CHURUBUSCO — The Smith-Green Community Schools Board of Trustees made some big decisions during its business meeting on Monday, Nov. 19, including the finalized referendum rate for 2019.

Following a work session on Wednesday, Nov. 14, the board agreed that a rate of 33 cents per $100 would be an appropriate amount for 2019.

Superintendent Dan Hile explained during the board meeting that he and Business Manager Jodi Royer had gone through the budget and decided to pull a number of positions out of the General Fund and place them in the Referendum Fund. As a result, the money collected through the referendum will help to pay for six elementary classroom teachers, five paraprofessionals, elementary science, special education preschool, high ability programs and the IMPACT Institute. All of these positions would amount to about $900,000, Hile said.

“Essentially, those are things that, if push came to shove and we needed to look at eliminating things in the future, they would have been on the chopping block this year,” Hile said. “But, thankfully they’re not and hopefully never will be.”

The district also intends to build up its cash balance through the additional funds, which currently sits at about $300,000.

“Over the past few years there’s been a need for the district to dip into that cash balance,” Hile said. “During that time, our cash balance has diminished.”

Hile emphasized that the 33-cent rate was for 2019 and that the rate was subject to change from year to year.

“It’s very important that every year we will revisit this rate and make sure we’re still meeting these goals,” Hile said. “It may go up, it might come down, but I want to make sure we are being very open with that.”

Royer advised the board that in order to change the rate from the original 62.8 cents, a letter would have to be sent to the Department of Local Government Finance, but a board vote was not required. Board member Luke Gross expressed his desire to hold a vote anyway, so that the community knows where each board member stands on the rate.

The rest of the board agreed and moved to amend the agenda to reflect this. The rate, when put to a board vote, passed 4-0 with board member Nick Uecker absent from the evening’s proceedings.

A decision was also made by the board to sign and submit a resolution that would allow SGCS to withdraw from the School Employees’ Benefit Trust, which serves as the school’s current health insurance provider. Hile cited concerns brought up by employees about the quality of coverage offered by the trust as a main reason for this decision.

“We feel confident that it’s time for Smith-Green to look for another option,” Hile said. “I think when the trust was formed, it made a lot of sense at the time, but the world has changed, health care has changed. I just feel like at this point, the trust is just not the best option for our employees.”

The resolution was approved 4-0, meaning it will now be submitted to the SEBT. Hile noted that withdrawal required a one-year notice, so for 2019, the district would remain part of the trust, but come January 2020, the district would be on its own self-funded plan. Over the next year, Hile, Royer and the board intend to find a provider and determine a suitable health care plan for district employees.

Continuing on the topic of insurance, Hile also advised the board of an opportunity to change providers for liability and workman’s compensation insurance. The Indiana Public Employers’ Plan, Inc., Hile said, is a provider that works solely with public employers in the state. Hile stated that the district’s coverage would not change, but would cost less. He estimated that the switch could result in about $17,000 in savings.

The board agreed to the switch to IPEP with a 4-0 vote.

The meeting’s personnel agenda saw not only the approval of a couple new employers, but salary increases for SGCS administrators.

“Our principals typically would receive some sort of salary increase over the summertime,” Hile said. “However, because of the way finances have been and the uncertainty of how things would work out, I feel it was appropriate at that time to not (increase those salaries). We’re very happy to be able to offer our three principals a salary increase.”

The pay for non-certified SGCS staff members also got a boost, as outlined in the new support staff handbook. Like the administrators, these employees had seen a pay freeze. Now, every level of the pay scale will increase by 3.5 percent, comparable to the increase seen in teachers’ salaries.

Both recommendations, the personnel agenda and the handbook, were approved 4-0.

Royer also presented a few appropriation requests for board approval. One request involved the purchase of a new bus for $120,336.04 from Kerlin Bus Sales and Leasing Inc.

“We usually have this ready for the new school year, but we did not do that, we held off because of the referendum,” Royer said. “If it did not pass, we would have to look at maybe not getting a new bus, which would have been a little bit of a problem, but we don’t have to worry about that now.”

The bus purchase was approved 4-0.

A resolution to utilize emergency appropriations for capital projects was also put in front of the board. According to the resolution, $5,000 is set aside for emergency repairs, replacements or site acquisitions “necessitated by emergency.” None of that money has been used prior, but the resolution asked approval for $1,024.26 to be used to replace the motor for one of the high school’s handicap accessible doors. The board voted 4-0 in favor of the resolution.

The board also approved two resolutions in regards to the handling of funds at the end of the year.

The first resolution allows the business department to transfer up to $336,000 from the capital projects fund and up to $150,000 from the bus replacement fund into the rainy day Fund at the end of the year, based on whatever was not used from the funds during 2018.

The second resolution gives permission to the superintendent and/or business manager to “reduce 2018 appropriations,” in order to maintain the 2019 total tax rate at the necessary level. Royer added that this is an annual routine resolution that is rarely used, but is approved just in case.