Thursday, March 10th, 2016
St. Marys board OKs bus, tech purchases
By Jared Mauch
ST. MARYS - New buses and computers were high on the list of purchasing decisions approved by school board members Wednesday night.
Board members approved the proposed list of permanent improvement items totaling about $241,775 with the largest amount going toward the purchase of two new school buses at a total of $175,200. The purchases are part of the district's annual one-two-one-two bus purchase rotation. The board will consider the purchase of one bus next year, board member Brian Little said.
Board members also approved purchasing 175 desktop computers and 100 Internet access points totaling $162,000. The money would come from $757,000 in leftover funds in the Locally Funded Initiative Fund, which was created when the middle school/high school was built.
The district also may be eligible for about $60,000 in refunds from the state E-rate program, reducing the out-of-pocket cost to about $100,000, board member Bob Valentine said. The refund would come after the district paid the amount up front, superintendent Shawn Brown said.
Valentine said he originally favored returning the initiative fund's unused money to taxpayers but after researching the idea, he found it would be very difficult to do, he said.
"The only two avenues for returning it would be to return it in one lump sum this year - $757,000 is far less than half of the amount of taxes that we receive for the year," he said. "It would create a nightmare at the county offices trying to adjust everybody's tax base this year and then have to come back right again next year and do it all over again."
The other option would be to pay the money back to taxpayers over the course of the bond's life, he said, which would equal only $1 or $2 per person in the district per year.
He noted the most beneficial option would be to use the money to upgrade technology.
Technology committee members are considering a technology levy to help sustain upgrades, which the district will need almost annually, Valentine said.
Board members also approved creating an accounting special cost center within the permanent improvement fund to set aside $60,000 annually for projects. Possible projects would include turf replacement on athletic fields and other needs, Brown said after the meeting.
Other improvements approved on Wednesday include a new sound system for the high school gym and commons for $26,000.
"Announcements at lunch time are so distorted you can't understand what's going on in there," Little said.
Four school administrators will spend a total of $8,000 to promote school spirit. Little said walls are painted blue and yellow at the high school/middle school but more could be done to add to school spirit.
In other action, board members interrupted the public portion of the meeting with a 39-minute executive session to consider the investigation of charges or complaints against a public employee.
Board members later approved a resolution supporting Brown's decision not to take further action against the high school football coaches.
In February, three students filed complaints against the coaches, claiming staff members had used profane language and failed to follow injury protocols.
Valentine abstained from the vote.
"I am not 100 percent satisfied with the information available at this time. Therefore, I cannot in good conscience vote either yes or no," he said.
Also on Wednesday, board members,
• approved a $1,600 bid for a trailer to be used at Apollo Career Center and a $980 bid for a one-man lift at Tri Star.
• approved a Tri Star referral to purchase three welders for about $17,900 for the welding program. The new welders will replace three units that are no longer repairable.
• approved changing the date of the personnel meeting from April 6 to 5 p.m. April 5 due to a scheduling conflict with the Franklin B. Walter Scholarship dinner in Celina.