Despite a minor technical difficulty that delayed the meeting a few minutes, trustees in East Helena finalized the school budget and discussed facility improvements at a paperless board meeting Monday night.
The meeting was held completely electronically with board members looking at a large Smart Board hanging on the wall in the East Valley Middle School library, while referring to individual laptops in front of them.
“I’m all for it,” trustee Breck Scheet said adding that conducting a meeting electronically and paper free is the modern way.
Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer said he’d been hearing about paperless meetings and decided it was an undertaking the district could handle with the added bonus of saving money and trees.
School board packets are often more than 50 pages, and cost more than $2.40 each to ship out to about a dozen people every month. The change will trim the district’s more than $22,000 annual paper budget.
They approved the bills with a click of a mouse. They also approved a $6.4 million general fund budget.
The budget saw a $91,153 increase this year thanks to a voter-approved mill levy of $43,000 and student enrollment increases. Whitmoyer cautioned that enrollment is expected to decrease in the next few years, which will equate to a decrease in dollars.
“Enrollment decreases in the future could be problematic,” Whitmoyer said.
When school starts at the end of the month the district will have eight sections of kindergarten to accommodate all the registered students. Whitmoyer said administrators didn’t want to try to fit the more than 130 students in less than that.
“We are trying to keep numbers down so their education is not impacted by being over crowded in classrooms,” he said.
The district’s transportation budget decreased $15,000 to $287,252. Whitmoyer said there was a surplus in this fund and said there is no sense in collecting it if it’s not being used.
The bus depreciation fund significantly decreased by $73,490 to $193,718. The district recently purchased three new buses which means the district won’t be in need of another for six or seven years, Whitmoyer said.
The adult education, retirement, and food service funds increased; food service has the largest jump by $69,816 to $484,000, and the district will now accept credit cards to pay for school lunches at no charge.
The increase is the result of a hike in lunch prices, required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. As school begins in a few weeks, families in East Helena will pay 25 cents more for lunch and 10 cents more for breakfast. The prices will slowly increase until they meet the reimbursement prices of $2.46 for lunch.
Whitmoyer said the district has no choice in the matter even though the program operates efficiently.
Superintendent Whitmoyer updated trustees about work that’s happened throughout the summer, which included some oak trim to the pillars in the library at the middle school, a few windows, and a seal coat to parts of the parking lots, but the biggest change is with air quality.
The district was able to purchase a new air handling system for Radley Elementary and improvements to duct work, and air filters at the other buildings with stimulus money.
“We have extraordinarily good air quality in our buildings now,” Whitmoyer said. “Janitors have worked their tails off and the place is in as a good of shape as I’ve ever seen it.”
Reporter Alana Listoe:
447-4081 or firstname.lastname@example.org