Lakewood contracts up in the air
HEBRON – A tie vote was not enough to approve contract renewal recommendations for Lakewood School District administrative and exempt staff members, or certified staff members. This was a non-renewal situation, not a reduction in force, so technically the board is not required to give a public explanation for its actions, although teachers may request a written explanation from the treasurer. However, Lakewood School Board member Joe Bowman, Jr. explained his vote.
“The contracts are a no brainer,” said Bowman, who, along with board member Rob Large, voted against the recommendations. Board member Forrest Cooperrider and board President Judy White voted for the recommendations. Board member Trisha Good was absent from the April 13 school board meeting. A tie vote is not sufficient to pass the recommendations.
“We are starting contract negotiations, (House Bill 5) is in its infant stages, we have to reduce our health care expense dramatically, and we are looking at a $5.5 million dollar deficit in 2015,” said Bowman. “This is not the time to issue five-year contracts to administrators, for example, where the value of the health care benefit alone could be worth $75,000 over a five year period for one!” He said if the Lakewood School District wants to have any kind of future, the school and the kids have to come first, not adults’ financial well being. “This is not to mean I am against compensation at all, but it has to be done within the limitations of our budget,” said Bowman. “Why did this even show up on our agenda?”
Superintendent Jay Gault said he wasn’t certain what’s next for the contract recommendations. “I know there will be much discussion this Friday at a special meeting,” he said. He wasn’t sure if another vote would take place during that meeting. “I know there will be an executive session Friday and action could take place following the executive session,” said Gault.
In other school board news:
• Athletic Director Bo Hansen asked board members about options for paying for athletic team transportation. Covering transportation expenses became the athletic department’s responsibility when the district trimmed $1 million from its budget last year. Simply put, Hansen said the athletic department depends upon money from ticket sales to cover expenses, and there’s not enough money being generated to pay for everything.
“We put athletic transportation back on the athletic department,” said Director of Pupil Services Arnie Ettenhofer. “(Hansen’s) running out of money. The gate receipts are not enough to cover the department’s costs for transportation.”
Hansen asked if the district could cover all or at least part of the athletic transportation costs from the general fund. “I asked the board to take transportation back,” he said, or at least pay part of it.
Otherwise, the athletic department could implement a fee for students to participate in sports, but that’s not Hansen’s first choice. “We already ask our athletes to pay for stuff they need,” he said, adding that he wants to avoid placing more financial burdens on students. If a fee were to be assessed, Hansen estimates that it would be roughly $80 per student, per season, per sport. “A fee is not something I’d like to see implemented,” he said.
Hansen’s ultimate goal to stop extra-curricular activities from being the first thing on the chopping block whenever the district’s budget tightens. “I’m trying to prevent that from happening in the future,” he said. “I’m open to ideas from anyone.”
The board’s finance committee will review Hansen’s request.
• Even after eliminating five school buses and consolidating bus stops, the district still ended up paying $5,039 more for fuel for the 2010-2011 school year, August through February, than it did August through February dur ing the previous 2009-2010 school year, said Ettenhofer. “That’s just the fuel. That doesn’t factor in drivers and maintenance,” he said. “August through February fuel cost alone would’ve added approximately $12,155 if we had not consolidated stops and cut five buses.”
Obviously, the rising cost for fuel is to blame. Ettenhofer said the average cost for fuel was $2.57 per gallon August through February 2009-2010. Fast forward a year, and the price per gallon averaged $3.01. Since then, the price per gallon has hovered between $3.70 and $3.90.
Ettenhofer said Lakewood’s buses drove 13,455 fewer miles and burned 3,679 fewer gallons of fuel August through February 2010-2011 than the previous year. August through February 2009- 2010 Lakewood’s buses burned 38,412 gallons of fuel costing $ 98,426. The next year only 34,733 gallons were burned, but the fuel cost $103,465.