February 1st, 2017 | Published in Observer Reports
Board of Education
January 10, 2017
Board members present: Mr. Clawson, Dr. Davidson, Mr.Dykema, Mr. Issacs, Ms. Sutherland
Others present: Superintendent Dr. Hutchings; Asst. Superintendent Mr. Wilkins; Treasurer Mr. Christman; Chair of Finance & Audit Committee for the District, Mr. Peebles; consultant from Triad Research Group
Mr. Clawson, who had served an extra term as president of the board, stepped down. Mr. Dykema was unanimously elected president of the board. Mr. Isaacs was unanimously elected vice president.
Mr. Dykema allowed extra time for public comments in order to hear from the many residents who had thoughts to share, much of it concerning the district facilities plan. A number of parents/teachers advocated for an update of flexible furniture when considering future expenditures. Another substantial group of citizens spoke about the importance of the swimming programs and extensive use of the public pools in Shaker. (This interest was also a concern of residents surveyed by Triad Research Group.) Other resident comments regarded the heavy tax burden already carried by the community.
This meeting was a regular organizational/business meeting that covered usual matters, including the treasurer’s monthly finance and budget report; however, the major emphasis of the meeting and time spent was devoted to a thorough and lengthy discussion of the District Capital Plan Proposals, concluding with a vote by the board.
Prior to the vote by the board, detailed reports were presented by the Triad Research Group and the Finance and Audit Committee, a volunteer group of independent financial experts. Their reports were followed by earnest, specific questioning and an in-depth discussion by board members. Details of the reports to the board can be accessed at shaker.org.
Triad Research Group Summary (based on data gathered from 402 residents):
— Passing a $50 million bond issue would be possible, but would require a strong informational campaign.
— A greater percentage of voters (+ 8%) surveyed would support a $30 million issue that would pay for basic improvements to all the school buildings and the installation of modern safety and security systems.
— Voters are largely unaware of the need for school repairs and the improvement or replacement of the Middle School, so it will be important to tell voters about the conditions of the Middle School–the school that is in greatest need of repair, renovation and compliance with ADA standards.
The Decision of the Board:
—”Acting with the advice of its Finance and Audit Committee,” the board “voted unanimously to place a 3.76-mill bond issue and permanent improvement levy on the May 2 ballot to raise $30 million for the District’s most urgent and critical capital needs.” The board agreed “to put aside a $50 million option that would have included building a new Middle School.”
—The proposal going before the voters includes the “ issuance of bonds for immediate costs as well as a 1.25-mill permanent improvement levy” that will develop a stable funding source for future repairs and maintenance.
In looking forward, the board will be answering all questions put to it and encouraging the public to contact board members. There will be an ongoing effort to educate the public about the critical need to maintain the district’s aging schools and to avoid a crisis situation. Board members agreed they will be looking forward to developing possible partnerships with the City and the Library to address some of the needs of the school district, and the board will also be looking to the Shaker Schools Foundation as a possible funding source for some the “wishes” that no longer can be considered, given the adoption of a more fiscally modest plan.
Dr. Hutchings’ report was an appreciation for all the intensive work the board has done over the past two years. He further commented on the contributions of staff and consultants. Mr. Wilkins was mentioned specifically for his expertise in the area of financial guidance. Dr Hutchings said, “We have come a long way in two years and have really set our priorities.” He felt that the board, in coming to a difficult decision, had been fiscally responsible and politically astute.