The Blanco Independent School District Board of Trustees convened their regular monthly meeting on Monday night, June 13, with four trustees in attendance. Board President Matt Herden, Kirk Felps, Troy Immel, and newly elected trustee Tim Nance were present. The meeting was Nance’s first school board meeting since the election.
Herden expressed his happiness that he could say the board had a new trustee, welcoming Nance.
During the meeting, the school board considered removing the discount for early property tax payments, increasing lunch and breakfast prices, and approval of salary schedules for district employees. They also heard presentations on the role of trees from Blanco FFA member Kellam Nabers, “Life After the Bond Election” from architect Randy Fromberg, and “Construction Contracts and Procurement” from attorney Matt Burns.
The board began with its reorganization, which usually occurs after an election. Trustees made nominations for Felps for secretary, Immel for vice president, and Herden for president. Nance moved to accept the nominations and Immel seconded. The motion passed.
As no one had signed up to speak at the open forum, Superintendent Dr. Buck Ford went ahead with his report. Dr. Ford recognized high school principal Dustin Barton, who introduced Kellam Nabers for the Spotlight on Students. Nabers will be competing in the Soil Stewardship public speaking event at the state FFA convention. He gave his presentation to the board on the role of trees in everyday life.
Transportation director John Moore gave a report on the district’s vehicles. The route buses accumulated 103,000 miles during the school year. Of the district’s 18 buses, the lowest odometer reading was 5,000 miles and the highest was 281,000 miles.
Dr. Ford spoke on “Goal #4,” which is for the ISD to “recruit and retain high quality and highly effective teachers, and provide a work environment for them to feel positively fulfilled.”
In January 2011, Dr. Ford reported, a survey asking about work environment was distributed to the teachers and administration. The district has since held meetings and identified which areas to work on.
Technology director Tom Cozzi demonstrated the employment section of the Blanco ISD website, located at www.blancoisd.com. Cozzi showed the various sub-sections on the website, including the job postings, a message from Dr. Ford, the new application PDF form that eliminates the need to fill out the form by hand, and an employment brochure about the district. According to statistics compiled for the website, the job postings page is the most-viewed on the website with over 54,000 views since December 2010.
Cozzi played a video made last year that highlighted various features of Blanco to prospective employees, and it was noted that the video was also good for potential residents.
Dr. Ford reported on the number of new employees at the beginning of the past two school years. Two years ago, the district added 18 new employees. One year ago, it added five, including an athletic trainer and speech pathologist. The administration posted a job for band director, after the previous director left, and received over 40 applications. The district received over 20 applications for the high school math teacher position. Both positions were filled, and a new high school math position has been posted.
Dr. Ford reported on the special legislative session and that the state would be cutting $4 billion from education funding. As it stands at this time, he said, Blanco ISD would see a cut of $510,127 in 2012 and $735,241 in 2013. Herden noted the nearly $1.3 million for 2012-2013. Dr. Ford said the district prepared for the worst and it’s sobering to see the numbers. Immel asked if this was the first time the district had concrete numbers on the cuts.
Dr. Ford also reported on the issuance of the school bonds and that there was a three-month process for building bonds. A special meeting is scheduled for August 17 for the board to consider bond issuance.
Immel moved to accept the consent agenda, which included the superintendent’s report; Nance seconded and the motion was approved.
Tax Payment Discount Removal Considered
The board then considered the removal of the discount for early property tax payments. When taxpayers pay their property taxes in October, they get a 3% discount. The discount falls to 2% in November and 1% in December. Without the discount, the district would collect an extra $132,225 without having a tax rollback election or raising taxes. The disadvantages were that the district would lose interest on the early collections and that cash flow would be affected during the first year.
Dr. Ford said the removal would be one way to make up for the shortfall. Immel said that the district had held a bond election in the hopes that the discount wouldn’t be removed. Business manager Kay Fraser said that “Plan B” would be to cut employee benefits. With health benefit premiums going up 10%, the additional revenue is badly needed, she said. The tax rate is at the highest, $1.04, and the next step would be a rollback election. Kay noted that the cash flow would probably shift to January since there wasn’t an incentive to pay earlier.
Tax Assessor-Collector Hollis Boatright, who was present for questions, reported that Johnson City ISD had voted to remove their discount in March and was the only entity to do so in the county.
