NB BOE Talks Finances

NEW BREMEN — Treasurer Debra Meyer addressed the New Bremen Board of Education Wednesday night about what to expect from the Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget for the next two years, increases in health care costs, and how those concerns affect the school’s five year plan.

“You’ve heard a lot of hoopla, it was great news, a 5.9 percent increase the first year, and 3.2 percent the second year, but New Bremen is taking in zero and zero,” Meyer said. “So that money is not coming here. It’s not coming to schools around here for most schools. In fact, the majority of schools are not getting any money. So we thought it was great news, but it wasn’t.”

While originally she had budgeted a modest 2 percent increase, if the new education plan passes, there will be no increase in the next two years. In fact, what will keep the district from losing money was what Meyer called a guarantee promised in the bill that for the next two years a school would not be given less than it received the year before.

“The scariest thing is our basic aid has been about $5,700 since ‘09 for any child, but if you look at (Kasich’s) funding formula, basic aid is now $5,000,” Meyer said.

“Then there’s the add-ons for special ed and the add-ons for gifted.”

That decrease in the allotted fund per child for a regular student would leave the district receiving less if the guarantee to match funds runs out. The next legislative budget may not include that guarantee, but the school won’t know that for two more years.

Real estate taxes were projected a little lower, however the public utility valuation increased. Income tax showed less than it should, Meyer said.

“I’m sure it’s far from over,” Superintendent Howard Overman said.

On the health care front, originally the school did not believe it would be too badly hit by health care costs, because hours employees worked would be averaged for an entire year, and those requiring insurance would be anyone working an average of 30 hours per week.

The IRS made a school-specific clarification, however, that districts would have to average their employee hours based on what people worked during the school year, without including the summer vacation, in which the employees don’t work.

“We have a tremendous amount of people we will be picking up,” Meyer said.

At least 12 aides and four administrators will be included in the health insurance plan, and possibly more if an audit is done and it’s found that certain coaches or other positions qualify for health care.

Originally employees were working just under the number of hours required, if the school reduces hours to the point of excluding those employees from insurance, they will need to hire an extra part time person for each of the positions.

Principal Diane Kramer, who works with many of the aides affected, pointed out that hiring two people for the one job may be detrimental to the students; these aides are working side-by-side with autistic students that need the consistency of working with one person.

Health insurance or insurance penalties may decrease the person’s wages to the point that continuing to work for the school would be a losing proposition for the employees.

“We may lose employees,” Meyer said.

“It’s a whole lot of not such pleasant (news,). When we try to do the five year forecast...well, (zero) is just the best dart I can throw right now.”

A bright spot in the report was that expenses did go down, with three people retiring in the next year, however an aging buildings are requiring repairs.

The roof, for example, required a $9,400 coating that would last for two to three years while the board considers what sort of overhaul they want to do on facilities, whether it be building new or adding to old buildings.

The roof repair was deemed necessary as the roof has been leaky, and in a few spots teachers have had to put turkey roasting pans under leaks to catch water — during heavy rains those makeshift buckets have to be changed. With spring coming, the roof repair was approved.

“This is a band-aid fix,” said Overman.

The upkeep on the building cost $27,000 last school year, and the current facility upkeep has cost about $10,000 through January, before the roof cost.