Haakon Board of Education freezes wages, accepts two resignations

The Haakon School District 27-1 Board of Education had three main topics of business on its agenda during its April 19 meeting.

The negotiated contracts from certified instructors have been returned and accepted for next school year. The wages, including any steps upward because of longevity, have been frozen to what they were this current school year. The only concession is that an additional $300 per certified employee has been added to the fringe benefit package. Health and dental insurance and supplemental retirement plans will now reach a total of $5,000 as the entire benefit package.

Contracts for non-teaching staff members have been frozen for the 2010-2011 school year, based on this year's salaries and benefits. This included the certified and classified staff contracts. Administrative contracts for next school year have also been frozen to what they are this year.

The board has accepted "with deep regret" the resignations of two of its teaching staff. High school science instructor Michael Baer wrote in his letter of resignation that his reason was "in order to pursue better financial opportunities for my family." The letter continued, "I have grown fond of the town of Philip, the administration, staff and students at Philip High Shool. I have become comfortable in my role in the community and have enjoyed my stay here."

Erin Baer's resignation letter began, "It is with a heavy heart that I ask the board to accept this letter of resignation. I want to be sure that the school board, staff, students and community know how Philip has truly become home the past few years. I have enjoyed working in the school district and will hold a special place in my heart for those we are leaving." The Baer's have accepted positions in Glenrock, WY.

In other business, Business Manager Britni Ross requested board approval to follow through with a specific online audit. It is a new financial reporting provision that compares active employees versus retirees who have the option of remaining on the district's health insurance policy. Ross said that some districts do not offer the option of former employees remaining on the district's insurance plan once the employees retire. The Haakon district has only roughly 65 employees who are even eligible to be on the district's policy, and roughly only 15 are actually on it.

Though the GASB 45 audit may have no negligible affect on any bookkeeping, if the required audit is not done, the district's financial status will be considered poor and any future loans, funding or grant applications will be almost non-existant. The cost of the audit is estimated to be around $2,000, but could be end up being far more. "Unfunded mandates, I have a problem with that," said board member Vonda Hamill. The board unanimously voted for the audit to be done.

Ross then gave a financial presentation of the general audit. The unrestricted net assets of the school district over the last few years are still favorable, "but the bar charts are going in the wrong direction," said Ross. The ability of the district to fund emergencies or unexpected needs is diminishing yearly. Ross warned, "The condition of the capital assets is the biggest concern. The higher the percentage, currently around 65 percent, the higher the need to have to replace buildings and equipment within the next 10 years. How heavily do we rely on things we don't control? We are pretty dependent, but that is the same for most districts. "It looks good for what we have, but people don't realize that is all we have."

The board approved continued membership with the South Dakota High School Activities Association.

The two seats that remain open on the board of education will be filled through appointments during the June meeting. Anyone interested in filling one of these position is requested to contact Ross or Superintendent Keven Morehart before the May meeting.

Jeff Rieckman's secondary principal's report began with a praise for Pamela DeJong in how well the school's STEP testing went. The last grade check of the school year has been completed. Scottie Fest will be this Thursday, April 22. The school play Sleeping Beauty and the Beast will be presented May 7 and May 9. Graduation will be May 16.

Morehart's superintendent's report stated that the region spelling bee will be in Philip this year on May 5. Elementary classes will be dismissed early that day. Field trips for the elementary classes are being planned. The elementary track and field day is set for May 6. Eighth grade graduation is set for May 18 and the kindergarten promotion will be on May 19.

The next scheduled meeting for the board of education will be at 7:00 p.m. Monday, May 17.