04/30/12 The Union-North School Board voted to establish a new position of Director of Operations over custodial staffs, transportation, grounds and maintenance for the 2012-2013 school year. During a meeting on April 26, the vote on the matter was 3-2 with members Dave Grenert, Dennis Graff, and Mike Berger voting in favor and Rob Swathwood and Mark Dixon voting in opposition. The newly created position will consolidate the Director of Maintenance and Director of Transportation duties into one. No current staff will be laid off under the plan for implementation of the newly created position.
Former Maintenance Director Todd Gardner resigned in March to pursue other employment and the position has not been filled. Currently, Lylah Swathwood is in charge of transportation. The Transportation Director’s job was created early in 2009 when bus routes were being redefined to accommodate construction of the new U.S. 31. During the Thursday night board meeting, Swathwood was approved to transfer to a custodial position. However, it is unclear as to whether she will continue to drive buses for the corporation.
Grenert said, “The newly created position will not require any extra expense.” Superintendent Mitch Mawhorter explained that there could be a savings of $7,000-$10,000 annually by consolidating. Grenert credited Mawhorter with the idea to consolidate the positions. Grenert explained that those working in maintenance or transportation will only have one person to report to on a daily basis.
Both Grenert and board President Mike Berger indicated that they felt the current system is no longer working to the best advantage of the corporation.
In other matters, the board agreed with Mawhorter to outsource the corporation’s payroll following the school year and not replace the current Deputy Treasurer Pam Jones. Jones will be retiring at the end of the current school year.
Out of district students wanting to attend the Union-North School system will no longer have to pay a tuition fee. Parents of students enrolling before September 23, 2011 did not have to pay a fee this year. Those enrolling after that date paid $2,607 per semester. Mawhorter asked the board to discontinue all tuition charges. Additionally, the corporation had established a pick-up and drop-off bus stop for out of districts students at a fee of $390 per semester. That fee was will be discontinued for the 2012-2013 school year as well.
After the property tax bills were received by patrons of the school district, several board members were approached about the increases of taxes owed. The increases varied from approximately 25 percent to 36 percent depending on where property is located. Anticipating questions from the public during the meeting, the board asked financial consultant Curt Pletcher of Umbaugh & Associates to speak to the increase. According to Grenert, Pletcher said a debt payment sent to the DLG (Department of Local Government) was not recognized as a debt payment. That decision was appealed and the DLG’s interpretation was overturned. Pletcher indicated that the tax rate could drop approximately 15 cents per $100 of assessed property next year.
The increases in general were due to bonds issued for various projects within the corporation including the following: June 2003, $1,395,000 (Pension Debt Funding), pay off, 2014; May 12, 2010, $1,250,000 (capitol improvements previously incurred/tax anticipation, pay off, 2014; September 15, 2010, $1,999, 982 (renovation LaVille Jr.-Sr. High School/ office area, security doors, Media Center renovation), pay off, 2015; and October, 2010, $4,252,300 (addition to LaVille Elementary), pay off, 2022. The October bond was subject to a remonstrance, however the remonstrance failed on a vote of 221 in favor and 151 opposed.
Carol Anders Correspondent