School board approves budget for public hearing
In preparation for its budget hearing on Sunday, the Baldwin Board of Education finalized its budget by funding two additional positions in the district.
The school board held a special budget work session last Thursday evening. During the meeting, the board agreed upon still funding half of the school resource officer for this school year, which is $29,000.
"I have budgeted in the SRO for that amount," Supt. Paul Dorathy said. "It is budgeted in here, but it's not a line item since it is new this year."
The school board chose to fund half of the SRO's contract at its July 24 meeting. The only thing left to work out was the contract with the City of Baldwin City.
Since that meeting, the contract has been worked on and it received the approval of the board Thursday.
"We have been working on the contract and it's very prescriptive, which is what I think we were all looking for," Board Member Scott Lauridsen said. "I am OK with it."
Dorathy was concerned about some of wording in the contract, because it makes references to students when they are off school grounds. He was worried about what the definition of a student was, because he felt when they are off school grounds or not involved in a student activity, they are legally teenagers.
City Administrator Jeff Dingman was at the meeting and gave the explanation for the wording.
"That language came from the contract in Lawrence," Dingman said.
With that explanation, the board decided the contract was OK for this year.
The other position that the board agreed to fund was the Baldwin Education Foundation director. The board agreed to do this after a lengthy discussion, because it was concerned about whether the foundation would still be contributing dollars back to the district.
"In a few years, the board would no longer be funding this because the foundation would be paying for it," Board Member Ruth Barkley said. "This would just be seed money."
The foundation director, Kathy Gerstner, would cost the district approximately $12,000. The board wasn't sure how much it would be paying for, so it asked Dorathy to try to see how much it could fit into the budget.
Barkley said the foundation will be giving money back into the schools next month.
"I just want to state again that as of Sept. 15, there will be $10,000 back in the schools thanks to that director," Barkley said. "This is an expense, but the money is going back into the schools."
The other discussions at the meeting were about the budget and the $300,000 deficit that now faces the district from last year's budget.
"The board asked that we have this meeting to talk about the budget and items that might be affected by the budget," Dorathy said at the beginning of the meeting. "With the time we've had, we can't be as thorough as possible, but like I said, we finished this 10 minutes ago."
From there, Lauridsen wanted an explanation of why the district would be facing a deficit. His reasons were because the district will be receiving additional state aid and it might also bring in money with a bond against the capital outlay.
"The feedback I am getting is that we are in this dire situation," Lauridsen said. "I've sensed major panic about this thing in front of us, but I don't see it."
Lauridsen went on to say that he was tired of not starting budget discussions earlier in the year, instead of right before the budget hearing.
"I'm embarrassed again," Lauridsen said. "This is the fourth year I've been a part of this and once again we are coming up on a budget hearing and we can't tell the public where we are spending our money."
Board President Alison Bauer explained to Lauridsen that budget discussions would have been tough this year, because of the new superintendent and the audit report that was just finished.
Board Member Ande Parks agreed.
"If we had started this four months ago, we would still be in this situation," Parks said.
Lauridsen gave his rebuttal.
"I disagree with that," Lauridsen said. "I totally disagree."
Board Member Blaine Cone added that the board should start this process earlier.
"Ideally, it's going to start in August and we see where the money is being spent," Cone said. "It's going to be a year-long process."
Dorathy also commented about the process.
"Scott (Lauridsen) is right and this should be a process that starts months ago," Dorathy said. "But I've had a week-and-a-half to do that process. We can get by with this budget, but it is extremely tight."
The school board has scheduled its budget hearing for 2 p.m. Sunday at the District Office.