VIRGINIA- While the ISD 2142 school board had a full agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, they took some time at the beginning and end of the session to remember one of their own, board member Troy …
VIRGINIA- While the ISD 2142 school board had a full agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, they took some time at the beginning and end of the session to remember one of their own, board member Troy Swanson, of Tower, who died on Monday at the age of 55.
The meeting opened with a moment of silence for Swanson, who despite a long history of health struggles over the years remained as enthusiastic and committed to his educational responsibilities as he was when first elected to the board in January 2011 as a strong critic of the district’s 2009 restructuring. Among other things, that restructuring resulted in the closure of the Tower-Soudan High School, as well as K-12 schools in Cook and Orr, which had all been sore points with Swanson.
When the board member comment period came around at the end of the meeting, Manick offered the most effusive praise for his fellow board member. He said that he called Swanson’s daughter and was able to speak to him in the hours before he passed. And reflective of the close and respectful relationship the pair had, Manick was able to bring some smiles and laughter to the room as he described part of what he said to Swanson.
“He helped me with my failed county commissioner campaign. His daughter put me on speaker phone, and he could hear but he couldn’t respond,” Manick said. “So, of course, I had to give him some grief that I think the only reason I lost was because of him. He truly was a genius, you know. I’m going to miss Troy.”
Member Chet Larson lauded Swanson’s perseverance despite his health.
“He fought with it all the years I knew him,” Larson said.
“And he’d never come here and (gripe) about it,” Manick added.
Swanson likely would have sounded off on one of the ongoing legacies of the restructuring and some of the questionable construction methods used on new facilities built as part of the plan. The board, after years spent looking for solutions, approved the lone bid of $300,697 from Max Gray Construction for repairs to the North Woods School sports concessions stand, which has experienced a wide range of structural issues since its construction ten years ago. The repairs will require extensive excavation to redo the building’s foundation, as well as concrete, plumbing, and electrical work to make the building’s restrooms and food service areas fully functional again.
MGC’s latest bid was higher than the $265,396 the company had bid last November, which the board had rejected. At that time the board wanted to explore the possibility of repairing only the bathrooms and using a food truck to provide concessions.
However, the board readily approved the higher bid this time, with several members commenting that construction costs would only continue to escalate.
District Finance Director Kim Johnson reviewed the proposed 2022-23 budget for the board, echoing messages she offered at the June 14 working session that decreased enrollment and inflation are going to put a squeeze on the budget both this year and the next.
The impact is most significant in the general fund, which is where all of the revenue and expenses tied directly to instructional costs are calculated. Projected expenditures of $36,290,316 exceed projected revenue of $35,039,025, a difference of $1,251,291. To balance the difference, the district will need to draw from the overall general fund balance carryover of $3,561,098.
Johnson highlighted the unassigned general fund line item, where around $900,000 would be used to cover the revenue shortfall, leaving the district with a projected balance of only $476,994 at the end of the year. That fund balance on June 30, 2021, the end of the 2020-21 school year, was $3,325,226.
“You may have heard that that is the rainy-day fund. That couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Johnson said. “Our unassigned fund balance helps the district cover its monthly expenditures.”
As the budget represents a plan reflecting projected expenses, it is subject to revision along the way as the district gets more accurate information from the state about revenue after classes are back in session and gets a better handle on possible expenses. Johnson told the board she was committed to finding ways to avoid as much of the drawdown as possible.
“We’re going to be working hard this year to make sure that that doesn’t happen,” she said. “We’ll be coming back in January once we know what’s happening in the fuel market and what’s happening in healthcare as well, and by that time we’ll have solid numbers for our beginning fund balances based on fiscal year 2022.”
Johnson said vehicle purchases are one item where the district could consider cutting back. With more than a dozen vehicles on backorder with a total cost of around $800,000, some of those orders could be canceled, she said.
“We’re going to be talking about some of those in more depth to make sure we can make the changes that are needed so that fund balance doesn’t go down that far,” she said.
During the past two school years, all ISD 2142 students received free meals because of funding and waivers provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a result of federal COVID-19 pandemic legislation. However, funding for the program was not included in the $1.5 trillion spending bill passed in March.
Without the additional funding, board members approved reinstituting breakfast and lunch charges for the upcoming school year. Breakfasts will cost $1.85 for both elementary and high school students. Lunch will cost $2.45 for elementary students and $2.80 for high schoolers. The prices reflect a ten-cent increase over pre-pandemic prices.
Free or reduced-cost meals will be available for income-eligible children, and all Kindergarten students qualify to receive free breakfast.
Board members also approved reinstating extracurricular activity spectator fees, which had been waived the past two years during the COVID pandemic. ISD 2142 students, staff, coaches, and board members will be admitted free of charge, as will children ages five and under and seniors 65 and older with a lifetime sports pass or with an ID with proof of age.
Adults will pay $5 per game and non-ISD 2142 students will pay $3. It was noted that the impact to ISD 2142 families will be minimal, given the student and age exemptions. Spectator fees generated around $45,000 in annual revenue to support extracurricular activities before they were suspended.
In other business, the board:
• Approved a two-year labor agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local #70 covering the district’s site and district office secretaries, as well as accounts payable specialist. The contract provides an average hourly wage increase of $2.31 over 2021-2022.
• Approved full-time teaching contracts for the 2022-23 school year at North Woods for Paige Stanislawski, instrumental music; Shayla Zaverl, special education; Andrew Jugovich, science; Joshua Walls, PE/health; Matthew Koch, social studies, long-term substitute; and Mackenzie Sokoloski, elementary.
• Approved hiring Gwyneth Schrecengost as Site Secretary II at North Woods.
• Approved eliminating the Site Secretary III position at North Woods held by Connie Harju, while preserving hours devoted to working with the community education program and as a teacher’s aide. The move will bring North Woods School in line with other district schools in having only two secretarial positions.
• Approved termination of Marcy McGleno, probationary paraprofessional, teacher aide, and library assistant at Tower-Soudan Elementary, due to a shortage of students.
• Approved DeeAnn Sandberg as part-time continuing education coordinator at North Woods.
• Approved hiring John Faust as a bus driver at North Woods.
• Accepted an informal offer from Pete Niska to purchase the Cotton bus garage and access parcels for $25,000, which is $8,700 less than the estimated market value. Similar to the sale of the Orr bus barn to the city of Orr, the board approved the sale amount based on the stipulation that Niska continue to provide housing for a district bus until such time as it is no longer needed.
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