Archive for Thursday, December 16, 2004

Board approves bond refinancing

December 16, 2004

Funding news at Monday night's Baldwin School Board meeting had some good to it, but early budget talks centered around the reality of an impending shortfall for next year.

The board approved unanimously a refinancing plan presented by Dave Arteberry of the Kansas City-based firm of George K. Baum Co. that could mean a savings of $190,000 on the bond issue from 1998. However, that wouldn't mean more money for the district, only a reduction in the mill levy used to pay for the roughly $5.9 million bond issue.

"It's really like refinancing your house," Arteberry said. "Basically what you're doing is reducing the interest payment on the remainder of the 1998 bond issue."

Currently, the bonds have a 4.3 percent interest rate and Arteberry thinks that could be lowered to 3.16 percent when the bond issue becomes callable for the first time in March. A resolution was approved to start that process in motion and another one will be part of the Jan. 10 school board meeting to continue it.

Following the session with Arteberry, the board moved to budget discussion. Supt. James White had capital outlay items for members to consider for next year, but he also brought up that the district would no longer have the $250,000 new-building weighting cushion its had for the past two years resulting from the new Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center.

"Every month I want to continue to add additional items to consider," said White. "What I would like you to do is look at these every month and send me an e-mail or jot me a note saying we need to look at this. We're going to have to prioritize. Let me know what you're thinking.

"We're starting $250,000 in the hole because of the new building," he said.

As usual, budgeting for next year is difficult because the district doesn't know how much it will receive in state aid, especially with the impending decision from the Kansas Supreme Court regarding whether the current method is constitutional or not. At this point, the plan is to budget with the same amount from this year, hope for an increase and know that the quarter-million-dollar "hole" is already there.

"We'll just have to schedule a work session and look at a couple of different scenarios," said White. "We might get a nice increase in state assessment, but it's already gone."

The board will meet with district administrators Jan. 3 to get opinions on needs and wants from each building. But, there will be more belt tightening.

"Bring a sack lunch," board member Scott Lauridsen said of the 6 p.m. meeting. "Set the tone."

The board also heard a report from Patty Irick on the efforts to obtain funding for the Baldwin Education Foundation. The non-profit group is in its infancy and while community members have made donations to the group, it still isn't to the point of being able to help with funding issues. Irick said the foundation has applied for a $30,000 grant, which may be the first step in moving the group forward. More public awareness of the foundation is also important, she said.

"We need the public to know we exist so they know they can contribute to the foundation," said Irick. "We have a small community to draw from. We don't have the Hallmarks. We have applied for a grant. We need a director. We have a great board, but we're volunteers.

"We wrote a grant for $30,000 which would pay for a part-time director and other items," she said. "Until we get a director, it's not going to happen. I feel strongly that we're going to get the grant."

She told the board the foundation has raised $4,000 so far and wanted to know if the board would give its support. Board members were supportive.

"That's a start," board president Ed Schulte said of the money raised. "That's good for the first year."

In other money matters, board member Lonnie Broers questioned the utility bill for October, saying it seemed higher than usual. Electricity to the high school alone cost $15,845.73 in October, which was up from the $10,079.33 in September and $10,325.25 in August. The district's total utility bill to the city for October was $31,461.02.

"I was concerned because that was a little bit more than usual," White said of the bill. "It was October and we had a few more hot days. It was higher than September."

Also, the board heard from food service director Anita Faddis regarding the monitoring of the budget. Faddis told the board that her forecasted revenues were down $21,000 and expenses were down roughly $4,500 resulting in a $17,000 shortfall to this point of the year. The budget will continue to be monitored.

The board met in executive session for 20 minutes at the end of the meeting. After returning to open session, the following hiring recommendations were approved: Deborah Duncan, Baldwin High School musical accompanist; Denise Austin, BHS food service worker; Judith Burkard, Baldwin Junior High School food service worker; and Sharon Robinson, Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center food service worker.

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