CHURUBUSCO — Smith-Green Community Schools’ Board of Trustees took the next step toward a self-funded insurance plan during its business meeting on Monday, Feb. 18.

In December and January, the board made the decision to withdraw from the trust it currently pays into for employee health insurance, in favor of a self-funded plan starting in January 2020.

“I think it’s no secret that our staff, in general, is unhappy with our current situation as far as insurance,” Superintendent Dan Hile said.

In preparation for the official departure in 2020, Hile and business manager Jodi Royer have spent the past several weeks talking with potential insurance brokers to represent them. The candidate pool was reduced to three firms: STAR Insurance, Black & Ramer Insurance and R.E. Sutton & Associates. After receiving proposals from all three finalists, Royer and Hile recommended that the board hire R.E. Sutton & Associates for consulting services.

“From our perspective, we just really got a very strong feeling for (R.E. Sutton & Associates),” Hile said. “One of the things that really stood out to us first and foremost was the amount of experience with districts like us. Also, while each broker did give a general overview of what we are going to do, the person we spoke to from Sutton had a very specific timeline.”

As opposed to billing the school per employee, per month, R.E. Sutton has agreed to accept a flat fee of $15,000 annually for services. The board accepted the recommendation with a vote of 4-0 with board member Luke Gross absent from the meeting.

In the coming months, Hile stated, he would be developing an insurance committee of faculty, staff and board members to determine the most important needs and wants for this new insurance plan for employees.

Also at the meeting, the board granted Royer permission to begin the process of selling one of the rental properties currently owned by the school corporation. Royer advised the board that the property is currently being used for storage space, but should be empty by spring or summer which is when she intends to put the property on the market.

Prior to that, though, Royer added that the pipes in the house on the property froze during the sub-zero temperatures earlier this month and burst. The burst pipe caused thousands of dollars in water damage, including to the furnace.

Per state law, according to Royer, the district must sell any properties it owns for no lower than the amount it was appraised for. Since the appraisals were done before the damage, Royer stated that they would likely seek out new appraisals for the property and determine the best course of action.

The board voted 4-0 to allow Royer to take whatever steps necessary to put the property up for sale.

Hile informed the board that the district had received its most recent average daily membership, ADM, count, and reported that they school had the exact same count as it did in the fall at 1,149 students. That being said, Hile pointed out that the district had seven new transfer students during this count, but that the number of students who graduated early or left the district brought it back to even.

Julie Mast, SGCS high ability coordinator, updated the board on where the district currently stands with its high ability student population. According to Mast, 122 students, approximately 10 percent of the student population, has been identified as high ability.

Mast also mentioned that the high-ability junior high students had decided to do a “heart” project as a group this year as opposed to a fundraiser. As a result, these students will be hand-crocheting blankets that they will then gift to residents at Miller’s Merry Manor in Columbia City.

“I was very proud of them,” Mast said. “They said they didn’t want to do more fundraiser and try to get more money form the people in this community. They asked if they could just take our time and spend our time with people.”

Mast added that any donations of yarn for the project would be gladly accepted.