By Rosemary K. Otzman
At its regular meeting on April 14, the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution asking Wayne RESA to put a 2-mill, 5-year property tax question on the Aug. 5 ballot for all of Wayne County voters.
School Supt. Michael Van Tassel said school districts are looking at how to get more funds for operations and they asked Wayne RESA to put a regional enhancement millage proposal to the electors at the state primary election.
This is permitted by the Michigan School Code of 1976, as amended, if approved by a majority of the voters in the intermediate school district. In this area the intermediate school district is the Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency: Wayne RESA.
The 2 mills are expected to raise $80 million when first levied in 2014 and will be divided among the 33 school districts in Wayne County based on the number of students.
Van Buren Public Schools is expected to get about $1.9 million of the total per year.
Supt. Van Tassel said it would be only fair to let the voters know in advance what the district is going to do with the enhancement funds and that will be worked out over the next weeks so it can be presented before the election.
“It’s not free money,” Van Tassel stressed. “We must remember it’s actually coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets in our district.”
“It’s on the August ballot, just like the library questions,” said board Vice-President Martha Toth. “I sure would hate to put us in competition with them.”
“I don’t think we should shy away,” said Treasurer Sherry Frazier. “I want a library … but if it [the enhancement millage] did go through it would help the children in the whole community.”
In a related financial matter, Treasurer Sherry Frazier asked that the agenda item “Contract Renewals for Cabinet” be removed from the consent agenda so it could be discussed.
The two-year administrative contracts were for Director of Instruction Diane Kullis, Director of Human Resources Shonta Langford-Green, and Director of Plant Operations James A. Williams.
Kullis and Green will get $110,000 for the 2014-15 school year and $113,300 (3% step increase) for the 2015-16 school year.
Williams will get $90,000 for the 2014-15 school year, with $92,700 (3% step increase) for 2015-16.
Van Tassel said the salaries of cabinet members have been stagnant for many years and he had compared their salaries with other districts and found the VBPS salaries considerably lower.
“We don’t want to lose them prematurely,” he said. He said the Instruction and Human Resources salaries went up 4.7% over last year and then will go up 3% for 2015-16.
Van Tassel said it has been determined that after Williams gets certified, he will get a raise.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Toth. “We lose Ms. Moffitt and will have to pay someone else more to do the great job she did.” She referred to the retirement of Director of Finance Karen Moffitt announced that evening.
Frazier pointed out that the teacher contract is not settled yet and people in the other bargaining units will say the board gave an increase to a few.
Van Tassel said contract negotiations for all the bargaining units were under way. He said that 58% of the teachers got a 9% raise this year.
In other business at the April 14 meeting, the board:
• Honored Gene Taylor on his retirement as Belleville Police Chief and thanked him for his service to the schools over the past 37 years;
• Accepted the retirements of Director of Finance Karen Moffitt after 2.5 years of service as of June 30 and Sandra Fields as Lunchroom Supervisor after 13.5 years of service as of March 10;
• Approved the purchase of electronic signs for Tyler Elementary and Owen Intermediate schools at a total cost of $38,190 from the 2014 Sinking Fund. Curb Appeal Concepts was the low bidder of five;
• Approved mechanical controls system upgrades in the amount of $66,553 from the 2014 Sinking Fund for Rawsonville and Edgemont Schools. Low bidder of three was Control Net;
• Heard a legislative funding update from Director of Finance Karen Moffitt. She reported current proposals for education from the governor, senate, and house;
• Approved 2013-14 budget amendments as outlined by Moffitt, which expects a $4,620,024 fund balance as of June 30;
• Heard a report on educational programs at Rawsonville Elementary from Principal Karensa Smith and two staff members;
• Approved the Carnegie Learning Common Core Algebra II course beginning in the 2014-15 school year, at a cost of about $29,711.90. The students have completed Carnegie Learning Algebra I and Geometry courses and teachers and administrators agreed they should continue in this rigorous coursework; and
• Went into closed-door session to discuss contract negotiations.
By Rosemary K. Otzman