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Morris Area School Board approves slightly improved 2013-14 budget

MORRIS --  On Tuesday the Morris Area School Board approved a revised 2013 – 2014 budget that showed a slight decrease in the district’s overall deficit for the year.

The budget the board approved in June included a $151,000 deficit in the district’s general fund, with an overall deficit of about $235,682.

The revised budget includes a smaller deficit in the general fund, about $83,000, along with new deficits in the food service fund and community education fund of $11,800 and $23,500 respectively. In total, the revised budget includes a deficit of about $227,000.

The remaining $109,000 deficit in both budgets comes from an OPEB fund, which is used for other postemployment benefits.

Superintendent Scott Monson said the new deficit in the food service fund is a result of a one-time purchase of a new oven, and the community education deficit will cover non-budgeted severance pay to former director Cindy Perkins.

The revised budget includes three new sources of revenue in the general fund – about $241,000 for hail damage, an increase of $157,500 in general education aid due to increased enrollment and $150,000 for special education.

New expenditures in the general fund include $35,000 for a used bus and used mini bus, $51,800 for facility projects, $241,000 for hail damage repairs, $78,000 for severance pay, and $40,000 for staff contingency costs.

The budget revision also includes $44,590 to pay for a new high school janitor, an expense board member Lory Lemke questioned.

“I don’t have any problem with the need for another custodian, but I don’t know about our priorities – we have counseling needs as well,” said Lemke. “We talked about it this summer, and I think the main reason for not hiring a counselor was that we didn’t have enough money. … I think we need to look at the priorities about who to hire.”

Monson disagreed with the argument that the decision to not hire another counselor was a strictly financial decision.

“I think if you think back to that time it was based on the need for more information as well about different responsibilities,” said Monson. “It was somewhat based on finances, I won’t argue that, but that was not the sole purpose.”

Monson estimated that adding a half-time counselor would add about $12,000 to the deficit for the 2013 – 2014 school year.

Board meets in closed session regarding allocations against an individual

The Morris Area School Board met with district legal counsel in a closed session for preliminary considerations of allegations or charges against an individual subject to the school board’s authority during their meeting on Tuesday.

After the session, Superintendent Scott Monson emphasized that no action can be taken during a closed session and that the meeting was purely informative.

According to Minnesota Statutes 13D.05, subdivision 2, section b, “A public body shall close one or more meetings for preliminary consideration of allegations or charges against an individual subject to its authority. If the members conclude that discipline of any nature may be warranted as a result of those specific charges or allegations, further meetings or hearings relating to those specific charges or allegations held after that conclusion is reached must be open. A meeting must also be open at the request of the individual who is the subject of the meeting.”

Board approves 2014 – 2015 school calendar

On Tuesday, the Morris Area School Board approved the school calendar for the 2014 – 2015 school year.

The district open house is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 21. The first day of school is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 2. Parent Night is planned for Monday, Sept. 15.

Parent-teacher conferences are scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 6 during the day, and during the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 11. Evening conferences are also scheduled for Thursday, April 2.

Graduation will take place on Friday, May 29, followed by the last day of class for students on Wednesday, June 3.

Inclement weather make up days, if necessary, include Dec. 22, Jan. 19, Feb. 16, March 9 and April 6.

Other business

● The board approved a new agreement for a shared food service director with Benson Public Schools. Under the two year agreement, Morris Area would pay 50 percent of Food Service Director Jeanine Bowman’s salary and benefits along with a mileage stipend.

● The board voted to reinstate Trent Oberg to a full-time music teaching position following a leave of absence. As a result, the board also voted to terminate a long-term substitute teaching contract for Stacy Erdal at the end of the 2013 – 2014 school year.