By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The Bowling Green Board of Education was schooled Tuesday evening to watch its spending – or when teacher negotiations roll around there won’t be enough for raises.
Citizen Richard Strow warned that the $12 million in the bank right now should be maintained for teacher raises.
That $12 million, however, was the same money that some citizens criticized the board for not using on buildings earlier this year. The money in the bank was used as a reason for some voters to oppose the school levy.
“You’ve got to find a way as a board to maintain what you have in the bank,” Strow said during the public comment portion of the school board meeting.
Strow began his comments by thanking the board for changing the meeting times to 6 p.m., to make it easier for the public to attend.
“It looks like a full house tonight,” he said.
Strow also thanked the district for taking a conservative approach to delaying school due to fog. He recalled a fatal car accident on a foggy morning in 1972 that killed a fellow student.
Strow suggested the board adopt that conservative approach with its budget.
“You’ve got to get spending under control,” he said. “Otherwise the money is going to be gone.”
After the board meeting, district treasurer Cathy Schuller said she shares Strow’s concerns.
“He’s absolutely right. Those are the same concerns I have as well,” Schuller said.
However, those concerns are based on the May budget numbers. The district updates its budget numbers every May and October, so new numbers will be available next month, Schuller said.
Those numbers are expected to look much brighter, she said, explaining that the last district treasurer was “ultra-conservative” when forecasting the budget.
Strow said the district will need that $12 million in reserves if it intends to offer pay raises of 2 to 2.5 percent. Negotiations with teachers will take place next spring. The district’s revenues appear flat for the next five years, but those raises will add another $500,000 to $750,000 to the annual expenses, he said.
If the district isn’t careful, the board will have to ask voters more operating funds. And that could occur about the same time the district will be asking for more building funds.
“It’s going to be a hard sell to the public,” Strow said, predicting “levy fatigue.”
“They’re going to have to balance the needs of today with the realities of the voters,” he said.
Also during the public comment portion of the school board meeting, citizen Frances Brent talked about the task forces established to find solutions to the district’s building issues. Brent asked that as the board members maintain their distance from the process, that they not go too far.
School board member Paul Walker asked Brent if progress was made at the last meeting of the task forces.
Brent replied yes, and said the decision to bring in an architectural firm to lead the facilities task force was a wise choice.
“I was frankly frantic about how you were going to handle the meetings,” with all the strong personalities involved in the community, Brent said. But the firm selected kept the meeting in check.
The next financial task force meeting will be held today (Sept. 19) at 7 p.m., in the high school library. The next facilities task force is scheduled to meet Oct. 11, at 7 p.m., in the high school cafeteria.