has started, so she’s got a lot of kids interested in that as well,” he said.

Brink said the food truck fundraiser for Chris Wreath is going to be made up Thursday, August 31 from 4 to 7 p.m. if anybody is interested or able to come.

Fairbanks said information went home with students for the SchoolStore fundraiser. He said almost 50% of the kids are participating in that, which is the highest number they’ve had since they started doing that a few years ago.

The board approved the resignation of Brittany Huge, who was formerly a paraprofessional in the district. Brink said Huge had resigned to take another job just a few days after the July board meeting.

The board approved the hire of Kimberly Cooper as a paraprofessional. Brink said the district needed to fill Huge’s position and with school starting, they had to do it fairly quickly. Cooper currently works in Michelle Ratermann’s special education room.

“We were extremely lucky to have Kimberly Cooper put her name in. She put it in to (Fairbanks) before she even knew there was a job open. They had just moved into the area to Pinckneyville. She had been a paraprofessional over in Missouri, so she fit in very well,” he said.

Fairbanks said he received a voicemail around registration time from Cooper asking if the district had any job openings.

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