CENTERBURG —“I’m just waiting to see the tools that the governor’s given me to fix all of this,” said Centerburg school district treasurer Ellen Scott, speaking to the News about Monday’s school board meeting.
She was referring to her financial report to the board and the frustration she shares with other school treasurers with regard to decreasing school funding and increasing expenses.
“We at Centerburg have done great things to try to cut our costs and keep our bottom line down,” she said. “With the changes that have come about in the last two years, including a complete salary freeze and attrition, Superintendent Mike Hebenthal has managed to bring our base salaries down to the levels of fiscal year 2007. That’s huge.
“The point that is being missed in all of this, is that no matter how hard we try — and our school district has been very proactive — no matter how hard we try, with the cuts that are coming from the state level, those savings are all gone,” Scott continued. “My state foundation money has been cut about $400,000. We’ve done very well living within our means, but there’s no way you can project those types of cuts even though you know revenues are diminishing. On top of that, we go to the expense and foresight of being proactive with our solar panels, then we turn around and AEP is allowed to increase their rates and our entire savings is lost. The solar panels are still a benefit to us, because the AEP rate increase is the same as we projected to save with the solar panels, but we don’t have the extra money we expected to add back into our general fund. Who saw that coming?
“I just think we have to do a better job of educating the public as to the position that public schools are in and to let the community know that we are trying to react responsibly. Every time we do, we’re stymied by the state government. I just can’t wait to see what my health insurance premium is going to be next year.”
Scott said that besides approving routine fiscal actions, the board accepted the following donations: $20 from anonymous to the middle school/high school library; $48 from Aetna Foundation/Gena Litzenberg to the high school; $250 from anonymous to purchase a buzzer system for quiz bowl; and $1,551 from Centerburg Elementary PTO for ipads/SMART bundle at the elementary. It also established a district-wide public school support fund to facilitate staff and student recognition, appreciation and support. Scott said the money for the support fund does not come from tax dollars. It is revenue from things such as Coca-Cola sales and picture rebates.