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Linda Reardon-Lowry

September 6, 2015
Reinbeck Courier

Dear Citizens,

The purpose of this editorial is to share information with the valued taxpayers of the Gladbrook-Reinbeck School District. In an effort to encourage transparency and accountability, my intent is to share the happenings in the district to those unable to attend recent district functions.

Getting ready for school is a busy time!

On Tuesday, August 18th, the Meet and GReet for the new administrators was held. I appreciate all who took time from their busy schedules to attend and offered your hands in support to our new Superintendent, Jay Mathis and new Principals.

I appreciate the Gladbrook-Reinbeck teachers and staff who welcomed me into their classrooms during the Open House Event Wednesday, August 19th. It was a pleasure meeting you. You have done a fantastic job of arranging your rooms to welcome your students. I look forward to working with you in the future.

On Thursday, August 20th, the regular meeting of the Gladbrook- Reinbeck School Board was held. Sincerest appreciation is sent to those attending the meeting! While there were several issues addressed, and previously approved items revisited, the focus of this article will be the financial implications to consider as a result of previous decisions and current actions. It has been said "a statement without data is an opinion." Many other recent editorials have been about opinions. This article is not about opinions, rather presenting factual, number-based data.

In February, the reported savings to house grades K-12 on the Reinbeck campus was $402,000. Putting pencil to paper, it can now be estimated that there will be NO cost savings. Based upon the current board decisions, this action may cost the district (through lost enrollment revenue and expenses) nearly $500,000 just this year!

You may be asking, "How is this possible?" Financial considerations from the August 20th meeting include:

1) ENROLLMENTS According to the Iowa Board of Education Certified Enrollment report for 2014-2015 year, the GR School District had 70 students open enroll out of the district. This equates to $445,620 in lost revenue. As reported by the Board, at the August 20th meeting, preliminary projections indicate an additional 57 students open enrolling out of the district for 2015-2016, totaling an additional revenue loss of $362,862. Lost revenue to the district due to 127 Open Enrollments out of the district could total nearly $890,000 this year alone! (Note: These dollar figures were not presented at the meeting, these are calculations based upon the reported enrollments x the open enrollment fee of $6366 as published by the Iowa Board of Education). If this trend continues, by Fiscal Year 2017, the district will face a deficit of nearly $1.8 MILLION dollars in lost revenue.

2) PERSONNEL A proposal to hire an additional full-time janitor was initiated. Currently, as reported by the Board, there are 4 full-time and (1) 3/4 part-time janitorial positions in the district. When asked the cost of salary and benefits for such position, the board did not know this information. Because a full-time janitor is spending their time (and I quote the board) "babysitting the closed Gladbrook school," there is a need for another janitor.

In February, by approving the K-12 Reinbeck campus option, the Board approved reducing the janitorial staff to 3 FTEs. Hiring an additional janitor would bring the total to 5.75 FTEs. Therefore, there are no cost savings. Potentially, adding another janitor could be an additional expense of nearly $30,000 or more. (Note: This figure is an estimate based upon numbers thrown out at the meeting and will be confirmed at the next Board meeting.)

3) TRANSPORTATION: According to the projections presented in February by Superintendent Halloway, in the plan to house K-12 in Reinbeck, the district would reduce the number of bus routes and costs by housing the buses out of Reinbeck and having the drivers use a school vehicle to return to Gladbrook. Last school year, there were 6 bus routes. The proposal was to reduce costs through elimination of a route. As indicated on the proposal, the savings would be:

Bus expense savings $9320.08

Reduction of Driver Salary savings$4560.36

Total Savings $13,880.44

Note: These figures do not take any fuel costs or vehicle maintenance into consideration.

Per the July 20th School Board minutes, "Motion by Wyatt, second by Gehring to approve SIX regular bus routes, THREE shuttle routes and THREE special education routes as proposed.

Motion carried 6-0." As confirmed by the Gladbrook-Reinbeck School District Office on August 21st, there will be 6 regular bus routes and 2 vans for Special Education students utilized this school year. Putting aside the discrepancy between what was voted on and what is now a reality, the financial savings of nearly $14,000 committed to in February is now null. Perhaps, this issue could also be revisited and some savings recouped once enrollments are certified. If there are fewer students in the district, one may question why the same number of buses are needed?

In addition, the cost savings proposal presented in February stated the drivers were paid "$34.38 shuttle payment per day." According to the minutes of the July 20, 2015, Board meeting, a new bus driver was hired with a contract amount of "$37.64 per trip." This is an example of the discrepancies which should be challenged. The difference between paying the driver fee per DAY or per TRIP and a difference of over $3 could contribute to additional, un-projected expenses.

4) Playground Equipment Expense The discussion regarding the installation of the new playground equipment at the Reinbeck campus was discussed. The original plan was to install the equipment privately as a cost savings. Due to the complexity of installation and the need to have the equipment available for the start of school, the discussion turned to exploring the option of having the playground equipment company complete the installation at a cost of $9500. This expense would utilize PPEL funds, however, it is an example of yet another reconsideration the board has made with additional financial allocations attached.

5) Superintendent's Time The board has a sharing agreement with the South Hardin district for Superintendent Mathis to allocate 40% time (16 hours per week) to the GR district. This, too, was initiated as a cost savings measure. Just this week with the Meet and GReet, Open House and Board Meeting, 7 of the allocated 16 hours were earmarked to functions outside of normal school hours. This leaves just 9 hours for administrative duties. One would speculate that the week before school begins, a Superintendent realistically may have more than 9 hours of work to complete. Superintendent Mathis is to be commended for his efforts. The Board needs to be cognizant of the hours they are asking Superintendent Mathias to dedicate and direct how they want the district managed on 16 hours per week.

Taking into consideration just these few items from one meeting, in just 6 months the total financial implications based on the actions of the GR Board can be estimated at nearly half a million dollars in lost revenue or ignored cost-savings. I share this financial data with you as I find this alarming and hope you do, as well. You have the power to change this situation. Three of the current school board members are seeking re-election. Please do not allow this behavior to continue. Please vote on September 8th so we may hold the entire board accountable. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 641-473-3101.

Respectfully submitted,

Linda Reardon-Lowry




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