SIDNEY — The Fairlawn Board of Education heard of financial challenges they may be facing down the road on several fronts at their meeting Thursday. They also changed the date of graduation, purchased adjoining land and agreed to pay staff bonuses based on improved academic results.
Treasurer Keith Doseck informed board members that districts have been informed the cost of employee health insurance could increase higher than anticipated for the 2017-18 school year. He stated he had factored in a 10 percent increase for budgeting purposes, but officials are now reporting proposed rate hikes of 20 percent or higher.
The district is paying approximately $570,000 for employee health coverage for the current school year, Doseck reported.
He indicated the board would need to take a closer look on how to lower insurance costs next spring. Doseck noted this is the final year of the state biennial budget and many unknown factors always surface when it expires that could impact the district.
Also, the treasurer noted that a property reevaluation is expected next calendar year. He reported officials indicated since the last property reevaluation resulted in a higher percentage increase than expected, a rollback could be at hand.
This would be another loss of income to the district, if, and when those tax levels would drop, he said.
In another matter, Doseck stated the district has lost federal grant funding through the Rural Education Achievement Program. The $45,000 annual grant was used to offset salaries in the elementary school.
He explained schools are supposed to automatically lose the grant when they exceed 600 students. The grant should have expired years ago, but did not, Doseck said. The $45,000 in costs will now be transferred to the General Fund expenditures.
The board unanimously approved bonus payouts to seven employees. The money was based on the recent state report card for improvements in the areas of graduation rate and student achievements in passing the third-grade state reading test, per Superintendent Jeff Hobbs.
Receiving a bonus based on 2 percent of their annual salary were Hobbs, Doseck, High School Principal Rebecca Egbert and K-8 Principal John Stekli. Receiving a $400 bonus were teachers Aaron Cox, Nathan Sailor and Tara Berning.
A final transaction on acquiring property adjacent to the school was also unanimously approved. The five-acre tract of land and a house, owned by Craig Borland, was purchased for $135,000.
Previously, the school board had purchased 82 acres of the Borland property when the new school was constructed. The final acreage will be used by the Fairlawn FFA in land studies.
The new graduation date will be Sunday, May 21 at 2 p.m. The change was made due to conflicts with other local graduations.
Egbert reported Fairlawn students were received well by members of the Workforce Academy of Shelby County. Members provided a job interview atmosphere for high school students compared to what they may face in the future.
Stekli told of a Muse Machine presentation that dealt with teaching students to work together better in groups. It addressed the dynamics of different personality types working for a common cause. He told of an artist-in-residence arriving Dec. 14 for a weeklong program involving Native American studies.
In other business, the board:
• Approved the adoption of state standards regarding teacher evaluation with the Fairlawn Teachers’ Association.
• Agreed to employ Samantha Riffell and Ashley Roberts as substitute teachers at a rate of $80 per day; Stephanie Everett as a Resident Educator Mentor at a cost of $394; and Luciano Tacuri as Foreign Language Club advisor at an annual rate of $658.
• Accepted the resignation of Carletta Gillman as an aide; and hired Mandi Jo Fridley and Mary Beth Labbett as substitute aides.
• Approved Robert Falldorf as volunteer custodian.
• Accepted Todd Heckman as a volunteer coach for girl’s basketball grades 7-12.
• Okayed several one-year limited contracts for athletic coaching positions. They included Brent Swearingen, reserve girls basketball, $2,961; Taylor Arnett, seventh-grade girl basketball, $1,974; Adam Lessing, head baseball, $3,783; Michelle Broaddrick, head girls softball, $3,290; Tim Cummings, varsity girls and boys track, $3,783; and Todd Heckman, junior high boys and girls track, $2,763.
This writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.