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Union North School Board Considers Discretionary Spending Limit

November 11, 2011
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11/14/11 The Union-North United School Board members all agreed on Thursday night that a limit to the amount that a superintendent should be allowed to spend without board approval should be set; however, what that limit should be set at brought out opposing opinions.

The matter was brought to light when Interim Superintendent Julie Lauck discovered that, at one point, the superintendent was granted the right to spend up to $50,000, but that the board meetings do not reflect that the figure was voted on.

Board member Rob Swathwood said the $50,000 figure was put in place during the proposed building project to be used for construction change orders. He confirmed that up until that time, the limit had been set at $25,000.

Dennis Graf, who is new to the board, said, “In my opinion, that ($25,000) is too high. I feel pretty comfortable with $10,000.” Dave Grenert, also a board member, said that 20 years ago the limit was set at $5,000.  Grenert said, “That was not a very good figure.”  He added, “Quite frankly, I don’t have a problem with any type of limit.”  Grenert went on to explain that he feels that discretionary spending was not used properly sometimes in the past. He said, “What gets abused is the smaller things that add up.”

The $5,000 figure was set in 1992. Swathwood said the figure has been adjusted five times since then and was last revised in 2006.

Board President Mark Dickson addressed the need for the superintendent to be able to act during an emergency. Dickson said, “Something comes up tomorrow and she (Lauck) doesn’t have time to call the board for a meeting?” “You have to have a certain trust in the superintendent.” he said. Grenert responded saying, “The practicality is that we don’t have that many emergencies.”

Graf then pointed out  an example of what he feels was unwise spending in the past. He said “I don’t think I would have approved $4,000-$5,000 for furniture for an office.” He was noted that a former superintendent approved new furniture for a principal’s office.

Since the matter was only advertised as a discussion item on the November 10 agenda, the board could take no action. By request from several board members, the topic will be placed on the next board meeting agenda as an action item.

Carol Anders Correspondent

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