Before Director of Business Affairs Randy Burns presented the Clay Community Schools Board of Trustees with the projected 2005 budget, Superintendent Bill Schad tried to prepare them. "The budget's going to look a little funny," he said. He explained that although the "expenditures far outweigh the revenue" according to the numbers placed before them, it may not really turn out that way.
"It provides you with a level of protection," he continued, to overestimate expected costs and underestimate anticipated revenue. Burns said he does so each year when he prepares the budget, adding that he knows some capital projects he has listed will have to be cut. "I don't want to leave myself short," he told the Board.
"Payroll's a fairly accurate number," Burns said, but he also has to figure in electric and gas bills and health insurance. He is assuming costs will increase significantly in both these areas.
One question he is trying to answer is, "How are we going to get out of the downward spiral we're in on the cash balance?" Unfortunately, Burns doesn't "see the revenue side improving much from the state." His suggestion to the Board was to look at budget cuts. "We need to watch our actual expenditures," which he said, have exceeded revenue by around a million dollars for two years in a row."
Board member Joe Thomas responded, saying, "I've heard you talk about that for two years."
He went on to question when they were actually going to do anything about it.
Schad replied that he had provided the Board with several options of how to reduce costs in a recent special meeting, but he and Burns cannot set up a plan of action until he receives direction from them. It depends, he said, "on how aggressive you want to be."
In addition, "Right now state dollars are going away," according to Schad, and just about every school corporation in Indiana is struggling. Less money from the state means local taxes will raise and there is nothing the Board can do to prevent that.
Schad acknowledged that probably everyone on the Board wants to do what is best for the children. "But in this environment," he said, "that becomes tougher and tougher and tougher to do."
At this point the Board may have to focus on finances more and the students' well-being less. "That can make for some rough nights ... some sleepless nights," Schad said.
Burns agreed that the Board is in a difficult situation. "We need to work together," he stated.
On a lighter note, Schad reported that, for the ninth year in a row, all the school buses in the Corporation passed inspection on the first round. He and Board members congratulated Frank Misner and his staff on this accomplishment.
Also, the modulars at Meridian are just about ready for the first day of school. The maintenance and custodial crews have put forth a great effort to clean up and repair the buildings after they were vandalized and they have done a "phenomenal job" in Schad's opinion.
The Board approved Schad's recommendation to pay $4,650 from the general fund to Indiana State University for each of two athletic trainers to help out with the schools' sports teams. The Corporation also pays the trainers 26 cents per mile they travel. "I think this is an excellent program," Schad said, as it helps provide safety for the students and is relatively cheap.
Board member Steve Grigsby said he thought the money for this should come out of the athletic fund rather than the general fund. "We'll explore that," Schad told him.
In other business, the Board agreed to hire Barnes and Thornburg as bond counsel and Hilliard Lyons as bond underwriter. Jeff Broyles was appointed as the Corporation attorney on an "as-needed basis. "
Although there will be no change in his pay or his duties, Jim Church's job title was changed from "dean of students" to "assistant principal".
Harland Todd was moved to a maintenance position. Even though he will receive a pay raise, Schad assured the Board, "I think it'll save money down the road."
Todd has furthered his education since he was first hired as a supplemental worker. Schad feels he will be able to do a lot of HVAC work which will keep them from having to hire from outside, so "his position will pay for itself."
The Board approved the transfer of money from regular funds to general funds to help cover the tax anticipation warrants. The Board also approved borrowing money for the tax anticipation warrants from Riddell National Bank, who bid 2.49 percent interest.
In addition, the Board gave permission to advertise a "Notice of Public Hearing". The hearing will be held Sept. 2, regarding appropriation of proceeds of the general obligation pension bonds.
Board President Ted Jackson noted that all the teachers that were riffed have now been called back after a number of resignations and retirements. He also stated his "heartfelt sympathy" for the family of Natalie Lowdermilk.