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IL board considers disbursal of restored funds

April 03, 2019
MEREDITH — The Inter-Lakes School Board will further discuss what to do with the $121,130 in extra funds approved at school district meeting, deciding options on keeping the technology integrator position as requested by voters or finding different options.

At school district meeting on March 6, Steve Roberts made an amendment putting $121,130 back in the budget for the technology integrator position. The board proposed cutting the position, which was originally defined as a coordinator for teachers, though a number of voters talked about how valuable the current technology integrator was to tech education for students. By law the board is not legally bound by this request and can decide how that extra money will be used.

On Tuesday, board chair Richard Hanson said he asked superintendent Mary Moriarty to come up with some ideas on what the money could be used for. These were suggestions for discussion only and were not concrete ideas.

The board came into the discussion with an unexpected surplus. Moriarty said the district was initially given a projected guaranteed maximum increase for health insurance of 8.9 percent, the actual increase will be 5.9 percent for a savings of around $111,000.

Moriarty presented the board with a list of possible options. Option A was to retain the technology integrator position as voted. Option B was to return the $121,130 to the taxpayers at the end of the fiscal year to offset taxes.

Option C would use the health insurance savings for part time technology support for 7-12, which could be done by taking away the two math sections from the computer science teacher position and assigning that as technology support time. This halftime position could come with a cost of $52,993. The $121,130 would be returned to the taxpayers.

Option D would use a part of the money voted at the district meeting for the part time technology support position in Option C and return $68,000 to the taxpayers at the end of the fiscal year.

The part time technology support position in Options C and D is also proposed for Option E, which also proposes to use the $68,000 for capital improvements projects that had been deferred.

Board member Lisa Merrill said she thought there was a lot of confusion around the vote for that amendment.

"We rely on the administrators and the superintendent to tell us basically what our needs are," Merrill said. "What we heard loud and clear was the technology integrator was a position that was no longer necessary for the teachers."

Merrill said she believes that $121,130 should go back to the taxpayers and was against using that money for capital projects.

Board member Duncan Porter-Zuckerman said he heard clearly that people wanted this position for student technology support. This position was seen as providing instruction to students and not supporting teachers as had been the description of that position. He also said he was against using this money for capital improvements.

The issue was raised that many different capital improvements have been deferred over the years, projects that will have to be done in the future and at a higher cost. Board member Howard Cunningham and Hanson said while this is a reality, both were uncomfortable with using those funds for that purpose.

Hanson said he was leaning toward putting that money into a modified version of the technology integrator position, separating the math and computer science subjects to a degree. He said that position doesn't have to be as it was described in the past.

Board member Mark Billings said he has over a dozen conversations with Meredith voters who were at that meeting and were also confused about what they were voting on.

Billings said he supports the board's decision to take out the technology integrator position. While he supports technology staff supporting students, he does not support the integrator position supporting teachers.

Board member Craig Baker said he saw that vote as bringing technology to the students. He suggested putting the $121,130 toward technology and taking the $111,000 in health insurance savings for capital improvements. Porter-Zuckerman said he agreed.

"From my mind it seems problematic to not use the $121,000 that we were allotted by the meeting," Porter-Zuckerman said. "To not use that for some articulated way of bringing technology to the students seems like a disservice to the meeting."

He said the technology integrator position should be redefined.

Moriarty said one option might be to have a computer science teacher for grades 7-9 and a computer science and math teacher for 10-12. The budget has a position for computer science teacher with two math sections, Moriarty said maybe that computer science position could be math support.

"I agree with everything that Duncan has said," Cunningham said. "I'm concerned because if we add staff we're going to live with that staff over time and we are in a situation where we are losing students."

After further discussion on declining enrollment, Porter-Zuckerman said he heard from the people at the meeting that they weren't concerned about that reduction though he shares the concerns.

After further discussion, the board decided to talk about this further and make a decision later.

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Varney Smith
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