Moffat County Board of Education members voice reluctance for 2016 mill levy override
Members also express strong reluctance to close an elementary school next year
April 21, 2016
Craig — Moffat County School District Board of Education members voiced reservations Thursday about pursuing a mill levy override in 2016, with several expressing a willingness to pursue such a measure in 2017. Board members also expressed an unwillingness to close an elementary school next year — including Maybell — contending that such a move would be made, at this point, without enough preparation.
The board discussed budget issues during a work session late Thursday afternoon, followed by a 6 p.m. meeting
"This is not a good year to get a mill levy passed," said Board Member Jo Ann Baxter, agreeing with a point made by Board Secretary Charity Neal. "This ballot is going to be terribly long. It's going to have a lot of statewide issues on it. We won't have a superintendent on board who can help us organize a campaign."
But Baxter advised that the board "make a firm commitment to do a mill levy, to seriously look at a mill levy, in 2017."
Baxter said she was open to considering a mill levy earlier if other board members wanted to do that.
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They did not.
Board Member Tony Peroulis also voiced a strong desire to pursue a mill levy override in 2017.
"We have got to not leave it on the table," he said. "We have to have a commitment; people have to know that we're committed to it."
As for shuttering an elementary school, several members noted that such a move needed to be made with greater deliberation, and with more communication with the community, than had occurred so far.
"If we're going to do that (close an elementary school) we've got to do it correctly," said Board Vice President JoBeth Tupa.
Board members also talked about a range of other issues, at the request of administrators, including technology and the use of reserve funds. The amount of reserve funds board members were willing to use ranged from about $200,000 to $400,000.
Some members expressed reservations about funding a continuation of technology — including iPads — at the level requested by district officials. Zack Allen, director of educator effectiveness, explained a modified plan that would reduce cost.
Regarding the potential closing of the Moffat County High School swimming pool, Board Member Sue Voloshin expressed a sentiment that appeared to be in line with other members: keeping the pool open next year but considering alternatives in the more distant future.
"We can't just shut it down," she said. "I do think we need to consider it going forward."
Voloshin then noted the possibility of building a swimming pool that's open to the community.
The discussion followed a presentation by the district's Interest Based Strategies team — which negotiates for the district's certified employees — that included recommendations to grant a reduction of two student contact days and the following of step increases for all employees' salaries.
"We want it wall to wall, for classified (employees) as well," MCHS Principal Kelly McCormick, an IBS member, said.
IBS recommendations also included a strong endorsement of a mill levy override and a suggestion for a teacher-appreciation event.
Board members expressed commitment to school maintenance — a growing need in the district — and Baxter suggested that a mill levy override proposal in 2017 might be accompanied by a bond issue to address capital needs.
During the meeting that followed the work session, the board approved an application of Maybell Elementary School for a four-day calendar next school year. Amber Clark, principal of Maybell and Ridgeview elementary schools, said that if the application is successful Maybell can still follow a five-day schedule — but it would also have the flexibility to adhere to a four-day schedule.
The contract of Morris Ververs — who was present Thursday — was also approved during the meeting. Last week, Ververs accepted the district's offer to work as an "independent contractor consultant, to aid the district in the superintendent search," as Board President Darrell Camilletti explained.
The contract included a salary for $650 per day, along with an allotment of up to $200 per day for expenses. The district also is required to pay PERA expenses, Camilletti said, adding that the cost to the district could reach $30,000 at the highest. Ververs can work through June 30, as the district seeks a long-term superintendent, but prior commitments will eliminate a number of Ververs' workdays during that period.
After the meeting, Ververs said he wanted to arrange a type of retreat to create "relationship-building time with the board."
Ververs said such a retreat would have to be announced as a public meeting, but he added, "I hope it is private, because it's a relationship-building time, and you don't do that very well on the public stage."
Additionally, during the public comment portion of the meeting, Alida Crookston, second-grade teacher and literacy coordinator at Sunset Elementary School, took the floor with more than 20 community members — including district employees — to speak against the prospect of closing an elementary school.
"Closing an elementary school would be devastating and detrimental to the (community)," she said.