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School district still holding strong financially

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By Dave Bell

In its final meeting of the fiscal year, the Vandalia Board of Education on Tuesday approved a revised budget for the nearly completed year and heard from the superintendent that the district remains in good financial shape.

 “The hay’s not in the barn yet,” said Superintendent Rich Well, noting that the fiscal year didn’t end until midnight Wednesday, “but we’re looking very good. We’re where we are right now because we’ve been good stewards of our money.”

Well noted that the district has a total balance of $4,024,640 and an operating balance of $3,769,836. The operating balance considers only the four accounts over which the board has control – education, building, transportation and working cash. All the other accounts involve designated funds, which can only be used for specific purposes.

“We’re sitting on a positive balance of almost $3.8 million,” he said following Tuesday’s meeting. “That’s as good as we’ve been in the four years I’ve been here.

“We’ve had to make some tough decisions on things,” he said. “And they’re saying that next year might be even tougher.”

In the current fiscal year that ended Wednesday, the Vandalia district received only one of four scheduled state aid payments, Well said. Several other state-funded programs have not been supported.

“I don’t anticipate getting anything before Wednesday night, but until the books are officially closed at the end of June, anything could happen.”

In the end, the board unanimously approved the amended budget of approximately $16,880,000.

Well said after the meeting that districts are allowed to make those amendments because of unforeseen fluctuations in revenues or expenditures.

One of the reasons a budget amendment was needed this year is because of funds received from the federal government through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus fund). The district received about $390,000 through that program, most of which was used to purchase technology equipment – smart boards, smart tables, video notebooks, laptop carts and projectors.

“We dedicated the stimulus money to technology because we don’t have a budget for that,” Well said.

In other business, the board approved a bid of $84,250 from Lester Construction of Vandalia for a window-replacement project at the high school. Window units there have been failing and have become a safety concern, Well said.

“They must be functional, both for temperature adjustments and for safety,” he said. “Right now, they are not.”

He said it would take eight to 10 weeks to get the units delivered, and installation would be done this fall. Installation will be done after school hours, so the project shouldn’t interfere with classroom instruction, he said.

Well also said that the board was continuing to consider its options on repairing or replacing boilers at the high school and Jefferson Primary School.

In other action, the board:

• Approved the employment of Kendra Houghtaling to oversee the VCHS flag corps. Duane Houghtaling will be a volunteer assistant.

• Approved the employment of bus drivers Whitney Smith and Donna Evans.

• Approved the prevailing wage rate.

• Approved student handbooks at the schools within the district.

• Approved the planned retirement of Debbie Lewis on July 9, 2012.

• Approved a 3-percent salary increase for non-exempt employees.

The 75-minute meeting included an executive session of 40 minutes to discuss personnel issues. Board members Jay Smith and Chris Palmer were absent.