School District to spend most of contingency funds

Money allocated for upgrades

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In other action

At its monthly meeting Thursday night, the Moffat County School Board:

• Reviewed a December personnel report, which includes staff reassignments to the district's fourth elementary school, which will be located in the current Craig Intermediate School building and is scheduled to open in fall 2009. A total of 25 teachers, mostly from East and Sunset elementary schools and CIS, will be relocated to the new elementary school, which has not been named.

• Heard a report from District Finance Director Mark Rydberg concerning the district's 403B program, which is similar to a 401(k) retirement fund for teachers and public employees. The Internal Revenue Service is tightening regulation for these kinds of funds, Rydberg said, and in order to be in compliance to the agency's rules, the district is brining in a third-party administrator that will monitor the funds. Employees still will be able to take out loans against their 403B plans and make transfers. The service will come at no cost to the district or its employees, Rydberg said.

• Heard a report on the district's audit report, which showed no substantive issues, auditors said.

• Accepted a lease agreement with local resident Bob Meckley, owner of Tunies & Such, who currently uses a parcel of land owned by the district. In the past, Meckley has given the district $900 worth of trees annually to pay for his use of the parcel. Under the new agreement, Meckley would rent 2.5 lots of the land, or about one-quarter of the parcel, for 3 cents per square foot, or $2,500 per year. Under the agreement, Meckley could use additional portions of the land during certain months of the year for the same per-footage price.

• Heard a report from Superintendent Pete Bergmann, who advised the board to postpone deciding about whether to suspend the 25-minute addition to school schedules until district administrators determine whether the added time enhances instruction.

• Discussed the district's upcoming attendance boundary change. District administrators and board members are scheduled to begin gathering feedback on the change from area parents next month.

— Current estimates show the Moffat County School District could spend the majority of its contingency fund for district-wide building upgrades.

The district initially had $2,132,440 in its contingency fund in January 2008. As of now, the district has allocated all but $304,376 of that sum.

"There's not a lot of room here" for further contingency spending, District Finance Director Mark Rydberg told Moffat County School Board members at their monthly meeting Thursday.

That's not to say the unallocated amount couldn't change. The district still can adjust some estimated costs to reduce spending.

"We hope (cost estimates) are going to be firmer and firmer and firmer" as time goes on, Superintendent Pete Bergmann said, adding that, by the board's Jan. 29 meeting, its members will have more solid estimates.

At this point, the board will have to "make some priority judgments" about what projects will receive funding.

Board members did not comment during Rydberg's presentation.

Projects that have gone or could go over budget include the foundation for a new middle school, part of which is under construction at the current Craig Middle School site. The district spent about $1 million extra, district records show, to reinforce the building's foundation after soil analysis showed the slab needed to be supported by sub-surface piers.

The district also plans to put a new three-ply roof on the new middle school building, which will cost another $100,000 more than estimated.

Playground equipment is projected to drain $200,000 from the contingency fund.

"It's amazing to me how expensive this playground equipment is," Rydberg said, adding that different elementary school equipment must be installed for preschool and kindergarten through fifth-grade students.

The district did save money on some projects. Repaving the Moffat County High School parking lot cost $325,973 less than expected. Costs of upgrading school lighting systems came in at $190,410 under budget.

Still, these and other savings weren't enough to offset additional costs incurred elsewhere.

Projects under supervision of The Neenan Co., the district's general contractor, consumed $1,361,306 of the district's contingency fund. Projects belonging to the school district, which include installing fire alarms in schools and upgrading technology, used $466,758 of contingency money.

The district has other upgrades to complete, which include turning Craig Intermediate School into a fourth elementary school.

School upgrades are funded by a $29.5 million bond issue voters passed last year.

The task now before district officials: Making sure upcoming expenditures don't go over budget.

"When I say the furniture needs to come in at $300,000, it needs to come in at $300,000," Rydberg said, adding that the same goes for other estimated costs.

"When you start adding more on these specific line items, it means that something else has to come off."

Nevertheless, the district can still choose to trim down some of its projects for which contingency money has been earmarked but not spent, Rydberg said after the meeting.

Figures presented to school board members Thursday give a picture of what the district could spend, he added, but some estimates remain tentative.

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