Cost increases, funding cuts may challenge E-S budget

Local resident voices concerns over school bus safety
"We can set an example for the state as well as the whole country.” ~Stanley Nelson on school bus safety


by Beth Kraft


The Eleva-Strum School District is keeping a close watch on Madison as lawmakers determine priorities for the state’s 2015-17 biennial budget.

At the School Board’s most recent meeting on Monday, May 11, E-S Superintendent Craig Semingson warned that district finances will run into the red by at least $139,000 next year if the state budget passes as-is.

Voters approved a two-year referendum at $700,000 per year last fall to help the district keep pace with rising costs, but those additional funds may not be enough to help the E-S district balance the books.

Semingson detailed some big-ticket maintenance projects, including refinishing the gym floor in the Central High School gym, necessary HVAC work, and the need for a new lawn mower, expected to total over $100,000 alone. Those coming expenses coupled with the costs of about $260,000 in salary increases for most staff, based on a committee recommendation, a Title I funding reduction of about $23,000 and a possible loss of about $90,000 in per pupil categorical aid could put a financial strain on the district.

Acknowledging that state lawmakers have promised that K-12 education will be funded, Semingson said the district will be looking at a roughly $50,000 deficit instead if it receives $150 per pupil in categorical aid as it did this year.

Changes pending for the SAGE program could also affect the aid dollars received by the district.

Semingson told the Board the State Senate recently voted to eliminate the current SAGE program, which provides schools with funds to keep class sizes at an 18:1 ratio in grades K-3, in favor of the Achievement Gap Reduction program. The new program would allow schools to hire tutors or instructional coaches, but it is not yet known how the program will be funded, he said.

A recent video caught by a bus camera in Washington state showing students nearly being hit by a speeding SUV while boarding a school bus was also referenced that night.

Local resident Stanley Nelson, who lives along U.S. Highway 10, addressed the Board regarding school bus safety. Pointing to the video, which has attracted nationwide attention, Nelson said he has witnessed similar close calls from his driveway, counting four so far this school year.

“People don’t care,” Nelson said of motorists who speed by school buses even though stop arms are out and lights are flashing while loading or unloading students.

While the video from the Washington incident clearly shows the SUV racing between the students and school bus, there is no way to identify who the driver is or see a license plate number from the angle at which the video was taken from inside the bus.

Pointing to the success of red light cameras in many communities, Nelson said today’s technology is advanced enough for schools to use it to increase school bus safety.

He asked the district to think about purchasing cameras that would be mounted to school bus stop arms to help catch vehicles that pass them while the stop arms are out.

“We have to start somewhere,” Nelson said. “I think this school can do more...we can set an example for the state as well as the whole country.”

The Board also heard a proposal from E-S alums Mike Ausen and Tyson Gullicksrud regarding their interest in starting up a non-profit booster club for the E-S football program.

Ausen explained the Cardinal football boosters would fundraise for youth programs through the varsity level to assist the needs of coaches and players, noting that football can be a very expensive extracurricular activity for schools to keep pace with on their own.

Board members were interested in the idea, but E-S principal Cory Kulig noted there are a few potential issues with Title IX equality that should be looked into before the booster club can move forward.

Changes to the E-S district’s employee health insurance through Group Health and agriculture classes that may count for science credits were also approved by the Board.

The district was pleased to see a zero increase in premiums for both health and dental insurance, but a change was made to the HSA health plan deductibles due to new Affordable Care Act regulations.

Those deductibles were increased from $2,500 single, $5,000 family to $2,600 single, $5,200 family in order to comply.

Ag teacher Cera Eberhardt presented several ag courses to be considered for science credits, noting it would give students more options for science-based classes they could take and help expand the ag program.

The Board approved the courses as presented by Eberhardt, contingent on DPI approval.

The Board also held its annual reorganization that evening, resulting in the same officer roles as the past year. They are: Lois Havenor, president; Dan Wallery, vice president; Greg Sather, clerk; Jody Ausen, treasurer.

In other business that night, the Board approved the following:

• 2015-16 salaries and wages for all staff, expect principals (those contracts will be discussed in June)

• retirement for custodian Harold Ida

• resignation for choral music teacher Holly Shattuck

• Sarah Knudtson for 4K/early childhood special education teacher

• full-time school psychologist position

• Kent Higley for volunteer golf coach

• Archery Club and History Club approved as new co-curricular programs with paid advisors

• sale of used bus, $3,100

• revise Teacher Compensation Model

• 2015-16 coaching and advisor assignments

• 2015-16 open enrollment applications—44 in, 45 out


GMD Media

See Contact Button at top left for each office Phone Number,
200 Industrial Court Suite 100
, Wabasha, MN 55981

Sign Up For Breaking News

Stay informed on our latest news!

Manage my subscriptions

Subscribe to GMDMedia Newsletter feed
Customize This