By Rosemary K. Otzman
Tom Taylor gave glowing praise to the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education and its administration on Monday as he presented the financial audit for the last school year, which ended in June.
“Your books and records are in excellent shape,” said Taylor, of Taylor & Morgan, CPAs, as he gave details of the $46.7 million general fund budget, that now has a $3.386 million fund balance.
He said Van Buren has 7.72% of its budget in fund equity and the district gaining ground. He said the average is 10.52% in other districts in the state (with the exception of Detroit). Taylor said he would like to see Van Buren have 15%, so it wouldn’t have to borrow.
He said as of June 30, more than $8 million was owed to the district from the state, which makes things difficult for the district, causing it to borrow funds.
“The Board of Education and administration should be commended for what they’ve done,” Taylor said.
He told of the problems the federal sequestration brought to the district’s Build America Bonds.
“I was as surprised as you were,” Taylor said of the failure of the Build America Bonds to deliver as promised. “The federal government is obviously reneging on their promise.”
He said the district got a reprieve this year from the federal health care reform, but it will be hit in 2015 when district-wide reporting will be required in Lansing.
He displayed a chart that showed the state retirement figures and said pretty soon more people will be retired than are working.
“This is serious,” he said, noting unfunded pension liabilities in the state are $48.3 billion as of June 2013.
Taylor said taxable values in the district fell 18%, so there is less coming in from the millages. There is $1.7 million remaining in the construction fund that could be transferred into the debt service, to keep things going in hopes of a stabilizing economy in the near future.
He said the district is trying to keep the 2.98 mills passed to build the school where it is.
In other business at Monday’s meeting, the School Board:
• Recognized retired teacher Jim Fitch for being the “Voice of Belleville Football” as he announced the games for many years;
• Watched Steve Quinn of the Van Buren Education Foundation give out $23,217 to various school recipients who had applied for grants. The foundation has given grants to school personnel totaling close to $175,000 since it began;
• Heard a close-out report on the $79 million bond project approved five years ago. The building cost just over $64 million to build and there was about $14.5 million in owner directed spending. There’s $1.7 million in the program reserve, which is 2% of the total bond. “It’s a great day for Van Buren Public Schools,” said Paul Wills of Plante Moran CRESA. “I was honored to be a part of the program.” He mentioned the perpetual impact of the sequester on the reserve funds;
• Voted to renew the agreement with Plante Moran CRESA to manage the Sinking Fund for $7,500 per month;
• Approved a recommendation from Plante Moran CRESA to purchase HVAC Mechanical Control Upgrades for McBride and Owen for $37,000 from low-bidder SSOE, paid for out of the 2013-14 sinking fund;
• Enjoyed a lively power point presentation by Savage Elementary School Principal Kelley Villa, that ended with a video of children singing “I’m a Savage Super Star” written for the school by its music teacher;
• Heard the second reading and then adopted four policy updates;
• Approved purchase of a 30-laptop cart for Savage Elementary School for $25,339 from NETech Corp. off the MHEC contract;
• Approved sixth grade camp for Owen Intermediate School students at Camp Storer and an April 1 trip to Washington, D.C. for students at McBride Middle School whose parents could afford the trip for them;
• Approved the termination of John Malbone, who served seven years at McBride, for other employment;
• Approved hiring teachers Kellen Holowicki for BHS Social Studies, Esteban Morale for BHS Spanish, Jillian Lentine for Edgemont classroom, Noelle White for McBride MS Art, Elizabeth Bull-Davie for BHS English, and Michelle Brown for BHS counselor;
• Approved terminating Mary Gendron, custodian for 22 years, for termination; Tim Dupuie, 2.5 years in the warehouse, for other employment; Donna Roberts after 17 years as a bus driver for retirement; and Deborah Fitzgerald, after 15 years as a paraprofessional at Owen, for other employment;
• Approved hiring Nancy Stoddart, transportation secretary (recall); Danny Fisher, custodian; and Pedro Cardona and Carol Rodney, bus aides; and
• Was reminded the next meeting will be at 7 p.m., Nov. 11 in the BHS Commons.
By Rosemary K. Otzman