Immel asked for a timeline on the decision and if the board could wait; Fraser said the board had until the tax rate was set. Nance asked if the removal would be permanent, which it would be, and if models were made for 2% and 1% discounts instead of 3%. Fraser said that most people took advantage of the 3% discount. The tax notices are mailed out in October. Boatright said that the district wouldn’t know the effects until the bills go out.
Fraser said the removal of the discount represents a 3 cent increase in the tax rate, depending on rising property values; values are currently flat, she said.
Immel moved to table the decision until the full board could be present. Felps seconded and the motion passed.
“Life After the Bond Election”
Architect Randy Fromberg was recognized and began his presentation, the first of many meetings with the board to discuss the project. Fromberg congratulated the board on getting two of the propositions1 and 2approved by voters. A site survey was now underway for the construction and renovation at the elementary school, and the schedule is on track for occupancy on January 31, 2013.
“It seems like a long way away,” Fromberg said, “but we’ll be moving fast and furious.”
Fromberg had recently met with elementary school teachers for ideas and input, and brought design revisions to the board. The location for the new cafeteria was the most complicated part of the puzzle, according to Fromberg associate Bob Shelton. The project had to present a new front entrance of the school and provide a good view of the historic school building, Shelton said.
Three locations were tested for the cafeteria location and the designers settled on placing the building in the northeast corner of the parking lot. This shortened the lot, created an obvious entrance to the school, and allowed children to move between buildings safely. Even with the cafeteria taking up a portion of the parking lot, there would still be enough spaces for 50 cars, which, according to Shelton, was about the same number that could park in the lot now since there aren’t currently any lines.
Fromberg discussed the various procurement methods and attorney Paul Hunn introduced his colleague, Matt Burns, to go over the methods and their legal ramifications. The methods favored were the traditional three-party system (owner, architect, and general contractor) and the construction manager at-risk system (where the manager joins the project during the design phase, can give a guaranteed maximum price at some point before the design is done, and will have responsibility for the subcontractors).
Dr. Ford asked when the board should decide on a method. Hunn said that sooner would be better if the district chose to go with a construction manager at-risk since that person would need to be involved in the pre-construction phase, which is a separate contract and fee from the actual construction phase.
Fromberg said that they had two months from the meeting to get someone onboard or there wouldn’t be a lot of benefit. The board discussed favoritism of subcontractors when using a construction manager at-risk, and whether local subcontractors would be selected.
A special meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 20, for the trustees to decide on a procurement method.
Meal Price Increases
The board moved to the next agenda itemmeal price increases. The prices had not increased since the 2008-2009 school year, the superintendent reported. With increasing food prices each year, the federal subsidy not keeping up with costs, and prices for next year expected to be 5-10% higher, a price increase was recommended. K-5 lunch would go from $2 to $2.25, 6-12 lunch from $2.25 to $2.50, and adult lunch from $3.25 to $3.50. Breakfast prices would go from $1.50 to $1.75 for K-12 and $2 to $2.25 for adults. Fraser said that the school cafeterias bid out on food a year at a time and run their own programs. Felps motioned to approve, Immel seconded, and the increase was approved.
Charles Riley and Bernie San Miguel were selected as delegate and alternate, respectively, to attend the TASA/TASB convention in Austin. Dr. Ford added that fees this year would be waived, making this a free event.
The proposed teacher pay scale was not changed for 2011-2012 school year, according to the salary recommendations report. The beginning salary for BISD teachers, librarians, nurses, and counselors remains at $38,440. The average salary increase on the schedule is $540 or 1.18%, the report reads. The recommendation states that the group of employees will advance one step in the schedule and employees at maximum will not advance. The step increase will cost $56,000 and the estimated savings of positions absorbed is $100,000.
The proposed pay scale for paraprofessionals, maintenance, custodians, and food service workers was unchanged. Those employees will not advance a step, the report states. $43,000 is expected to be saved from positions absorbed.
Administrator salaries will be frozen and testing coordinator days will be reduced from 210 to 197. Bus driver salaries are unchanged but a provision remains to guarantee that route drivers get four hours per day. Substitute teacher rates are unchanged.
District-paid benefits remain unchanged. The district will pay $320.65 per month while employees will see a 10% increase in premiums. Stipends for UIL coaches and coordinator stipends were reduced 20% to save $10,000. Retention pay was eliminated for 2011-2012 for a savings of $120,400.
Immel moved to accept the salary recommendations. Felps seconded. The motion was approved.
The trustees read the TASB Policy Update 90 before adjourning at 9:30pm.