The Clark School Board is scheduling a public meeting for Monday, March 4 at 7:00 p.m. in the high school gym. The purpose of this meeting will be to inform the residents of Clark School District 12-2 that plans are going forward with an opt-out to the tax freeze for 2013-2014.
The February meeting of the Clark School Board lasted almost three hours, and the majority of this meeting dealt with information, strategy and a plan going forward for this aforementioned opt-out public meeting scheduled for March 4.
Superintendent Brian Heupel and business manager Heidi Sigdestad had a Power Point presentation for the school board regarding facts and figures which have led to this point, requesting an opt-out.
“One of my biggest challenges, as I work with this budget constantly, is to break it down into layman’s terms and try to uncomplicate the various funds in a school budget,” Heupel stated, as he wants to be very clear and precise with his numbers and presentation at the upcoming public meeting.
Anytime an opt-out is called for, Heupel noted that one and all must realize that it is the general fund of the school budget that needs assistance, and 85 percent of the general fund deals with salaries and benefits.
Earlier this month, a financial advisory committee met to begin this opt-out journey. Members of the committee included Michelle Mehlberg, Supt. Heupel, Mr. Hartley, Heidi Sigdestad, Kim Seefeldt, Bob Bauman, Julie Foster, John Arthur, Greg Janisch, Luanne Warren, Andy Wookey, Tom LaBrie, Mike Waldner and Bruce Paulson.
Heupel and Sigdestad presented to this committee the current financial situation and also what has led the school to get to this point, as well as past financial situations and explaining what has been done to offset an opt-out.
John Arthur and Julie Foster, past board members at this committee meeting, stated that these cuts of $500,000 in a ten-year period are really a savings of $500,000 each year, as the savings in one year from current cuts is savings in future years as well. Arthur noted that the board has always been as proactive as they can be to retain good teachers and hire the best new staff.
As Heupel went through the highlights of the financial advisory committee meeting, he expressed to the school board his desire of board input. “We have many tough questions that need answers and the success of this meeting (March 4), and the eventual outcome will be determined by our united ability and our presentation of this opt-out,” he said.
The board then went over General Fund 101, a crash course on the difference between the general fund and capital outlay and how the general fund works.
The next issue dealt with why an opt-out is needed, followed by what the monetary solution should be. The board decided upon a $300,000 amount for the opt out.
Any time budgets need to be opted-out upon, many questions and concerns arise, and Heupel was adamant that the administration and board be on top of all issues. Heupel alluded to comments made at the financial advisory committee meeting.
Former board chairman Julie Foster commented, “Opt-outs have been made by not only small districts, but large ones as well. Our goal has been to be the last third asking to opt out; we have reached that goal. We are down to the point where cutting staff and cutting programs would affect our students, which, in turn, affects our student count. Our general fund relies on students as its source of revenue.”
To hit on all topics covered by the administrators at this time would be impossible, but cutting programs is a slippery slope, Heupel said, and he accentuated the positives and mentioned that Clark School does have many positive attributes. The school has been very proactive to this point, but cutting programs goes hand-in-hand with losing students.
“Compared to other schools, our tax burden is healthy,” commented Heupel, as Clark School has a good assessed value base. Many individuals don’t understand that if we have good assessed value how we can still have a budget problem.
Heupel then quoted Mr. Greg Janisch from this meeting. “Janisch summed this situation up nicely, saying, ‘For capital outlay and special education, you want land valuation; for general fund, you want kids.'”
For the past decade, Clark School has been graduating approximately 20 more seniors than kindergarten students entering the system and this has finally caught up. The general fund is predicated upon state aid, approximately $5,000 per student, and it is the general fund which needs assistance.
Heupel and Sigdestad urge one and all to come to the March 4 public meeting, listen to their presentation and to ask any and all questions one has regarding this opt-out.